Several riders at my barn use hoof supplements for their horses, while others swear by a particular farrier. When it comes to healthy hooves, what factor plays the biggest role? — BM from Washington D.C.
As a farrier, I’d love to claim that it’s all about me, but the truth is that healthy hooves result from overall good horsemanship and attendance to a complex web of concerns, including hoof care, nutrition, age, climate, environment, activity, and genetics. Since elements like age and genetics are beyond our control, we have to focus our caretaking on the areas we can realistically influence. The topics you mention—hoof care and supplementation—are our best opportunities to make a positive impact on hoof growth. Basically, we need a knowledgeable professional to maintain the external hoof, and we need a solid nutritional program to ensure that new growth is as healthy as possible.
Of course, I realize that’s easier said than done. Neither farriers nor supplements are created equally, and given all the choices available, choosing a farrier or a supplement can be daunting. When selecting a hoof care provider, you should look for exactly what you mention in your question, a “particular” farrier. Look for someone who takes pride in his/her work, who has experience and a foundation in the basics, and spends the time and effort to pursue continuing education.
When selecting a hoof supplement, you should look to products and manufacturers that attend to details in a similar, informed manner. While, in an ideal world, a complete and balanced diet should provide adequate nutrients to support healthy hooves, those other concerns (age, climate, activity, etc.) often result in a horse needing supplementation, and shopping with SmartPak will give you the peace of mind that you’re choosing from the best available options. Research has shown that a daily serving of 10–30 mg of biotin improves the growth rate and quality of hoof wall. A good hoof supplement should also provide some of the minerals and amino acids required for the production of healthy horn, such as zinc, copper, methionine, and lysine.
Ultimately, the factor that plays the biggest role in your horse’s hoof health is you. Fortunately, you’re asking the right questions to ensure you’re doing right by your horse. He’s lucky to have you!
— Danvers Child, CJF
Hungry for more tips on healthy hooves?
Listen to “Healthy Hooves 360°,” a recent webinar featuring Danvers and our own Dr. Lydia Gray.