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By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · February 5, 2013
A horse with poor-quality hooves can be a concern for its owner. Particularly in parts of the world with a hot, dry climate, horses may have hoof horn that is dull, brittle, and easily chipped or split. If hoof problems become severe, the horse is at increased risk for lameness that can impact its comfort and usefulness.
Rethinking a complete hoof management program for these horses often leads to hooves that look better and help the horse stay sound. However, just as owners can’t change the climate where their horses live, they also can’t expect quick results. Building strong hooves takes at least six to twelve months, and nothing can speed this process. Hoof growth is influenced by several factors. These include age, breed, genetics, metabolic rate, exercise, external temperature, environmental moisture, illness, trimming, and shoeing. Important nutritional influences include energy intake, protein and amino acid intake and metabolism, minerals such as zinc and calcium, and vitamins such as biotin and vitamin A. When faced with poor-quality hooves, the first thing to consider when evaluating a feed program is total energy intake. Meeting energy requirements may be the first and most important step in ensuring hoof growth and integrity for horses kept in any climate. A horse in negative energy balance will utilize protein in the diet or body to make up energy needs for maintenance or growth. This may create a secondary protein or amino acid deficiency.
Research has shown that hoof wall growth was 50% greater in growing ponies that were in positive energy balance than in ponies on restricted diets with reduced body growth rate. It is a common observation that when horses gain weight on lush spring grass, they also grow hoof faster. Recent research has shown that increasing the dietary intake of fat has little effect on hoof growth rate or strength, but fat can be a valuable addition to the diet in the role of maintaining positive energy balance...
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