Horses’ hooves can be put under a lot of pressure all year round. One particular time when they can suffer however is winter. During the winter months, nutrition can be much less… nutritious. This means horses can start to become deficient in key vitamins and minerals if their feed is not balanced.
There are other factors as well, all of which can damage the hoof; poor conformation, horses being kept without shoes and horses with a predisposition to hoof problems. All these factors put extra stresses and strains on the hooves and can lead to cracks and damage.
Key Nutrients for Strong Hoof Growth
Certain nutrients are key for ensuring that your horse has strong and healthy hooves. If you notice that your horse’s hooves are crumbling or cracked they are probably deficient in one of the below.
By supplementing your horse you can be sure that new horn growth will be strong enough to deal with those everyday stresses and strains. New horn growth is often slow however, so it may take a month or two before you notice any real improvement. It can take up to 9 months for the hoof to completely replace itself!
Key nutrients include:
- Methionine – An amino acid essential for the production of cysteine and keratin. Keratin is the protein responsible for ensuring hoof strength
- Lysine – Also an amino acid, lysine is required for the production of multiple strengthening proteins such as elastin and collagen
- Calcium – A macronutrient that increases the number of sulphur cross-links between keratin in the hoof. These sulphur cross-links help to strengthen keratin (and thus the hoof) further
- Magnesium – A macronutrient which increases the uptake of calcium
- Zinc & Copper – Responsible for forming metalloproteins i.e. proteins with a metal atom at their core. These metalloproteins derived from zinc and copper form over 200 enzymes, many involved in maintaining hoof structural integrity e.g.; Stimulating cell growth, aiding keratin production, producing new/healthy horn tissue and increasing keratin sulphur bride links
- Biotin – Also known as vitamin B7, biotin optimises the process of keratin production
You can see that the most important nutrients are those that increase, optimise or enhance the production of keratin. This is due to keratin being an essential structural protein – a key player in maintaining hoof strength.
What is Biotin?
Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin. Because it is water soluble, it is not stored in the body and must be consumed every day.
Horses are actually able to synthesise their own biotin, but at relatively low levels – around 1-2mg per day, which also happens to be the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Biotin however, is one of the few vitamins where exceeding the RDA is actually a good thing. For instance, any vitamin C consumed that would exceed the RDA is simply excreted, this is not true for biotin.
Biotin is utilised even past its RDA, levels of 15-20mg have been shown to have a positive effect on hoof growth.
How Does Biotin Work
Keratin is a family of fibrous structural proteins found in tough structures such as hair, horns or hooves.
Biotin optimises the production of keratin and the process of keratinisation – keratinisation is the process of producing strong fibrous proteins to create tough body structures (such as hooves), the presence of biotin increases the efficiency of this process.
Have you used or are you currently using a biotin supplement and have you noticed improved horn growth? Do you have an opinion on using supplements?
If so we’d love to hear your thoughts, let us know in the comments below.