What should I look for in a hoof supplement?

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?

– Caryl G., Aberdeen, NC

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.

[Ed. note: Originally printed in the May 2010 issue of Salt Block Gazette]

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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Posted in Ask the Vet, Skin, Coat & Hooves, SmartPak Features

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7 comments on “What should I look for in a hoof supplement?
  1. Cindy says:

    I have two horses in the same environment, both stabled in seperate stalls that are cleaned out twice daily. The flooring is rubbermats on top of bare ground and several inches of fine sawdust for bedding. The farrier is out every 6 weeks. Hoof and coat supplements are fed everyday. One horse has nice hooves, the other horses’ hooves are horrible. Just two days after being trimmed the hooves look like they have not been touched in several months, even though the horse is on dirt (barefoot). I also apply topical hoof dressing often. It seems I am doing every thing right. I do not know what else to do.

  2. Daniel Ness says:

    I was a farrier for 32 years, what I found worked supper was strieght Neets foot oil on the hood wall and Iodine on the soul for the foot. When these two products are used regularly a horses hoof is so healthy it is difficult to trim the foot because the oil is back into it. When I ssy difficult to trim that is good for the foot because it is a strong hoof.

  3. may herring says:


  4. New_Vet84 says:

    I have been around with horses and mares and I noticed one of my favorite mares have broken horse shoes more often. Is this actually normal or my mare’s feet need to be trimmed somehow?

  5. michelle says:

    The only hoof supplement that I’ve used that I saw a difference is SmartPak’s Smarthoof Ultra. My horses feet look great now. They used to break up around the nails.

  6. Terry says:

    I have a mammoth donkey with brittle hooves which were always a mess. I have switched him to a low starch pelleted feed, and his feet don’t look like they belong to the same donkey. It’s been six weeks since the farrier and hardly any cracks.

  7. Alissa Banks says:

    I didn’t know what to look for in a hoof supplements so I have been very grateful for this post!

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