I think as a result of being at my wits end with lame horses caused by rubbish feet I have opened my tunnel vision up to examine all angles. For me, it started with some research in the USA. Over there, they seem to have a lot more knowledge on what to feed to improve hoof quality. It makes sense, what you put in to your horse, you get out, including out through the hoof wall. Feed bad quality feed and what do you think your horses body will produce in terms of skin, coat and nails?
So, now my little brain has put these quite obvious elements together, I needed to work out what to feed and what is within my budget and means so that I get a good strong hoof for a horse that is actually rideable.
Firstly, SUGAR! It is literally in everything I feed and heaps of it. I never realised, even my cheap fibre nuts are loaded with molasses aka sugar. This is horrific for the hoof in many ways. Too much sugar causes insulin resistance, which in a nutshell can lead to laminitis and also not stating the obvious, but sugar leads to overweight horses and bad hoof production. High sugar should be avoided at all costs. Number 1: cut down the sugar.
Number 2 - all our basic feeds do not contain sufficient basic minerals for good hoof growth. The main minerals the hoof needs are zinc, salt and copper – its SIMPLE. If you can bump these up to recommended levels, you are in with a good chance. I explain below how to do this without giving you all the horrific maths I have had to do! Salt is a big one, hardly any of our horses are getting enough of this and a salt block WILL NOT be enough. You really want to shoot for at least 10 grams of table salt per 500 kilo horse, per day. This is based on a low work load. Each of mine are just in walk work at the moment.
In a nutshell, I have completely overhauled each of my horses diets. I dumped the rubbish pony nuts and high molasses ALFA-A and came up with a new plan. I now feed Speedi-beat which is great as its low sugar, low starch and high fibre = great for hooves. I feed about 400 grams per day (dry weight) per horse, each of my horses are about 500 kilos.
I then mix in flaked Micronised Lynseed, about 400 grams per day. This contains a great basic and naturally occurring mineral mix, it contains some brilliant oils and its low sugar but brill for getting condition on if you have a skinny Minnie – or just feed less if you have a slightly rounder horse. Now, this diet will already be helping to improve your horses feet. If you have a slightly bigger budget, I would also add in the ‘Forage Plus’ hoof mineral mix which gives your horses hooves literally everything they need for their feet. Its perfect. BUT if you have a slightly lesser budget, as I do, I have opted for Stamm30 Saracen Stud balancer which contains a perfect concoction of vitamins and minerals, all of which promote healthy hoof growth. I feed about 500 grams per day (2 cups) to meet my horses needs. Yes it’s a stud mix, but because of that it’s boosted with some great quality hoof nutrients such as zinc and copper.
If you are feeding just the linseed and Speedi-beat, you are looking at a cost of about 26 pounds per month per 500 kilo horse. If you can afford to stretch to adding in the balancer, this goes up to about 40 pounds per month total. Don’t forget the table salt.
Beyond this, Methionine, Lysine and Biotin are all SUPER for growing strong hooves. You will find this pre-mixed in to the ‘Forage Plus’ mineral mix for hooves or you can have a look online for a hoof supplement. Your Lynseed and Speed-beat each contain some levels of Methionine and Lysine already which is great, but you might still be slightly short on the recommended daily allowance, but it’s a start! Do some research, I use a product called Hoof Aid from Shotter and Byers Vets and this does me well. See what you can find.
Add to this diet regular exercise (even if it’s a walk 5 times per week for 35mins) and a reduced grass intake (try a grass muzzle as grass is very sugar rich) and you are well on your way. I feed mine about 2 sections of hay twice per day but they have very limited grass and it’s still warm!
Apparently in 6 weeks or so I should notice some small hoof changes, keeping in mind it takes about 9 months to grow out an entire hoof! Wish me luck, and if you have any questions, drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diet summary: Soaked Speedi-beet, micronised linseed, salt, Saracen Stam 30 stud balancer, hoof aid supplement! GOOD LUCK !