Is Biotin the Key to Hoof Health?

Is Biotin the Key to Hoof Health?

Biotin is a B vitamin often associated with hoof health. Many equestrians consider biotin as the only supplement needed to maintain hoof quality. How accurate is this? Will feeding an “only biotin” supplement fix your horse’s hoof problems? Before examining these questions, let’s discuss biotin and its role within your horse.

What is Biotin?

Biotin Supplement for Horses

Biotin is Vitamin B7, and horses require it for their overall well-being. Horses utilize biotin to maintain health and for a multitude of metabolic functions, including:

  • Converting Food to Energy
  • Maintaining a Healthy Nervous System
  • Hoof Growth and Strength
  • Skin and Coat Quality

Natural pasture grass and many of the feedstuffs we provide our horses contain adequate biotin. Horses also manufacture biotin through microbial action within the horse’s hindgut. Through these sources, most of the horse population will receive the required daily amount of biotin needed to function and thrive.

Biotin Deficiencies in Horses

One fact that many horse owners are unaware of is that a biotin deficiency is relatively rare. Most horses do not benefit from biotin supplementation alone.* A true biotin deficiency will result in a hoof with thick layers of hardened tissue that “peel off” like an onion. Also, in most cases of biotin deficiencies, other nutrient deficiencies will also be present.

Biotin Excess in Horses

Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin; therefore, the kidneys excrete excess biotin into the urine. This is good, as biotin will not build up within the horse’s system and is thus generally regarded as safe by most nutritionists.

Supplementing for Hoof Health with Biotin Alone

Unless your horse is a member of a small population of horses with a biotin deficiency, the investment you are making with biotin supplementation will not likely have any impact on your horse’s hooves. Biotin is important, especially in biotin-deficient horses, to strengthen the crosslinks joining the connective tissue of the hooves. However, biotin is not the only nutrient your horse requires. To produce the best hooves possible, the horse needs a combination of several nutrients that are balanced in the correct amounts and ratios.

Proper Hoof Supplementation for Horses

Horse Eating Hoof Supplement

If you are looking at providing hoof health supplementation through biotin, consider a complete hoof supplement. A good hoof supplement for horses will not only contain biotin but will also have the additional nutrients required for your horse to produce strong-quality hoof growth.

The extra biotin within a hoof supplement may benefit horses:

  • Performing Heavy Work
  • Experiencing Severe Stress
  • Affected with Hindgut Issues Preventing the Manufacture of Biotin
  • Afflicted with Acute Laminitis and/or Founder

Our recommendation is to utilize a complete hoof supplement that:

Farrier’s Formula® ushered in the concept of “feeding the hoof” in the 1980s through innovative research, including whole blood macro mineral, trace mineral, vitamin, fatty acid, and amino acid analysis. Farrier’s Formula® contains biotin in addition to many more hoof-building nutrients. It is the number one recommended hoof supplement by farriers, was independently tested and researched with the results published in the Veterinary Record, and is one of the best-known hoof supplements in the world.

*Kempson, S.A. 1987. Scanning electron microscope observations of hoof horn from horses with brittle feet. Vet. Rec. 120:568-570. TO HOOF HEALTH?

Insulin Resistance in Horses

Insulin Resistance in Horses Blog

What is Equine Insulin Resistance?

The most basic explanation when discussing Insulin Resistance in horses is that we are dealing with an insulin problem within the horse. When a horse consumes carbohydrates, the pancreas is triggered to produce and release insulin. Insulin regulates and lowers glucose levels in the bloodstream by assisting the transport of glucose into the cells. When we have an Insulin Resistance problem, the cells become resistant to the action of insulin. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas secretes more insulin in the attempt to regulate blood sugar. Blood glucose levels begin to rise along with insulin levels when the pancreas reaches the limit of insulin production. 

Horses at Risk of Insulin Resistance

Although all horses are at risk of developing insulin resistance, factors such as age, diet, exercise, and genetics can increase the risk. For example, certain breeds are more conducive to developing insulin resistance. These breeds include:

  • Morgans
  • Pasa Finos
  • Andalusians
  • Arabians
  • Peruvian Pasos
  • Mustangs
  • Ponies
  • Minis
  • Donkeys

Another example is the average age of these horses. If we look at the correlation between age and Insulin Resistance, horses in the 5-15 age range are predisposed to the development of Insulin Resistance. Insulin Resistance is a metabolic issue, so diet and weight also play a significant factor. Horses that are overweight with a body condition score (BCS) between 7 and 9 or who receive diets rich in sugar and carbs have a higher risk of developing Insulin Resistance than a horse who receives regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Clinical Signs of Equine Insulin Resistance

Overweight Horse
Horse with a Body Condition Score of 8

Since Insulin Resistance is a metabolic problem occurring within the horse, it may be difficult to see the signs of a problem. A common warning sign that can be associated with the development of Insulin Resistance is an obese horse.  Other signs we can look at include:

  • Fast weight gain
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Fatty deposits on the body of the horse
  • Development of a “cresty” neck
  • Loss of topline
  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Inflammation
  • Frequent bouts of laminitis

Laminitis & Insulin Resistance

Most Insulin Resistant horses are prone to bouts of laminitis. This can be attributed to the abundance of fat tissue, which is extremely common in insulin-resistant horses. In overweight horses, research has uncovered evidence that there is an “insulin resistance” hormone factor produced by the excessive adipose (fat) tissue that contributes to the cells’ inability to uptake glucose from the bloodstream. Adipose tissue may also contribute to higher cortisol levels.  The high glucose and cortisol levels are inflammatory and therefore predispose the horse to laminitis. We highly recommend including a quality hoof supplement in the diet of these Insulin Resistant horses

Preventing Insulin Resistance in Horses

The first ten years of your horse’s life often sets the stage for the development of metabolic conditions. Horse owners should start providing the correct nutrients and a balanced diet to the horse at conception. This balanced diet must be continued throughout the horse’s life to maintain health and prevent future metabolic problems. Other factors that can help prevent the development of Insulin Resistance:

  • Regular work and/or exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy body condition score
  • Feeding grass/hay with a quality hay balancer
  • Refraining from feeding “sweet” feeds or treats

Caring for the Insulin Resistant Horse

There is no cure for Insulin Resistance, but we can help make the life of these horses as comfortable as possible. The first step in this process is to examine the horse’s current diet and develop a feeding plan that will assist the horse in dropping excess weight. This new diet will be focused on reducing the number of sugars and carbs the horse consumes daily. This means no sweet feeds, limited treats, and no grasses with high fructan. Grasses likely to have high fructan content include:

  • Fertilized and growing pastures
  • Pastures stressed from drought or frosts
  • Grazing in the afternoon and evening
  • Tall fescue and ryegrass

Monitored grazing, dry lotting, and grazing muzzles may also be necessary depending on the horse and pasture.

Adding exercise to the horse’s daily routine is the next step. If the horse is not accustomed to exercise, it should be introduced slowly, 2-3 times a week, and built up over time. Eventually, we want the horse to exercise daily with body condition steadily improving.

Supplementation for Insulin Resistance

Supplementation is vital for horses with Insulin Resistance, especially when we begin cutting calories from the diet. We want to cut calories without cutting the horse’s required daily nutrients. If the horse’s diet is not balanced nutritionally, we are not providing the support needed to maintain our horse’s health.

As mentioned above, a quality hoof supplement is essential for insulin-resistant horses to help improve hoof wall density. A denser hoof wall is more resilient to the effects of laminitis and may reduce the risk of founder. One good option is to utilize a hay and pasture balancer alongside a hoof supplement to replace the missing nutrients from the low-calorie diet. Another option is to use a quality hoof supplement and a supplement specifically formulated to support horses with Insulin Resistance.

Life Data® Insulin R Formula and Farrier's Formula® Double Strength
Life Data® Insulin R Formula and Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength

Life Data® Recommendation

Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength and the new Life Data® Insulin R Formula work in conjunction to support horses with Insulin Resistance by supplying active ingredients to assist with glucose metabolism, fat metabolism, insulin action, and help reduce inflammation. Life Data® Insulin R Formula also supports proper metabolism to encourage weight control and general health.

Correlations Between Equine Hoof and Joint Health: PART 2

Correlations Between Equine Hoof and Joint Health

In Part 1 of “Correlations Between Equine Hoof and Joint Health,” we discussed how nutrition and body condition are two major factors influencing the health of equine hooves and joints. In part 2, we will concentrate on external and mechanical elements that could be creating stress on your horse’s hooves and joints. Many of the hoof and joint problems we see today can be attributed to the long-term effects of offloading, exposure to hard terrain, and unbalanced hooves.


Offloading occurs when a horse “offloads” its weight onto one side to compensate for pain, injury, or discomfort. This is common for horses suffering from a joint injury or a hoof issue such as an abscess. The horse’s anatomy is designed for the entire weight of the horse to be evenly distributed between all four legs. The weight distribution becomes unbalanced when the horse offloads, causing the opposite leg(s) to bear additional weight. Over time, the extra weight may adversely affect the health of the hooves and joints. Some of the problems that can develop are:

  • Joint Injury
  • Hoof cracks
  • Chronic Arthritis
  • Laminitis
  • Poor hoof quality
  • Hoof imbalance
  • Joint inflammation

Offloading: What to Do?

If you witness your horse offloading weight, contact your farrier or veterinarian to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Your farrier and veterinarian can work with your horse to discover what is causing the pain and discomfort in the hoof or joint. If there is no permanent damage, they can work towards a solution to bring relief. Depending on the initial issue and severity of the problem, your farrier’s expertise in balancing and/or correct shoe application will assist in reducing the effects of offloading.

Terrain Impact

Hooves on hard terrain

Although wet and muddy environments take a toll on hoof health, terrain also plays an essential aspect in the longevity of the joints and the health of the hooves. When the hoof strikes a surface, the force from the landing is absorbed throughout the leg. Higher levels of concussion occur with the harder landing surfaces such as frozen ground, concrete/pavement, and rocky terrain. Frequent impact on hard surfaces can weaken hoof and joint integrity, leading to one or more issues such as:

  • Joint deterioration
  • Bruised /swollen joints
  • Arthritis
  • Road founder
  • Sore and bruised soles
  • Hoof cracks
  • Hoof abscesses
  • Lameness

Terrain: What to Do?

The most straightforward answer is to reduce the amount of time your horse spends on these hard surfaces. Unfortunately, this may not be possible due to your location or the horse’s work. The best way to prevent damage from hard surfaces is to build healthy hooves and joints with nutrition. A healthy, stronger hoof is much more resilient to hard surfaces. Healthier hooves also reduce the amount of impact felt through the joints. Stronger joints are also more likely to stand up to wear and tear. Utilizing nutrition and hoof and joint supplementation is one of the easiest ways to promote hoof and joint health. Regular exercise and maintaining balanced hooves are also keys to prevention.

Unbalanced Hooves

Farrier trimming and balancing hoof

A horse with unbalanced hooves is like a car out of alignment, driving down the road wearing down the tires. Unbalanced hooves predispose horses to hoof and joint issues. Ideally, the horse’s hoof contacts the ground as a unit, distributing the weight impact force evenly across the weight-bearing surface of the hoof. An unbalanced set of hooves will lead to an uneven distribution of weight and force across the hooves and the lower limb joints. The imbalance adds additional strain to the health of the hoof and joints. The risk of injury from tripping, stumbling, or an unnatural landing is more likely to occur, especially in performance horses who are actively running, jumping, and exercising. Unbalanced hooves can affect both barefoot and shod horses, and several problems can develop from this issue:

  • Hoof distortion
  • Increase risk of thrush and white line disease
  • Hoof abscesses
  • Hoof or joint-related injuries
  • Laminitis
  • Joint deterioration
  • Hoof wall defects and separation
  • Heel bulb displacement
  • Microbial invasion

Unbalanced Hooves: What to Do?

The best solution is to work with your farrier to balance the hooves. Horse owners should pay close attention to their horse’s hooves. Clean and pick the feet daily and examine the hoof for changes or problems. Never be afraid to bring up a hoof balance concern with your farrier or veterinarian. You can learn more about the importance of well-balanced hooves in our previous blog.

Protecting hoof and joint health is essential to the longevity of your horse. If you believe your horse has sustained an injury or has developed an issue, consult with your farrier and veterinarian. Contact us if you have any questions regarding this article.

Correlations Between Equine Hoof and Joint Health: PART 1

Equine Hoof and Joints

Have you ever considered the substantial influence the health of our horse’s hooves and joints have on one another? For example, can poor hoof quality negatively impact joint health? Can a joint injury add extra strain to the hoof? It is easy to look at our horse’s health from a narrow perspective, only considering the problem at hand. When it comes to the longevity and comfort of the horse, we need to look at the whole picture. The horse’s joints and hooves function together in its movement and balance. When one is afflicted, the other is often affected as well.

Effects from offloading, poor nutrition, hoof balance, terrain, and body condition accumulate over time, weakening the horse’s extremities and creating real problems in the horse’s locomotion. These influences become even more important for older horses, who are more susceptible to joint pain, arthritis, and hoof problems such as laminitis. In part one of this blog, we will discuss the impact that body condition and nutrition have on the health of the hooves and joints.

Overweight Body Condition

Obesity continues to be a growing problem in the horse community. Approximately 50% of the horse population in the United States is considered overweight. It is almost guaranteed that an obese horse will eventually develop hoof and/or joint problems. The additional weight increases the strain and pressure heaped onto the hooves and joints. The excess weight will also boost the risk of problems developing when combined with unbalanced hooves, frequent exposure to hard terrain, and offloading. In addition, most of these horses also do not receive enough exercise or balanced diets. This sedentary lifestyle does not provide the needed exercise to maintain joint strength and quality. Providing an imbalanced diet only adds to the problem. Nutrient and caloric excesses in the diet are typical in overweight horses and can have many consequences on the health of the hooves and joints. Common problems that can occur in obese horses are:

  • Laminitis
  • Hoof “pancaking”
  • Joint inflammation
  • Hoof Abscesses
  • Joint related injuries
  • White line separation
  • Arthritis
  • Poor hoof and joint quality
  • Sore joints
Horse with Body Condition Score of 8
Overweight Horse with a Body Condition Score of 8

Overweight Body Condition: What to Do?

The most impactful move horse owners can make to reduce their horse’s body weight is to return to the “basic diet” of the horse. Remove all complete feeds, sweet feeds, and treats from the horse’s diet. Utilize grass and hay as the cornerstone of your horse’s feeding program. We also recommend including a quality hay and pasture balancer, such as Barn Bag®, for nutritional support. This approach allows horse owners to control the number of calories their horses receive while still providing the essential nutrients the horse requires. Adding regular exercise to the horse’s daily regime is also extremely important. Start slow and allow the horse to build up to the new activities. The last thing you want to do is cause an injury by pushing your horse too hard and too fast.

Nutrition & Supplementation

The health and quality of your horse’s hooves and joints are reliant on proper nutrition and a balanced diet. In fact, poor hoof quality is one of the first signs of poor nutrition. The hooves, skin, hair coat, and ligaments supporting the joints are all made of connective tissue. If the hooves are impacted by poor nutrition, all other connective tissues of the horse will suffer, including the joints. Although nutrient imbalances can develop in any horse, overweight horses are highly susceptible to imbalances and the resulting hoof and joint issues.

Nutrient deficiencies and excesses in the diet will hinder the development of hoof and joint quality. One example is a deficiency in Vitamin A which creates a hoof wall defect where the hoof wall “flakes” away. Another perfect example is sulfur. A deficiency of sulfur-containing amino acids could lead to structural weakness of the ligaments, tendons, joints, and hooves. However, too much sulfur in the diet can have a negative effect on connective tissue strength. When hoof and joint quality are poorly affected by nutrition, we can expect:

  • Higher risks of thrush, white line disease, and microbial invasions
  • Hoof abscesses
  • Laminitis
  • Deteriorating joint health
  • Joint inflammation
  • Variations of poor hoof quality
  • Risks of injury
  • Hoof defects and deformities
  • Arthritis

Nutrition & Supplementation: What to Do?

Providing a balanced diet supported with essential nutrients will have one of the most significant impacts on your horse’s hooves and joints. Adding a quality hoof supplement to your horse’s feeding program will also benefit all dermal tissue of the horse, including the hoof and the connective tissue of the joint. A hoof supplement will build, improve, and support hoof quality to make it more resilient to many hoof problems.

Horse owners can also utilize a joint supplement to support joint health further. Although, feeding a hoof supplement with a separate joint supplement can have risks of sulfur over-supplementation. To avoid over-supplementing, utilizing a combo product to support hoof and joint health, such as Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint, is highly recommended. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint is balanced to support the hoof and joint without the risk of over-supplementation. Starting horses on Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint from an early age is also a great preventive measure.

Hoof and Joint Supplement for Horses
Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint

Prevention Versus Treatment

Preventing a problem is always better than treating a problem. Protecting and building quality hooves and joints begins at conception. Waiting to tackle a problem until there is a problem can be time-consuming, costly, and have lasting effects on your horse’s health. The key to prevention and extending the longevity of your horse begins with:

Although nutrition and weight management are major factors in hoof and joint health, there are other factors that still need to be considered. In part 2 of “Correlations Between Equine Hoof and Joint Health,” we will dive further into this subject to discuss offloading, terrain, and unbalanced hooves. Contact us if you have any questions about this article or the supplements mentioned. Consult with your farrier and veterinarian immediately if you believe your horse has a hoof or joint problem.

Thrush and White Line Disease in Horses


There has been a vast amount of information published in the scientific horse industry literature concerning the causes, prevention, and treatment of thrush. Although often overlooked, proper nutrition can promote the development of hoof tissue with better characteristics to help prevent or control thrush. 

How Does Thrush Develop in Hooves?

Thrush develops in the equine foot when bacterial and fungal organisms begin populating the frog’s dark and moist crevices, or sulci. These organisms thrive and divide in oxygen-poor (anaerobic) environments often contaminated with wet organic material. 

The organisms causing thrush are opportunistic and typical in the soil and environment. All horses are exposed. High humidity or wet environments predispose horses to thrush. The opportunity for a progressive invasion and subsequent infection of the frog tissue can occur once the organisms begin dividing in the frog sulci. Many of the same microbes linked with white line disease are associated with thrush.

The Importance of Oxygen in Thrush Prevention

The blocking of oxygen to the tissue of the frog and surrounding areas will predispose a horse to develop thrush. Debris, footpads, boots, or the application of grease and oils to the foot can block oxygen. 

The material associated with thrush is usually black and characteristically has a highly unpleasant odor. Infection of the frog and surrounding tissues often leads to lameness. 

Hoof Blocked of Oxygen
Hoof blocked of oxygen due to packed debris

Important Nutrients for a Strong Hoof

In Thrush, the first line of defense from environmental microbes invading the hoof capsule is a “sound” hoof wall structure. The same nutrients necessary for a sound hoof wall are also essential for dense frog and sole tissue

  • Calcium is necessary for the proper bonding of cells to each other.
  • Zinc is important for healthy keratin, the tough pigmented material found in the outer layers of the frog and sole. 
  • Methionine is a sulfur-containing amino acid necessary to form the healthy “cross-links” of collagen that add strength and elasticity to tissue. 
  • Phospholipids are needed to form healthy cell membranes that give the cells the ability to maintain proper moisture and oxygen balance and repel excess environmental moisture. 
  • Copper and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) are also necessary, serving as catalysts in the formation of strong and healthy connective tissue. 

Effective Thrush Prevention Involves:

  • A combination of maintaining a clean, dry (but not too dry) environment.
  • Cleaning the feet on a routine basis.
  • Adequate exercise.
  • Proper preventative nutrition.

Proper nutrition involves supplying nutrients in the correct amounts and ratios to each other without over supplementing.

Important Tips for Thrush Treatment

If the horse develops thrush, provide the horse with a clean and dry environment on which to stand. Clean the bottom of the foot and frog area by removing any debris and washing the area thoroughly. 

Treating Hoof with Thrush
Farrier Applying Life Data® Hoof Clay® into Frog infected with Thrush

Hoof disinfectants containing tamed iodine are ideal for treating or preventing thrush. Products containing tea tree oil and low levels of iodine packed into the frog sulci can also be effective. Surgical debridement of affected tissue may be necessary. 

Learn More About Our Recommended Treatment for Thrush

White Line Disease

To address the relationship between nutrition and white line disease, we must not overlook the important observations regarding the disease and the predisposing factors over the years.

White Line Disease
Hoof with White Line Disease

Burney Chapman

Burney Chapman, a world-renowned farrier from Lubbock, Texas, USA, became one of the foremost authorities on the condition back in the late eighties and early nineties. At that time, he began to see an alarming increase in the number of white line cases he encountered in his farrier practice both in the U.S. and U.K. 

Burney determined that it was not a disease of the white line but the result of a fungal invasion of the middle hoof wall. The disease is known as stall rot, seedy toe, hollow foot, wall thrush, and white line disease.

Burney’s Observations

At first, Burney thought white line disease was found in environments that were poorly maintained. However, the more he encountered it, he began to realize the disease occurred more often in clean, well-managed stables and barns. He also observed no correlation to breed, color, or front vs. back feet and that the initial stages were non-painful and usually detected by the farrier during routine hoof care.

What Causes White Line Disease?

Today, we know more about white line disease and recognize that all horses are exposed. The medial (middle) hoof wall is affected by white line disease. Both bacterial and fungal organisms commonly found in the environment cause the damage. These organisms require a nutrient-rich environment that lacks oxygen to flourish. 

White Line Disease and the Hoof

The outer hoof wall is more resistant to invasion. This is due to its higher density and exposure to environmental oxygen compared to the lower density and lack of oxygen in the middle hoof wall. 

The outer and medial hoof walls are derived primarily from the coronary band. The coronary band provides the pigment to the outer and medial hoof wall. 

The third section of the hoof wall, the inner hoof wall, is derived from the laminae and is therefore non-pigmented and glistening white. It is more resistant to microbial invasion due to the proximity of live tissue in this area. The live tissue is not only oxygen-rich, thereby inhibiting these opportunist anaerobic organisms, but also has infection-fighting abilities. 

We know that often trauma to the hoof capsule creates bruising and bleeding. The damaged and leaking blood vessels create a good food source for the “hoof-eating” microbes.  

Other predisposing factors include a prior occurrence of an abscess or laminitis in which the hoof wall becomes full of holes and crevices. Nail holes or hoof cracks allow organisms to gain access. Also, high moisture environments tend to soften the foot and allow the bacterial and fungal organisms a more accessible entrance into the hoof.

Nutrition and White Line Disease

Properly balanced nutrition and quality hoof supplements will strengthen and increase the density of the hoof wall, reducing the likelihood or severity of white line disease

No one has proven this fact more sufficiently than Dr. Susan Kempson. Dr. Kempson is a noted equine nutrition researcher in the Dept of Preclinical Veterinary Sciences, Royal School of Veterinary Studies, at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Dr. Kempson has conducted numerous electron microscope studies of the equine hoof wall. Electron microscopes use electrons rather than light to capture images and magnify them up to two million times. 

Dr. Kempson’s Research

Dr. Kempson demonstrated with scanning electron microscope photos that a horse supplemented with excessive selenium developed a lack of structure in the hoof horn. Sulfur is required to build the strong cross links necessary for a healthy hoof horn. However, excess selenium substitutes in place of sulfur, creating a weak hoof structure. In addition, the soil where the horse lived was deficient in copper. Copper will help protect the horse from the detrimental effects of small amounts of excess dietary selenium.

The electron microscope photos also showed that bacteria had invaded the space between the cells. Interestingly, Dr. Kempson found that bacteria were the front-line invaders of the hoof wall, setting up the environment for the secondary fungal invaders. The several different species of organisms that have been isolated from infected hooves all have one thing in common – they thrive on the sulfur-containing collagen of the hoof wall. 

In the above case, after three months of discontinuing the selenium and supplementing copper, the horse returned to his normal activities.

Calcium Deficiencies

Hoof wall quality also deteriorates with calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency is often a result of diets high in bran and creates weak, crumbly hoof horn. The poor hoof wall quality develops holes and defects. This allows the bacteria and fungi associated with white line disease to penetrate.

Final Observations

The above information explains many circumstances associated with white line disease. However, it does not explain the puzzle of why horses in the well-managed facility and the overfed horse often have some of the most challenging white line problems. In agreement with Burney’s Chapman’s observations, it is possible that the horse consuming a high carbohydrate diet, especially a sweet feed, is predisposed to white line disease due to changes in the hoof wall environment that are favorable for these hoof-eating organisms. 

Support for Equine Insulin Resistance

Insulin R Formula Logo

Life Data® Insulin R Formula FAQ

The Life Data® Insulin R Formula is designed to help reduce the symptoms associated with insulin resistant horses such as occasional bouts of laminitis, obesity, regional adiposities, thin soles, lethargy, and low exercise tolerance. Life Data® Insulin R Formula supplies active ingredients to assist with glucose metabolism, fat metabolism, insulin action and help reduce inflammation. The formula supports proper metabolism to encourage enhanced weight control and general health.

Research Behind Life Data® Insulin R Formula

Life Data® Insulin R Formula was formulated based on research, including whole blood macro and trace mineral analysis. Test results from horses diagnosed with insulin resistance were compared to healthy horses. The research was performed in our in-house laboratory equipped with conventional equine hematology and chemistry equipment (Abaxis HM5 and VetScan VS 2) and specialized equipment such as CEM Mars 6 microwave digestion and Thermo iCAP RQ ICP-MS.

Insulin Resistance Testing and Field Trials

Diagnostic testing, insulin testing, and other additional tests were performed by the horse owner’s veterinarian. Life Data conducted two years of field-trial testing on insulin resistant horses, with intermittent retesting on these horses. A survey of the 20 horses completing the field-testing trials showed that 50% of horse owners reported the product had “Pronounced Improvement” of “General well-being”, 35% showed some improvement and 15% reported no improvement.

Support for Equine Insulin Resistance

In addition to the benefits of Life Data® Insulin R Formula, Farrier’s Formula® or Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength given along with Life Data® Insulin R Formula helps build the connective tissue of the hoof wall, creates a denser hoof wall, and increases the growth rate to give the farrier more to work with.

Life Data® Insulin R Formula is not a treatment for insulin resistance, has not been proven to significantly reduce blood insulin levels, and is not intended to replace any veterinary prescribed therapeutics. A minimum of 6 to 8 months of administration is required before owners typically notice any changes in their horse. Additional information about the Life Data® Equine Nutrition Research program, the blood testing laboratory, and the Life Data® Insulin R Formula can be found on our website .

Our goal is to help horses. By determining how nutrition impacts horses with specific conditions we hope that specific dietary changes can prevent these conditions or improve the lives of afflicted horses.

Ingredients that Benefit Horses with Insulin Resistance

Life Data® Insulin R Formula Active Ingredients:

  • Inositol
    • Also known as vitamin B8, has been shown in laboratory studies to increase insulin sensitivity and insulin signaling
      • (The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Volume 24, Issue 2, February 2013, Pages 457-466; Int J Endocrinol, 2018; 2018: 1968450.)
  • Choline
    • Works synergistically with inositol as components of the phospholipids in cell membranes. Choline and phosphatidylcholine intake have been associated with a lower Type 2 diabetes risk in Finnish men.
      • (European Journal of Nutrition volume 59, pages 3857–3861 (2020))
  • Thiamine
    • Or vitamin B1, is essential for glucose metabolism
      • (Acta Diabetol. 2008 Sep;45(3):131-41. doi: 10.1007/s00592-008-0042-y.)
  • Chromium
    • Is necessary for proper insulin function and to help maintain appropriate blood glucose levels. Chromium helps maintain insulin receptor function on cells.
      • Human research: (Diabetes Educ. 2004;Suppl:2-14.)
  • Vitamin E
    • (Supplied as natural source vitamin E) Is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and resulting tissue damage. Oxidative stress from a lack of antioxidants may contribute to insulin resistance. Sufficient vitamin E is usually present in green pasture grass; however, is deficient in stored hay. Vitamin E has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in overweight human patients.
      • (Diabetes Care 2004; 27(9):2166–2171)
  • Tyrosine
    • An amino acid, helps regulate thyroid and adrenal hormones. Tyrosine is a building block of thyroid hormones and is therefore involved with metabolism.
  • Threonine
    • An essential amino acid, is necessary for collagen formation.
  • Vitamin D3
    • Functions as a hormone as it circulates through the blood stream. Fresh pasture grass contains vitamin D2; however, vitamin D levels drop quickly in stored hay. Horses stalled due to metabolic issues with pasture restriction may not receive enough sunlight for the skin to produce sufficient vitamin D. [Vitamin D reduces insulin resistance probably through its effect on calcium and phosphorus metabolism and through up regulation of the insulin receptor gene.
      • (Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome volume 5, Article number: 8 (2013))]
  • Copper Amino Acid Complex
    • Low copper levels have been associated with insulin resistance and higher iron levels.
  • Proprietary Silicon Complex
    • Contains macro and trace minerals that are typically in low levels in the whole blood of horses with insulin resistance, as determined by research conducted in the Life Data® blood testing laboratory.
Product Char for Specific Conditions

5 Tips to Feeding Horses with Laminitis

Laminitis Horse in "Saw Horse" stance
Typical “Saw Horse” Stance for Horses with Laminitis

It is vital for Horses with laminitis to receive a balanced diet that fulfills their nutritional requirements. Fulfilling these nutritional needs not only benefits laminitis recovery but can also help prevent future bouts from developing. Additionally, your horse’s current diet could be the cause of its laminitic troubles. Below are five tips to feeding horses with laminitis.

1. Manage the Body Condition of your Horse

Obesity is one of the major contributing factors to the current rise of horses with laminitis in the United States.  In fact, mismanagement due to overfeeding idle horses causes 70-80% of these laminitic cases. Taking the necessary steps to maintain the correct body condition score can help in laminitis prevention and recovery. Horse owners can help reduce and maintain body weight by:

  • Providing regular exercise
  • Feeding a low starch forage balancer
  • Providing free choice hay
  • Monitoring grazing
  • Removing additional calories such as compound feeds or oats
  • Using grazing muzzles if needed
Overweight Horse
Overweight Horses are Prone to Bouts of Laminitis

Contrarily, Laminitic hard keepers may need additional calories to maintain body condition. Hard Keepers diagnosed with laminitis can be given:

  • Beet pulp
  • Vegetable oil
  • Oats
  • Copra
  • A combination of the above

2. Avoid Grain Overload

One primary cause of laminitis in horses occurs from undigested starch (carbohydrates) entering the caecum. This usually occurs due to grain overload or from grazing a pasture that has developed high sugar content grasses. The small intestinal tract can be presented with more carbohydrates than it can digest. When this occurs, the carbohydrates enter the hindgut, and the hindgut microbes begin to ferment these carbohydrates. The resulting toxic microbial fermentation products not only enter the bloodstream but are also detrimental to the microbial population itself. This creates a cascade of toxins that enter the bloodstream and damages the sensitive blood vessels within the hoof capsule.

Additionally, horses that tend to eat quickly are more likely to develop a digestive upset or carbohydrate overload. If the feed is not chewed adequately, the digestion-assisting saliva is not sufficiently mixed with the feed. Adding fist-sized rounded rocks to the feed bucket can help circumvent this unhealthy habit.

3. Limit Fructan Digestion from Forage

Pasture grasses recovering from frost or drought caused stress are most likely to produce excessive levels of fructans, or grass sugar. Likewise, cool seasoned grass that flourishes in the spring and fall will also have high levels of fructan.

Fructan is a complex sugar present in pasture grasses and cannot be digested and absorbed in the small intestine of the horse. The microbes in the hindgut ferment fructans into lactic acid. Fructan levels of the pastures vary throughout the day depending on:

  • Exposure of sunlight
  • Temperature
  • Moisture Levels
  • Grass Type

Ingestion of a large quantity of high fructan grasses can alter the hindgut environment leading to the death of vast numbers of beneficial microbes. This releases endotoxins that often trigger a laminitic episode or colic. Since photosynthesis from sunlight is necessary for fructan production, pasture fructan levels are highest in the afternoon and evening and are lowest in the mornings. Easy keepers and horses with laminitis are less likely to develop grass laminitis if they are only allowed pasture access in the early morning to early afternoon.

4. Horses with Laminitis Need to Chew

Horses with acute laminitis can often develop sore teeth. The teeth laminae become inflamed just as the laminae of the hooves. Consequently, the tooth pain often discourages proper chewing. Unchewed whole grains are less likely to be digested prior to reaching the microbes of the hindgut. We advise against feeding any concentrated feeds to a horse with acute laminitis. Feed up to the normal amount of hay free choice or divided into as many feedings as possible.

5. Provide Nutritional Support for Horses with Laminitis

Nutritional Support with the nutrients required for strong and dense growth of the hoof wall and sole may help reduce the time of laminitis recovery. For example, Long-term feeding of a quality hoof supplement may strengthen the cohesive bond between the hoof wall and the coffin bone. This strengthened bond may benefit acute cases of laminitis.

Hoof Supplementation

Proper hoof supplementation can help repair damage sustained during a laminitis/founder cycle. Many horses are fed rations deficient in the nutrients necessary to maintain and rebuild hoof health after suffering from laminitis and founder. Some hays are deficient in essential nutrients, especially those stored while wet, grown on nutrient deficient soils, harvested at a late stage of maturity, or have been stored for an extended period.

Recommended Hoof Supplement: Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength

Supplement for Horses with Laminitis

Horses with laminitis need a supplement that contains ingredients to support the liver such a lecithin and thyroid building nutrients such as tyrosine and iodine. Amino acids play an important role in re-building a hoof damaged by laminitis and founder.

Recommended Supplement for Laminitis: Life Data® Lamina Formula

Essential fatty acids and phospholipids are needed to build cell membranes and walls. Vitamin A is an important hoof-building vitamin. Calcium, copper, and zinc are important minerals for hoof strength. For these nutrients to be most effective they must be bioavailable (absorbable) and in the proper ratio/balance.

Supplements for Laminitis
Supplements for Laminitis

If your horse develops a case of laminitis contact your veterinarian and farrier immediately. Its important that horse owners treat every case of laminitis as an emergency. If you have any questions regarding feeding and supplementation for horses with laminitis contact us.

Good for the Sole

Farrier Trimming Hoof Sole

No part of the horse “takes a beating” like the sole of the hoof. The horse’s sole and hoof share the responsibility in supporting the weight of the horse while withstanding the different terrains when running, jumping, trail riding, or performing. Rocks, concrete, mud, grass, and other surfaces take a toll on the bottom of the hoof. Therefore, a healthy sole is vital to the horse.

An unhealthy sole can limits a horse’s performance, lead to severe hoof related issues such as abscesses, thrush in horses, white line disease, or canker. Horse owners can take steps to build and manage a healthy sole by understanding its function, preventing factors that negatively impact its health, and promote sole quality through daily maintenance, diet, and nutrition.

The Function of the Horse’s Sole

The bottom of the hoof consists of the sole (the concave portion) and frog (the ”V” shaped tissue)  surrounded by the hoof capsule. The average sole should be concave measuring approximately 3/8 to 1/2 inches thick. The sole plays important functions in the horse’s mobility by helping to distribute weight and  protect the coffin bone.

The coffin bone is the main bone located within the hoof capsule. It is surrounded by laminae which attaches the coffin bone to the hoof wall. The sole lies beneath the coffin bone and helps support and protect the internal anatomy of the hoof capsule from the external environment.

Thin or compromised soles allow excess stress to be applied on to the coffin bone especially on hard or rocky surfaces. The excess stress encourages a multitude of hoof related issues to develop. Promoting sole quality is essential in developing hoof quality and prolonging the usefulness of your horse.

Factors that Affect the Horse’s Sole

There are three major factors that horse owners must manage:

  • Nutrition
  • The Environment
  • Hoof Care Maintenance

The mismanagement of any of these factors can weaken the sole and predispose the hoof to several issues.

  • Improper nutrition through an imbalanced diet can lead to nutritional excesses or deficiencies in the horse. This imbalance directly affects the hoof by developing poor hoof and sole quality that is less resilient to bacteria, cracks, and other issues.
  • The environment can be just as harmful by predisposing hooves to bacterial infections and fungal invasions. Overly wet environments also soften the hoof wall and sole, weakening the protection they provide.
  • Hooves that are not properly managed through farrier work and daily cleanings can become packed with debris. A sole packed with debris cannot properly “breathe.” Thus, building an environment perfect for anerobic bacteria.

You can learn more about the factors that affect hoof quality in our previous blog article.

There is an extensive list of hoof related problems associated with the sole. Managing these factors act as a preventive measure against this long list. The sole can be subjected to a multitude of conditions including:

  • Bruising
  • White line disease
  • Contracted soles
  • Corns
  • False soles
  • Founder/laminitis
  • Hoof abscesses
  • Prolapsed soles
  • Puncture wounds
  • Subsolar abscess
  • Thin soles
  • Thrush
  • Canker
  • and more…

Promoting Hoof Quality

Proper Nutrition for the Equine Sole

A balanced diet that provides the essential nutrients important for hoof growth nurture a sole that is thicker, stronger, and more resilient to bacteria and injury. Horse owners can achieve this by taking the horse back to its basic diet and strengthening the diet with a hoof supplements for horses. For example, Farrier’s Formula® can help rebuild and maintain sole strength. Feeding balanced nutrition along with Farrier’s Formula® can also help in the recovery of a sole related hoof problem or injury.

Nutrition is especially important to horses suffering from acute or chronic laminitis. So, Horse owners may want to consider adding a supplement specialized for horses with laminitis. Life Data® Lamina Formula was formulated as a complimentary supplement to be given with Farrier’s Formula® to help support the laminitic horse and assist in laminitis recovery.

Protecting External Hoof Health

The horse’s sole is the first line of defense between the horse and the ground. Its always be in contact with the environment against rain, sand, mud, urine, feces, bacteria, and countless other matter. As a result, constant exposure to the environment will wear down the sole’s defenses and allow unwanted debris, bacteria, and fungi to penetrate and invade the hoof.

Managing the horse’s exposure to the environment helps maintain the health of the sole. Reducing exposure to wet environments, maintaining clean stalls, and using non-caustic hoof topicals are all steps that can be used to protect not the entire hoof.

For example, if your horse is often exposed to wet and muddy environments, applying Farrier’s Finish® regularly will help maintain moisture balance. It can also help prevent hooves from becoming too soft from excess moisture.

Lastly, Using Life Data® Hoof Clay® around the frog and along the white line helps protect the sole from the bacterial invasions that cause Thrush and White Line Disease. Protecting your horse’s hooves externally protects new hoof growth that is developing internally.

Hoof Care

Proper hoof care is essential to managing sole health. Inspect and pick out each hoof daily to remove excess debris. Daily cleaning helps prevent Thrush, White Line Disease, and hoof abscesses. In addition, regular farrier appointments also help hoof quality by ensuring hooves remain balanced and not overgrown.

Strong soles are essential to maintain the health and usefulness of your horse. You can help your horse develop the best quality hoof genetics will allow through nutrition, environmental management, and proper hoof care. Consult with your farrier or veterinarian if you believe your horse has a hoof issue. If you have any questions on equine nutrition and supplementation feel free to contact us.

Equine Cushing’s Disease and PPID

Cushing’s Disease

Horse with Cushing's Disease

The number of horse’s affected by Cushing’s Disease (PPID) is steadily increasing in the United States as the horse population is living longer. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions revolving around Cushing’s Disease and how it impacts the horse. Cushing’s Disease falls into the same category of diseases as Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance in that the extent of the problem is relatively “new” to the equine industry. Continued research into the disease and other metabolic problems must be conducted before we can fully understand the full extent of these diseases. What we do know about equine Cushing’s Disease can be used to help identify the disease early and assist in improving the overall quality of life for affected horses.

What is PPID in Horses?

PPID, or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, is another name used to identify Cushing’s Disease. Breaking down the name, PPID, helps us better define what is occurring in the Cushing’s horse. For example, “Pituitary” refers to the gland that is being affected in the horse. The pituitary gland in the horse is only as large as a prune and is located at the base of the brain and produces hormones in response to brain signals. The word “dysfunction” relates to the dysfunction occurring in the small middle region of the pituitary gland (Pars Intermedia). This dysfunction effects the inhibitory function of the gland, resulting in the excessive production of the hormone ACTH. The excess ACTH stimulates the adrenal gland to overproduce cortisol. High levels of circulating cortisol lead to a multitude of problems.

Signs of Cushing’s Disease in Horses

The average horse with Cushing’s Disease is around the age of 15, when signs of the disease appear. It is estimated that the disease will impact approximately 30% of the population of horses who are 15 years of age or older. It is beneficial for horse owners to watch for any signs of Cushing’s Disease, especially if they have an older horse, so that it may be diagnosed in the early stages. Early identification can make the disease easier to manage and increase the quality of life of the Cushing’s horse. Below is a list of early signs:

  • Increased lethargy
  • Regional shaggy hair coat
  • Delayed shedding
  • Loss of topline
  • Regional fat pockets
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Recurrent laminitis
  • Recurrent hoof abscesses

Cushing’s Disease can progress slowly, but the advanced stages can also develop unknowingly. These advanced stages are much more severe and have a greater impact on the horse’s health. Symptoms of the advanced stages of Cushing’s include:

  • Dull hair coat
  • Poor shedding
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Round abdomen (potbellied appearance)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Regional adiposity
  • Poor performance
  • Loss of topline
  • Increased thirst/urination
  • Blindness
  • Delayed healing
  • Laminitis
  • Hoof abscesses
  • Suspensory ligament/tendon laxity 

Feeding a Horse with Cushing’s Disease

A horse’s diet plays a major role in every aspect of the horse’s overall health. As such, feeding a proper, balanced, and basic diet to a horse with Cushing’s Disease is one of the most beneficial lifestyle changes to make. Many horses with Cushing’s will struggle maintaining a normal weight, either developing an overweight or underweight body condition score. In either case, horse owners must be mindful of the calorie, carbohydrate, and sugar intake their horses consume daily. The addition of a quality hoof supplement is also recommended to help in the recovery of many of the hoof related issues that often develop from Cushing’s Disease. Below is our recommended feeding routine for horses with Cushing’s.

  • Grass/Hay
    • Be mindful of the sugar in the grass
      • You may consider limiting grazing
    • Allow grazing only in the morning to early afternoon hours
    • If the horse is overweight, consider a dry lot.
  • Additional Calories (Only for Underweight Cushing’s Horse)
    • Avoid carbohydrates
    • Remove all “Complete Feeds”
    • Shredded sugar beet pulp or copra (coconut pulp)
      • High in Fiber
      • Low in Carbs
      • Good option for underweight Cushing’s Horse
      • Soaking prior to feeding helps prevent choking and excess sugar

*Overweight horses will not require additional calories*

  • Farrier’s Formula®
    • Promote Hoof Quality
    • Assist in laminitis recovery
    • Assist in hoof abscess recovery and prevention
    • Improves hair coat and skin quality
  • Life Data® Adrenal Formula
    • New formulation from Life Data
    • Designed specifically for the support of Horses with Cushing’s

Life Data® Adrenal Formula

By conducting blood analysis research, Life Data® has discovered many correlations in horses diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. Life Data® Adrenal Formula was formulated using this research and will provide additional support for horses with Cushing’s. The active ingredients may help improve the function of the adrenal gland, improve metabolism, regulate thyroid hormones, and reduce the effects of Cushing’s. It also provides essential antioxidants and helps rebuild healthy connective tissue. Life Data® Adrenal Formula is designed to help promote:

  • Normal adrenal gland function
  • Improved glucose metabolism
  • Rebuilding of healthy connective tissue
  • Regulation of thyroid and adrenal hormones
Adrenal Formula for Equine Cushing's Disease

Treating Cushing’s Disease in Horses

Unfortunately, no cure for Cushing’s Disease has been found. If you believe your horse may have Cushing’s Disease, it is important to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can conduct yearly tests to evaluate your horse’s condition and provide medication to assist in regulating symptoms. Providing proper nutritional support along with Farrier’s Formula® and Life Data® Adrenal Formula can also assist in relieving the effects of Cushing’s Disease. If you have any questions regarding proper equine nutrition or any of the products mentioned, please contact us.

How Winter Affects the Hoof

Hoof care in winter

Many of the hoof related problems we see in the spring can be directly associated with the cold wintery months. Depleting nutrients in forage, increased moisture due to snow and ice, less exercise, less time spent on grooming and cleaning hooves, and additional time the horse spends in the stall with less turn out all contribute to the weakening of hoof health and quality. So, what factors do horse owners need to consider as winter approaches?

Horse Owners and Winter Care

When hoof problems are prevalent or when riding season is in full swing, we tend to see an increase in hoof care management. Unfortunately, horse owners become more neglectful of daily hoof maintenance once certain hoof issues are resolved or when the athletic season ends. This becomes a cycle of bad habits, where horse owners practice good hoof care only when its immediately relevant. Seasonally, this means an increase in hoof care during the spring and summer months and a decline going into the fall and winter.

When we enter this seasonal cycle of improper hoof care, our horses begin winter with “healthier” hooves. But the hooves begin to weaken as they are exposed to winter conditions. Without proper hoof care, the hooves do not have the support to maintain the same hoof quality. As winter ends and spring begins, the hooves are compromised and more likely to develop another slew of hoof related issues.

The only way to break this cycle is to maintain the same level of hoof care year around. To do that, horse owners must:

Wintery Environment and Stalls

Winter not only brings the cold, but in many areas, it brings snow, ice and rain. This extra moisture can further soften hooves and predispose them to “hoof-eating” microbes. Many horse owners may choose to remove their horse from the wintery environment by stalling them for prolonged periods of time. This option offers a reprieve from the cold, but also confines them into a space where they are exposed to waste and excrement. The ammonia produced from urine along with a moist and contaminated environment damages the hoof structures, reducing the resistance to microbial invasions.

Winter Horse Barn

Feeding hoof supplements for horses will help build a hoof that is more resilient to these conditions. Although, the hoof must be protected from the outside as well. Managing stalls, regularly cleaning hooves and preventing prolonged exposure to wet conditions, are all good preventive measures. Regular applications of a non-caustic hoof topical containing Yucca Extract, such as Farrier’s Finish®, can also be used as an extra safeguard.

Too Cold to Exercise

Riding your horse in below freezing temperatures is not a picnic, but exercise is a big component to hoof care. When your horse exercises, the hoof flexes. This function self-cleans the hoof and naturally removes unwanted debris. It’s still important to pick the hooves daily to help remove any left-over debris. Even if your horse receives regular exercise. If you are unable to provide your horse consistent exercise, picking the hoof multiple times a day and using non-caustic hoof topicals are highly recommended.

The Frog and Exercise

The frog of the hoof acts like a pump, and with every step the frog pumps blood back through the leg. Regular exercise helps stimulate blood flow through this pumping action. The blood flow through the hoof is beneficial to the growth and development of healthy hooves, helps deliver needed nutrients and encourages the growth of a healthy frog.

Farrier Hoof Care

Hoof growth slows down during the winter, but this does not mean we should stop scheduling farrier appointments until spring. Your farrier is extremely important to maintain hoof care. Going a full season without their care could be disastrous to your horse’s hooves. Your farrier is trained to look for specific signs of developing hoof issues. With regular appointments these signs can be caught early, and preventive measures can be put into place. If not, hoof issues can develop and worsen as time goes on. By spring, a little issue could develop into a tremendous problem.

Preparing Your Horse for Winter

Caring for your horse’s hooves is a year-round task. Skipping farrier appointments, irregular feeding of hoof supplements and neglecting hoof care during the winter months is a recipe for hoof problems. Continued hoof care is an important aspect in maintaining your horse’s health and comfort in the winter. If you believe your horse has developed a hoof related issue, contact your farrier or veterinarian as soon as possible. If you have any questions regarding supplementing or feeding your horse, contact Life Data®.

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