Growing a completely new hoof takes about ten to twelve months. Let’s give our horses a jump start into the new year by giving them the gift of healthy, dense, and well cared for hooves.
Strong Hooves Start on the Inside
Even though hooves take about 10-12 months to grow, what you feed your horse now will show up in his hooves 10 months down the road. To give your horse a boost in hoof strength this year, try supplementing his diet with essential hoof-building nutrients.
Methionine is an amino acid that your horse can’t produce on his own. It contains enough sulfur to turn protein into healthy hoof cells. Lysine is important for the production of keratin which makes up most of the hoof..
With continued use, biotin enhances hoof repair and supports better quality and faster hoof growth. Other important hoof nutrients include zinc, omega-3’s and the right combination of amino acids.
Download Our Free 10-Step Checklist to Maximize the Health of Your Horse's Hooves this Fall/Winter.
The Flipside: Winter Diet Hazards
Since nutrition has a huge impact on hoof health, make sure that your horse is receiving the right amounts of protein, fat, carbs and sugars. Diets too high in protein can cause health problems and diets too rich or high in sugars can lead to serious issues like laminitis.
During the cold winter nights and holiday season, feeding your horse a balanced diet will aid in hoof and whole body health. Talk with your vet before making snap decisions like feeding richer hay or increasing the amount of grain.
Movement is a Must
If your horse lives in a stall and hasn’t been ridden much this fall and winter, his hooves may be weaker and slower growing from lack of blood flow. Blood carries important nutrients to the hoof that are used to repair and grow new hoof cells.
This is why you need to get your horse moving, especially if he’ll be spending extended time in a stall. If there’s no time, or it’s too icy outside to ride, you can lunge him, take him for a walk or provide him with safe turnout to get his blood moving again.
Keeping it Clean
Cleaning out your horse’s hooves daily is a valuable practice for the prevention of hoof problems such as thrush. This can also be an opportunity to observe the hooves so you can catch cracks, abcesses and other injuries early to avoid future complications.
However, if your horse lives outside during the winter this job can become a bit harder, literally. Snow packed into your horse’s hooves can be pried out. Ice, on the other hand, can be a pain, a slipping hazard and very difficult to remove. .
Winter Hoof Hazards
Ice balls are a common problem for horses in many Northern states. Barefoot horses handle ice balls better than shod horses, since their hooves are flexible enough for the ball to pop out after a number of steps. In shod horses, ice builds up around the inside edge of the shoe, eventually forming a colossal ice ball.
People commonly put cooking spray or petroleum jelly on the hoof sole to try and prevent ice balls. However, this is only a temporary fix since it rubs off in a short amount of time. Some good solutions for shod horses are the use of rim pads or bubble pads. Rim pads are considered to be better for hygiene because they don’t create the enclosed, bacteria-welcoming space that bubble pads do.
Ice-encrusted horse shoes are, unfortunately, the tip of the iceberg. Frozen ground can also be a problem, since it’s often harder than concrete. High-stress, high-impact activities on this surface could lead to bruising and/ or cracking.
Building Stronger Hooves = Saving Money
Is one of your resolutions to have more money in the new year? Well, strengthening your horse’s hooves can help with that. When you strengthen his hoof with daily movement, care and nutrients you’re also preventing expensive future problems
Spending some extra time and around fifty cents per day on a good supplement will save you much more money than spending thousands of dollars in vet bills for issues that could have been prevented by having stronger hooves and not letting issues spiral out of control.
Having stronger hooves by the new year and beyond is as simple as implementing a few new daily habits, feeding your horse the right nutrients and avoiding winter hazards.