I have worked with horses suffering from mild to serious hoof problems for the past 40 years. During that time I have determined that horses with hoof problems often are deficient in many nutrients that negatively affect changes in the dermal tissue structure. The hoof is dermal tissue and shows weakness more quickly than other dermal tissue structures due to its function and location. Below are a few hoof deficiency concerns you should be aware of:
• Feeding excessive amounts of bran can produce poor hoof quality by inhibiting calcium absorption. Bran contains phytate, which is high in phosphorus. The excess amount of phosphorus blocks calcium absorption in the small intestine, creating a calcium deficiency. Often, the result is a hoof deficiency in the form of a crumbling hoof.
• A zinc deficiency can sometimes lead to rapid hoof growth. This hoof deficiency can result in poor quality keratin in the outer layers of the hoof wall and make the wall brittle. Some horses with a zinc deficiency need their hooves trimmed every 10-14 days.
• A biotin deficiency is rare, however, when it does occur, one will likely see thick layers of hardened tissue ‘peeling off’ the hoof much like the peeled layers of an onion.
• Hair-like projections emerging from the hoof wall or the sole of a horses hoof can indicate either a vitamin A excess or a vitamin A deficiency.
There are many more ‘nutritional red flags’ when it comes to hoof deficiency. By seeking sound nutrition information, you’ll become a better advocate for your horse.