Brittle Hooves and Losing Shoes
Q. Dear Dr. Gray: My eight-year-old Quarter Horse mare competes in western pleasure. I’ve noticed that she’s losing shoes frequently and her hooves are brittle. What should I look for in a hoof supplement?
– C. G., Aberdeen, NC
A. Dear C.G.: There are two ways to improve hoof quality: from the inside and from the outside.
Inside: Begin with good quality hay or pasture and supply the rest of your mare’s daily nutritional needs with fortified grain, a ration balancer or a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. Because of genetics, location, type of use and other factors, some horses (like yours) may need supplementation beyond their normal diet to grow a healthy hoof. Biotin, Lysine and Methionine, as well as Zinc, Copper and other nutrients have been shown to improve both the growth rate and quality of the hoof wall.
Outside: A regular trimming schedule and a consistent environment are crucial to maintaining good, sound feet. Constantly changing from wet to dry to wet may be harder on hooves than an environment that has too much moisture or not enough. Avoid these situations whenever possible and consider topical hoof products that create a barrier to moisture changes.
Dr. Lydia Gray is the Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine where she networks with veterinarians; provides print and electronic media content, and guides food, supplement and pharmaceutical selections. Dr. Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. She continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country.
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