We have all heard the expression: no hoof, no horse. This year, that may be truer than
most years. Due to the wet winter we experienced across the West, I received more calls regarding increased hoof health issues.
Consistent wet conditions break down the composition of the hoof sole and wall. It is
important to maintain bedding and make sure footing is dry after heavy rains. However,
what’s most important is the nutrition you provide your horse to help support hoof health
Personal experience with laminitis in horses has led me to be a big believer in these
three components for optimal healthy hooves.
1. Biotin for Healthy Hooves
Biotin is a B vitamin that is water soluble, so don’t worry about overfeeding it. The
National Research Council sites a recommended feeding rate of 20 mg/horse per day,
which I have found to be minimal in field trials.
Biotin is essential for making and improving keratinized tissues, which are the
composition and binding properties of the hoof. I compare feeding biotin to the mortar of
a brick wall. In my field trials, I have fed varying levels of biotin and have found 40
mg/horse per day to be very effective.
When evaluating your feed, make sure the level of biotin is listed on the tag and that
you calculate how much your horse is getting per day. For example, if the tag reads 20
mg/lb, and the feeding rate is 4 ounces, your actual level per horse per day is only 5
mg/hd/day — which is ineffective in my experience.
2. Zinc for Healthy Hooves
Of all the trace minerals, zinc has the most significant impact on hoof growth and
quality. Zinc is responsible for the cell replication that turns protein into hoof. Not all zinc
minerals are created equal: For instance, there are sulfates and oxides, which have
very low bioavailable levels.
One of the most highly researched and proven form of zinc is zinc methionine. Here,
zinc is bound to an organic compound — in this case, the amino acid methionine —
which makes it several times more bioavailable than many other forms of zinc.
Behind the scenes, copper plays a key role in forming the proteins that help zinc turn
protein into hoof. As complicated as it sounds, most minerals have a dependent,
interrelationship with each other.
I recommend 600 ppm of an organic zinc and 200 ppm of an organic copper per horse
per day. Again, if you’re looking at your feed tag, make sure you’re calculating the
amount of mineral per horse per day.
3. Yeast for Healthy Hooves
Connie Larson, retired equine nutritionist, stated it best: “Keeping hoof inflammation low
and promoting good blood circulation in the foot is another component that is affected
by what you feed your horses. As a result, low sugar and starch feeds are always a
better option for horses who are at risk or with past laminitic or inflamed episodes.”
I also personally recommend high-quality yeast, particularly during periods of stress. These periods can include a change of forages, heat stress, excess exercise, and
transporting. Yeast promotes good gut health and a higher gut pH, which drives the
growth of healthy gut bacteria, and reduces cortisone levels.
Here is the take-home message for good hoof health: Include a high enough level of
biotin that will make a difference, combined with an organic zinc and copper (your brick
and mortar) to build and bind hoof composition. Then, top it off with a high-quality yeast
to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow of the nutrients.
As a bonus: Those tails and manes will look amazing, too!
Brad Kloss is an animal nutritionist with more than 38 years of experience. He’s also the
founder of Symphony — by A Horse of Course Nutrition.
By Brad Kloss