Old Nail Holes: An Open Door to Hoof Problems

Nail holes in hoof

The farrier comes, does their job, and everything is good. Hooves are trimmed, new shoes are set, and we don’t need to consider hoof care again for another 6 weeks. Right?

Unfortunately, a common mindset is “Hoof care is the responsibility of the farrier, and the farrier alone.” Many horse owners don’t consider the impact that nutrition, regular maintenance and the environment has on the hoof. Proper hoof care must be a daily objective by the horse owner. Best practices to help horse owners achieve and preserve quality hooves include:

  1. Feeding for hoof health
  2. Examining for signs of unhealthy hooves
  3. Regularly cleaning the hooves
  4. Treating/preventing bacterial invasions
  5. Keeping hooves conditioned in wet/dry periods

Even the smallest overlooked detail can be the difference between healthy and unhealthy hooves. For example, the small nail holes left behind after changing a shoe may not seem like a big deal, but they are an open door for bacterial infections and unwanted debris. In fact, old nail holes left unprotected can lead to the development of:

  • Hoof Wall Separations
  • White Line Disease
  • Hoof Abscesses
  • Crumbling and Shelly Hoof Walls
  • Lameness

Old Nail Holes and The Farrier

Farriers are aware of the hoof problems that old nail holes, hoof cracks and other hoof defects can create. You may see your farrier pack old nail holes with a hoof clay or apply a hoof topical. This is a great practice to provide protection from invading microbes while the old nail holes and defects grow out. Unfortunately, these measures will not last and the process will need to be repeated regularly. Otherwise, the nail holes will be susceptible to microbial invasions once the initial applications have worn off. Waiting until the next farrier appointment is too long between applications. This is especially true to horses who are commonly exposed to:

  • Wet and muddy environments
  • Unclean paddocks or stalls
  • Sandy or rocky terrain

Protecting Old Nail Holes

Talking to your farrier is a great starting point in maintaining hoof quality and protecting your horse from hoof problems. Your farrier can advise you on how to properly clean the hoof and recommend products to help address any issues. Below are a few helpful tips to also consider:

Life Data Hoof Clay Under Shoes
  1. Properly Clean the Hoof Daily
    • Old nail holes easily become packed with mud, grime, feces, and other unwanted debris. Picking and cleaning the hoof not only clears the unwanted debris but opens those areas of the hoof to oxygen. A hoof packed with debris is unable to “breathe.” The hoof eating microbial invasions that cause conditions like crumbling horn and White Line Disease thrive in low oxygen environments. Old nail holes provide an ideal environment for this to occur.
  2. Regularly Pack Old Nail Holes with Life Data® Hoof Clay®
    • Life Data® Hoof Clay® is a non-caustic anti-microbial clay that can be used to pack into old nail holes. This natural porous clay allows the continued flow of oxygen into the hoof wall while help preventing other debris from penetrating into the nail holes. The anti-microbial properties of Life Data® Hoof Clay® defend against the microbes that lead to  Thrush and White Line Disease.  Life Data® Hoof Clay is also non-caustic, so it is safe to apply with your own hands and will not burn or damage healthy hoof tissue.
      • For extra protection utilize Farrier’s Finish® following application of Life Data® Hoof Clay®.
      • Before the shoe is nailed on, ask your farrier to apply Life Data® Hoof Clay® over the white line area.
  3. Feed for Hoof Health
    • Your horse’s diet plays an important role in hoof quality and development. Utilizing a feeding program that is focused on hoof health will help develop a hoof that is more resilient to microbial invasions and other hoof related problems. Adding Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength, a hoof and coat supplement, will also promote quality hoof growth and expedite the time for old nail holes to grow out.
  4. Maintain Clean Environments
    • Unclean stalls, paddocks, and wet muddy pastures are ideal areas to predispose your horse to “hoof eating” microbial invasions. It is important to limit your horse’s exposure to these environments as much as possible. Remember, old nail holes act like a doorway for these microbial invasions. Exposing your horse to these conditions only increases the likelihood of developing a microbial invasion. If you know your horse will be exposed to these conditions, utilizing Farrier’s Finish® will help. Farrier’s Finish® will help maintain moisture balance, bind ammonia in excrement, and defend against microbial invasions. It is also non-caustic and will not hurt sensitive hoof tissue.

Old nail holes may not seem like a serious issue, but it’s a perfect example of the importance of constant hoof care diligence.  The period between farrier visits is a large enough window that real and serious hoof problems can occur. It is the horse owner’s responsibility to perform regular hoof maintenance. Even small tasks, such as protecting a wall crack or old nail hole, can influence hoof quality.

Five Tips for Hoof Abscess Recovery

With the development of a hoof abscess, an energetic and active horse can suddenly become severely lame. It can happen quickly, painfully, and with no prior signs of a problem. Finding your horse in this state can be terrifying, especially if you’ve had little experience dealing with a hoof abscess. Luckily, with time, patience and proper treatment most horses will fully recover. In this blog, we will discuss five tips that can be utilized to assist in your horse’s recovery.

5 Tips for Hoof Abscess Recovery

1. Follow Veterinarian and Farrier Instructions

The treatment and recovery from a hoof abscess require a team effort from the farrier, veterinarian and the horse owner. The horse owner’s role and compliance among this team is vital to the horse’s recovery.  The responsibilities of day-to-day maintenance and the required care important for recovery fall on the horse owner’s shoulders. Neglecting these responsibilities can hinder the healing process or even create a more severe issue. It is also important that the horse owner trusts the decisions and treatment methods mapped out by the veterinarian and farrier.

2. Protect the Abscess Exit Wound

The pain that occurs from an abscess is due to exudate buildup that creates pressure within the hoof. To relieve the pain and begin healing, this pressure must be relieved.  Many treatment methods involve the surgical draining of the hoof abscess by the veterinarian. In some cases, the buildup will rupture out of the coronary band on its own. In either case, there will be an open wound where the pressure was relived. This wound is an open source for microbial invasions and debris to enter. This is especially true if the wound is located on the sole of the hoof. Infections, new abscesses or other issues can develop if the wound is not properly treated.

Your farrier or veterinarian may advise you to wrap the hoof depending on the location of the exit wound. If this is the case, follow their instructions carefully and regularly change the wrapping. Once the abscess has completely stopped draining, packing the exit wound with an anti-microbial clay may also be recommended. Packing the wound with a product, such as like Life Data® Hoof Clay®, not only assists in keeping out foreign material but the non-caustic ingredients in Life Data® Hoof Clay® will kill bacteria. It is also made using natural porous clay which will not block oxygen to the hoof.

  • *Do not utilize a hoof packing or topical that contains harmful chemicals or that blocks oxygen to the hoof.

3. Promote Hoof Quality

A hoof abscess will compromise the integrity, structure and quality of the hoof. The goal is to rebuild hoof quality to where it was, or better than it was before the abscess. This can be accomplished by adding a proven hoof supplement, such as Farrier’s Formula®, to your horse’s diet. Farrier’s Formula® will assist in the recovery by providing the nutrients essential for new and healthy hoof growth. Farrier’s Formula® will also develop a stronger hoof with a denser hoof wall and sole, making it more resilient to infections. Even after the hoof has regrown, we advise the continue feeding of Farrier’s Formula® to maintain hoof quality and to help prevent future hoof abscesses from developing. You can learn more about the relationship between hoof quality and recurring hoof abscesses by reading our previous blog article.

You may also want to examine your horse’s diet during this time. Since your horse is not as active it may require less calories to maintain its current body weight. Overweight horses tend to have more hoof problems due to the extra weight the hooves are supporting. Switching your horse to its “basic diet” of grass and hay with support from a ration balancer, like Barn Bag®, can provide the daily nutrients needed without the excess in calories. You can feed Farrier’s Formula® and Barn Bag® together without the risk of over supplementation.

 You can follow the link here to learn more about the importance of a balanced equine diet.

4. Manage Environmental Conditions

The environment can make it more difficult for your horse’s hoof to heal after an abscess. As previously mentioned, the exit wound from the abscess acts as an entry point for microbial invasions and debris. Exposing your horse to excess moisture, urine, feces and mud will predispose your horse to continued infection. Keeping clean stalls, dry bedding, and limiting the hoof’s exposure to wet and muddy conditions assist in healing and maintaining the health of the hoof.

Utilizing a non-caustic hoof topical, such as Farrier’s Finish®, will provide extra protection from the environment and help control moisture balance in the hoof. Farrier’s Finish® contains a blend of Yucca Extract, tamed iodine and Tea Tree Oil for added protection against microbial invasions and the harsh effects of excrement. Farrier’s Finish® can also be applied over Life Data® Hoof Clay®.

Lastly, pay attention to the type of terrain surrounding your horse. Hard surfaces and rocky environments can typically further wear down the hoof. This wear and tear lead to the development of cracks, chips and other hoof defects. Loose pebbles and gravel can penetrate these defects or the recovering abscesses wound, thus creating another infection. This is especially important during recovery when the hoof may still be weakened and tender.

5. Maintain a Farrier and Maintenance Schedule

It is vital that you continue scheduling regular farrier appointments. Ensuring your horse’s hooves are balanced and, if needed, supported with the correct shoes will assist in the healing process. Your farrier will also monitor the recovery of the hoof and manage any other issues that may arise. With hoof abscesses it is typical for horses to unevenly distribute weight to relieve pressure off the infected hoof. In doing so, your horse’s other hooves become more susceptible to many hoof related issues such as cracks, splitting, laminitis and additional abscesses. Your farrier will help mitigate this issue through balancing and maintaining the other hooves.

Your farrier is not the only one responsible for your horse’s hooves. It is ideal that every horse owner ensures their horse’s hooves are being properly picked and cleaned daily. This ritual removes unwanted debris and acts as a preventive measure to future infections and hoof problems. Using the Life Data® Hoof Clay® to fill in old nail holes and hoof defects is also a recommended maintenance practice. Additionally, horse owners can use it on the white line and around the frog to help protect those areas from infections.

Recovery from a hoof abscess can be a long and drawn out process. There is no easy route, but you can help the recovery along by fulfilling your horse’s needs.  Supporting your horse during this healing time can speed up recovery and build a better more resilient hoof. If you believe your horse is currently suffering from a hoof abscess, please seek the advice of your veterinarian or farrier as soon as possible. The sooner a hoof abscess is found and treated, the faster your horse will recover. If you have any questions on using Life Data® products to prevent hoof abscesses or to assist in recovery, please call us at 1-800-624-1873 or visit our website www.lifedatalabs.com.

The Importance of a Healthy Equine Skin and Coat

As spring arrives, we tend to focus on our horse’s hair coat as they begin to lose their woolly winter coats. And, show season is just around the corner. We put a substantial amount of importance on the outward appearance of our horse, and rightfully so, but your horse’s outward appearance says more about your horse than you may know. Your horse’s beautiful coat is more than a bragging right. The quality of your horse’s hair coat reveals a lot about the overall state of your horse’s health. In fact, a decline in hair coat quality can be one of the first signs of a health-related issue, improper nutrition or poor maintenance.

Brushing Horse with Winter Coat

The Function of the Horse’s Coat

We can’t refer to equine hair without also discussing the equine skin. The horse’s hair coat, mane, tail and skin are all made of dermal tissue. Dermal tissue is the largest organ of the equine body. The hair coat and skin perform functions that contribute to the overall wellbeing and performance of your horse. A healthy hair coat and skin:

  • Helps protect from insects and micro-organisms
  • Insulates the body in colder weather
  • Produces natural oils to reflect sunlight and repel water
  • Cools the horse in warmer weather through sweat production
  • Provides natural beauty

Factors that Affect Equine Skin and Coat Quality

The development and management of a healthy hair coat does not happen overnight. There are several factors that can affect quality. Below are a few examples.

Genetics

  • Genetics is a factor over which we have no control. The genes your horse inherited can be the deciding difference between a beautiful versus a less than perfect hair coat. The goal is to give your horse the best hair coat that genetics can provide.

Nutrition

  • Nutritional deficiencies and/or excesses often contribute to the development of dull, thin, brittle or rough hair coats.
  • Selenium over supplementation will directly affect the quality of not only the skin and coat, but also the hooves. If your horse has poor hoof quality and brittle thin hair, you may want to investigate the amount of selenium in your horse’s diet and have the whole blood selenium levels tested.
  • Utilizing a high-quality hoof supplement, like Farrier’s Formula®, will benefit ALL dermal tissue in the horse including the hooves, hair coat, skin, mane and tail. Farrier’s Formula® will provide the nutrients important for a quality skin and hair coat.

Environment

  • Parasites and microorganisms can interfere with hair growth, causing patchy and brittle hair. Fortunately, with advancements in equine medicine treatment options are available.
  • Insect bites can create itchy irritable skin. This can cause horses to bite or rub the afflicted area, resulting in patchy hair loss. Limited pasture time and sprays can help reduce exposure to insects. Healthy skin is more resilient to irritation from insect bites.
  • Long exposure to the sun may dull the color of your horse’s coat.
  • Long exposure to wet and muddy environments can cause the development of sores, hair loss, microbial infections and parasites.
Horse biting itchy skin

Disease and Equine Conditions

  • Different equine illnesses, diseases, and skin conditions can directly affect hair growth or even cause hair to fall out. A dull or brittle hair coat is not an uncommon side effect caused from an illness.
  • Some medications may also cause hair loss or a patchy coat. Check with your veterinarian if you begin to see this side effect.

Improper Maintenance

  • Neglecting your horse’s hygiene could negatively impact your horse’s hair coat and skin. A good grooming regimen is essential to a wonderful hair coat.
  • Excessive bathing, shampooing and conditioning can also strip the horse’s coat of important natural oils. This can result in a duller hair coat. It’s important to follow label instructions and leave the “deep cleaning” to important events or extreme dirt.
  • Lastly, consider the tools you are using in your grooming regimen and their purpose. For example, currycombs massage the skin which stimulates the production of the skin’s natural oils, whereas softer brushes are more effective at helping distribute those oils across the body of the horse. Using these combs in tandem, even during the winter when the coat is thickest, can help bring out the coat’s natural shine.  

Although many factors can negatively impact your horse’s skin and hair coat; balanced nutrition, environmental control and proper maintenance can help develop a coat that is truly breath-taking. Utilizing these factors to their fullest takes hard work and time but can create a coat worth remembering.

If your horse is losing hair or has developed a skin condition, consult with your veterinarian to ensure there is no underlying problem. Contact us at 1-800-624-1843 if you have any questions on utilizing a hoof and coat supplement, such as Farrier’s Formula®, to improve your horse’s hair coat.

A THRUSHY Hoof Isn’t a HEALTHY Hoof.

Horse Hoof with mild thrush

My horse’s hooves are healthy. They just have a little bit of Thrush,” is a statement we hear too often. Unfortunately, Thrush has become such a common occurrence for the domesticated horse that many horse owners do not give it the levity it deserves. It is important that the horse owner understands, a hoof with any amount of Thrush is NOT a healthy hoof!

In short, Thrush is a microbial invasion of the sulci, or the grooves surrounding the frog, that often leads to an infection in the tissue of the frog. In previous blogs we have discussed what causes Thrush. Your horse’s hooves can be predisposed to Thrush by:

  • High humidity and wet environments
  • Stalls containing urine, excrement and excess moisture
  • Lack of oxygen to the frog area due to packed debris
  • Poor hoof maintenance
  • Improper trimming

Exposing your horse to one or more of these factors can create conditions conducive for Thrush development. Once Thrush has established, address it immediately. Even mild Thrush can become serious quickly.

Thrush, The Hoof and The Horse Owner

The first steps in preventing or treating Thrush is to provide the necessary elements to promote the best quality hoof possible.

The health of your horse’s hooves is not your farrier’s responsibility alone. Treating and preventing Thrush will take joint effort from both you and your farrier. Thrush, and other hoof problems, will likely continue to develop and never resolve if you are not involved in the daily responsibility of caring for your horse’s hooves. Fulfilling this responsibility will help prevent future cases of Thrush. This responsibility can be broken down into three components.

  1. Maintenance
  2. Nutrition
  3. Environment

Hoof Maintenance

There is more to hoof maintenance than scheduling your farrier every six weeks. Proper hoof maintenance is a daily objective that the horse owner must manage.

  • Pick and Clean Hooves
    • A hoof packed with debris creates the perfect anaerobic, or low oxygen, environment for Thrush to develop and spread. As the horse owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your horse’s hooves are being picked clean daily.
    • If you remove the debris daily, Thrush will not likely have a suitable environment to develop.
  • Maintain a Regular Farrier Schedule
    • As mentioned in a previous blog, it is important to maintain a regular farrier schedule. Your farrier can help catch early signs of hoof related issues and assist in treating Thrush. Hooves that are grown out or not trimmed properly can trap unwanted debris, making it more difficult to keep the hoof clean and create an optimal environment for the growth of the anaerobic microbes associated with Thrush.
  • Remove Harmful Hoof Topicals
    • Many “Thrush Killing” hoof topicals on the market are caustic and damage or seal off healthy hoof tissue. This may kill the exposed Thrush microbes on the surface; however, the resulting denatured proteins not only seal the underlying tissue from oxygen, but also create a nutrient medium for any remaining microbes and future microbes to thrive. This often leads to patterns of recurring Thrush.
    • Ensure you are not applying any harmful chemicals. As a rule of thumb, do not utilize anything you would not apply to your own skin.
Cycle of Thrush in horses
The Cycle of Equine Thrush

Equine Nutrition

You may be asking, “What role does Nutrition play when fighting Thrush?” Nutrition plays a vital role in the development of a healthy hoof. A healthy hoof is more resilient to the bacteria that causes Thrush. As the horse owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your horse receives a balanced diet that supports hoof health. You can learn more about proper equine nutrition here.

  • Hoof Supplementation
    • A quality hoof supplement can assist in developing new and healthier hoof growth. The nutrients provided will also strengthen the hoof, making it more resilient to chips and cracks, acting as entry points for the microbial invasions that lead to crumbly hoof horn, White Line Disease and Thrush. This new growth will also quicken the recovery time of the hoof.

Environment

Even with proper maintenance and nutrition, the environment can wreak havoc on your horse’s hooves. Most cases of Thrush are predisposed by environmental conditions. Leaving your horse in wet and mucky areas or in unclean paddocks can quickly destroy the hoof. You will promote chronic Thrush if your horse is regularly being exposed to these environments. It is important to consistently manage the environment surrounding your horse.

Poor environmental conditions for hooves
Poor Environmental Conditions for Hooves
  • Environmental Management
    • Keep stalls clean of excrement and as dry as possible.
    • Limit exposure, if possible, to wet and muddy paddocks and pastures.
    • Regularly apply a non-caustic hoof conditioner to control moisture balance, bind ammonia from excrement and kill bacteria.

When left unchecked, Thrush can become a serious issue and even lead to lameness. It is important to act at the first signs of Thrush and not wait until it becomes more serious. Through proper hoof management, horse owners can not only treat current cases of Thrush but can also prevent future cases from developing. Always consult your farrier and veterinarian if your horse develops any hoof related issue. If you have any questions on treating Thrush or on any Life Data® product, please contact us at cservice@lifedatalabs.com or call us at 1-256-370-7555.

Equine Anhidrosis. What Can be Done?

Horse with Anhidrosis

What is Anhidrosis in Horses?

Anhidrosis in horses can be described as the inability or reduced capacity to sweat. Horses regulate their body temperature, much like we do, primarily through the evaporation of sweat. Anhidrosis can have a tremendous effect on the horse’s ability to work, perform and function. Without the full capacity to sweat the horse is in danger of:

  • Overheating and having a heat stroke
  • Organ and muscle damage
  • Death

The prevalence of anhidrosis in horses has been estimated to be between 2% to 6% of horses. All breeds, ages, sexes and coat colors are at risk. Interestingly, the birth and growth of a foal in a hot and humid climate does not reduce the risk of developing anhidrosis.

Due to varying degrees of sweating between affected horses, anhidrosis can be difficult to recognize by the horse owner or veterinarian. The incidence and potential severity of anhidrosis is higher in hot and humid climates, although anhidrosis can also be an issue in cooler dry areas. Chronic anhidrosis has been linked to atrophy of the sweat glands leading to a permanent loss of sweating ability.

Recognizing Equine Anhidrosis

Anhidrosis effects horses in different degrees which makes recognizing and diagnosing the problem more difficult. For example, one horse may completely stop while other horses might only have a slight reduction in sweating capacity. Only certain body areas of the horse may sweat while others are dry – the horse may still sweat under the mane and under the saddle pad.

Brushing Horse Coat

Here are a few key symptoms of equine anhidrosis:

  • Heavy or labored breathing
  • Flared nostrils
  • Horse begins to pant with an open mouth
  • Body temperature over 104 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Noticeable lack of sweat – other horses may be sweating profusely
  • Lack of energy
  • Refusal to work
  • Desire to seek and remain in the shade
  • Coat is dry to the touch
  • Dry or itchy skin (chronic anhidrosis)

What Causes Anhidrosis in Horses?

Unfortunately, the mechanisms are unknown and research into the cause continues. Many researchers and veterinarians believe the cause is attributed to:

  • Genetics
    • A genetic condition has been implicated – research is currently in progress at the University of Florida Large Animal Hospital
    • Some horses may be born with a reduced number of functional sweat glands
  • Nutrition and Diet
    • Excesses and deficiencies of nutrients can affect the skin and hair coat. Many of these nutritional related issues may also contribute to anhidrosis.  

Treating Equine Anhidrosis

If your horse is becoming over heated or exhausted, there are short-term steps you can immediately take to help cool down the body temperature:

  • Move horse to a shady area or ventilated stall
  • Use portable fans or air conditioning
  • Hose down horse with cold water
  • Provide plenty of cold water to drink

No cure has been discovered for anhidrosis. Products are available on the market that may help enhance the horse’s ability to sweat. Life Data® Sweat Formula contains active ingredients that have produced positive results in most horses with anhidrosis.

Life Data® Anhidrosis Research

Life Data Sweat Formula
Click on Image to Learn More About Life Data® Sweat Formula.

Life Data® Sweat Formula is a new product developed from several years of anhidrosis research at Life Data Labs, Inc. The in-house Life Data® research lab utilizes blood tests and a sophisticated software program to determine the relationship between blood work results and specific conditions in horses. Equipment in the lab analyzes macro and trace mineral content of whole blood in horses to discover any correlations between certain minerals and specific conditions. Through this current research, Life Data® has discovered several consistent correlations between blood test deficiencies and excesses within a group of horses diagnosed with anhidrosis. Life Data® used this research to develop an anhidrosis formula for non-sweating horses. This formula delivers a combination of essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to balance the deficiencies and excesses in the typical anhidrotic horse. The active ingredients will help improve skin and sweat gland condition to help regenerate the horse’s ability to sweat. For example, the fatty acids delivered in Life Data® Sweat Formula helps restore the lipids of the sweat gland membranes, which may help the transfer of fluids out of the sweat glands.

Depending on the individual horse the product may require daily administration for a period of several weeks prior to achieving the desired results.

If you believe your horse has anhidrosis it is important to consult with your veterinarian and regulate your horse’s activities. If you have any questions, feel free to email us at cservice@lifedatalabs.com or telephone at 256-370-7555.

A Recipe for Improved Hoof Health

Recipe for Improved Hoof Health

How many times have you planned a meal and then realized you forgot an important ingredient? How many times have you had a slip of the hand, and turned your slightly salted mashed potatoes into a taste-bud-twisting salt mine? If you enjoy baking or cooking, you probably understand the importance of a recipe and the ingredients involved. You know that too much flour in a cake recipe can result in a cake that is dry and crumbly. Not enough flour and your cake will become a watery mess that no one wants to eat. The ingredients are essential and it’s important to utilize them in the correct balance and ratio to cook a masterful dish. The same analogy can be used when considering your horse’s hoof supplement. Without the correct ingredients in the proper ratios, a hoof supplement’s formula can be a recipe for disaster.

There are three important questions to consider when choosing a hoof supplement:

  • What ingredients are in the hoof supplement?
  • Are the ingredients balanced and in the correct ratio?
  • Does the supplement work?

The Ingredients in a Hoof Supplement

What would you do if someone handed you all the ingredients for a salad, and asked you to make a cake with it? Just like in baking or cooking, the ingredients in your hoof supplement matter. Before choosing a supplement ask yourself, “Does this supplement contain the needed nutritional ingredients that my horse’s hooves require?”

The equine diet is one of the major contributing factors to the health of your horse’s hooves. Many of the hoof related issues we see today are being caused by nutritional deficiencies or excesses in the horse’s diet. Despite many misconceptions, the horse requires more than just Biotin to improve hoof quality. It takes a collection of nutrients that are lacking in the modern-day horse’s diet. On the reverse side, we cannot overload the horse with nutrients without risking over supplementation. It’s important to understand which nutrients are important for hoof health; how these nutrients interact with one another; and what role they play in the health of the horse.

The Formula Matters

pelleted hoof supplement

You cannot take all the cake ingredients, throw them into a bowl unmeasured, bake it and expect it to come out perfect. The recipe is there for a reason and too much or too little of the ingredient can quickly turn your cake into an inedible mess. The same is true for a hoof supplement. Even with all the right ingredients and nutrients, a hoof supplement will not benefit your horse if the nutrients are not balanced and in the right ratios. For example, a supplement containing an excess of selenium could cause drastic hoof issues. Certain ingredients can also interfere or block other important nutrients when improperly balanced. For example, excess phosphorus can interfere with the horse’s ability to absorb calcium, creating a calcium deficiency in the horse. It’s important to ask, “Is this supplement balanced? Are the nutrients in the correct proportions? How will it fit in my horse’s current feeding program?”

Does the Hoof Supplement Work?

If the supplement you are providing does not have the correct nutrients or formula, it will not be effective. The ingredients and formula are key to a quality hoof supplement. So, how do you know which supplement to use?

  • Find an Established Hoof Supplement
    • If a hoof supplement doesn’t work, it won’t stand the test of time. Find a hoof supplement that has a good reputation and has been around for several years.
  • Research Testimonials
    • In today’s technological society, finding product reviews is easy. Look at the manufacturer’s website and social media accounts; read reviews and verify that the supplement has been successful for others.
  • Ask your Farrier
    • No one knows hooves like your farrier. Ask which hoof supplement works best.

Our Recommended Hoof Supplement:

Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength

Farrier's Formula® Double Strength

Introduced over 40 years ago, Farrier’s Formula® ushered in the concept of “feeding the hoof” and was the first hoof supplement on the market.  Developed by Dr. Frank Gravlee, Farrier’s Formula® is based on extensive laboratory research that analyzed the relationship between nutrient imbalances in the blood and hoof problems in horses. Dr. Frank Gravlee identified not only what nutrients were important for hoof health, but in what proportions and ratios. Research continues to this day to develop additional products for the hooves, such as a formulation for acute laminitis. Every bag of Farrier’s Formula® provides the nutrients needed for the growth of healthy and strong hooves. The effectiveness of the product has been proven in scientific studies at independent universities. Farrier’s Formula® is the #1 recommended hoof supplement by farriers.

Hay… It’s Cold Outside!

As the colder weather settles in, many of our forages will lose nutritional value. This is especially true for warm season grasses such as Bermuda. This change can lead to nutritional challenges for many horses due to:

  • Insufficient Nutrients Through Grass
  • Over Supplementation Through Complete Feeds
  • Additional Calories Burned to Stay Warm

 So, what’s the best option when substituting forage to maintain your horse’s body condition? The answer is not to substitute it at all. Providing sufficient forage in the form of free choice hay is best to maintain a horse’s natural diet through the winter.

Close up of horse eating hay
Providing sufficient forage in the form of free choice hay is best to maintain a horse’s natural diet through the winter.

Unfortunately, not all hay is created equally, and one type of hay may work better for your horse than another. Below are a few tips to consider when choosing the best hay for your horse.

Alfalfa Hay

Alfalfa hay, due to its imbalanced mineral and low-quality protein content, can create several issues in horses:

  • Calcium and Phosphorus Imbalances
  • Excessive Urine Production
  • Joint Inflammation

Many of these problems can create other issues as well. For example, the increased urine produces excess ammonia that can eat away at the bottom of the hoof or create respiratory problems in the horse. This is especially true for horses who remain stalled for long periods of time or in barns that are not well ventilated.

Unfortunately, alfalfa hay is the easiest type of hay to obtain in many regions around the world. It is also the only option of hay for certain areas. If alfalfa hay is your only option, be mindful of the amount you are feeding.

Hay and Nutrient Requirements

Horses in different stages of life and disciplines will have distinctive nutrient requirements. For example, growing horses and performance horses will have a higher protein and nutrient demand than a retired horse. As you are choosing hay, be mindful of the horse you are feeding and try to find a hay that meets its requirements.

Early-season hays usually yield more protein and nutrients and will be more desirable to horses that need the additional protein and nutrient requirements. Mid-to-late maturity hay tends to be a better fit for horses with lower nutrient demands. The only way to know if your horse is receiving the optimal hay is to have your hay tested. Once you know the nutritional value of the hay, you can make an informed decision.

Utilize Hay Balancers

Even the highest quality hay will not contain every nutrient that your horse requires. Utilizing a high-quality hay and pasture balancer, such as Barn Bag®, will help ensure your horse’s daily nutrient requirements are being met. It also eliminates the necessity to feed compound feeds, which can deliver a surplus of both nutrients and calories to your horse’s diet. Utilizing a pasture balancer is highly recommended for elderly horses and hard keepers.

Adding Calories

Some horses, such as hard keepers or performance horses, will require additional calories during the winter months to maintain body condition. Although compound feeds can provide the necessary calories, they also put your horse at risk for over supplementation. Below are a few feeding recommendations if your horse needs additional calories in addition to the hay being fed:

Other Winter-Feeding Tips

Additional winter-feeding tips to consider:

  • Feed Chopped Hay to elderly horses that are unable to chew properly
  • Build body condition in the summer/fall to maintain through winter
  • Horses are grazers, so keep feeding troughs low to the ground
  • Hay should be made available to the horse 24/7

Consult your veterinarian if you have any questions on maintaining your horse’s body condition score through the winter. Feel free to contact us at 256-370-7555 if you have any questions on Barn Bag® or feeding a natural diet to your horse. Visit our website for further information on equine nutrition.

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5 Early Signs of Unhealthy Hooves

Your horse will not verbally inform you of a hoof related problem. So, unless your horse is related to Mr. Ed, it’s your job as a horse owner to detect hoof issues. Luckily, there are signs to look for that can help you in this process. With a keen eye, knowledge of what to look for, and a commitment to maintain healthy hooves, these signs can help you address hoof problems before they become serious. Below are 5 early signs of unhealthy hooves:

1. Changes in Personality

Horse with pretty hooves

No one knows your horse like you do. Your horse’s mannerisms, movements, and actions are all part of its personality. A change in one or more of these things can be a sign of discomfort, tenderness, or pain in the hooves. Watch the way your horse is walking. Has the gait changed? Does your horse seem less energetic or moving more slowly? Pay attention to your horse’s actions. Is your horse resistant to work, perform, or walk on certain surfaces? Is your horse less social or acting moody? These changes may be a sign that a problem is developing.

2. Outer Hoof Health

Chipping and cracking are not normal for a healthy hoof. The development of chips and cracks along the hoof wall are signs of weakened hoof integrity. This can also be a sign that your horse’s hooves are too dry.  Cracks and chips predispose the hoof to bacterial and fungal invasions which can further deteriorate hoof health. Pay attention to the outer appearance of the hoof during regular cleaning and maintenance. During cleanings, be alert for odors coming from the hoof. If an odor is present, it is likely an infection is already present. The use of a non-caustic antimicrobial hoof topical or hoof clay can help protect hoof cracks from “hoof-eating” microbes.

Filling old nail holes in hoof

3. Dull Hair Coat

Your horse’s hair coat condition is a direct reflection of the internal health of the hooves. The hair coat, skin and hooves are all made from dermal tissue, and require many of the same nutrients. If the horse is under or over supplemented with these nutrients, problems with the hair coat are usually duplicated in the hooves. The hair coat is the first to show signs of these nutrient deficiencies. If your horse’s hair coat begins to lose luster, the quality of the hooves may soon follow. Review your horse’s current feeding program and consider adding a high-quality hoof supplement to the diet. Feeding a high-quality hoof supplement will help provide the necessary nutrients to promote the internal health of the hooves and hair coat.

4. Shoe Retention

Shod horses require a strong hoof wall to hold shoes. It is important to maintain a regular farrier schedule to ensure hooves are balanced and shoes are properly set. Although shoes may loosen over time, hooves should be strong enough to hold a shoe until the next scheduled farrier appointment. On average, that time frame should be around every 6 weeks. If the hoof is not able to hold the shoe for that period, the health of the hoof should be evaluated. This may also be a sign that environmental conditions surrounding the horse are influencing poor hoof health. Overly wet environments can contribute to the development of soft hooves. While overly dry environments can create hooves that are too brittle. Both conditions make it difficult for a hoof to retain shoes. 

5. Hoof Growth

Slow hoof growth is another indicator that your horse is not receiving the proper nutrition needed to promote a healthy hoof. In the spring and summer months, you should expect good healthy hoof growth. On average, you should see ¼ to ⅜ inches of growth per month. During the winter months your horse’s hooves will not grow as much, although it is still important to continue hoof care during this period. Hooves with a good growth rate tend to be healthier and easier to manage, trim and shoe. Feeding a high-quality hoof supplement can help promote hoof growth. Utilizing a non-caustic hoof topical is also recommended to protect new growth from the external environment.

Your horse’s hooves are essential to the soundness and overall health of your horse. Noticing these early signs of poor hoof health can not only save your horse’s hooves, but also save you time, money, and frustration. If you are witnessing one or more of these signs, consult with your farrier and veterinarian regarding the health of your horse’s hooves. If you have any questions regarding proper nutrition or hoof care, feel free to contact us at 1-800-624-1873, 1-256-370-7555, or cservice@lifedatalabs.com.

Complete Equine Hoof Care

Prolonging the Career of a Working Horse

Working horse

What is a Working Horse?

A working horse can be classified as any horse involved in labor or athletics. This includes horses that participate in the following activities:

  • Jumping
  • Racing
  • Pulling
  • Trail riding
  • Farm work
  • Long distance riding
  • Reining
  • Barrel Racing
  • Driving
  • Eventing
  • Dressage
  • Many other occupations

These athletic activities put extra strain on the muscles and joints of the horse. The horse’s joints will begin to wear as it continues to work and perform, often leading to discomfort, loss of mobility, and bone-on-bone movement. Unfortunately, the deterioration of the horse’s joints often lead to a shorter career.

Younger horses are physically strong but are immature and lack experience. Older horses are mature and well trained, but their bodies are no longer in peak condition. Although different for each discipline or workload, there is a short window of time where the horse is in peak physical and mental condition. For example, most Dressage horses perform between the ages of 8-10, where racing horses tend to start competing and retiring much earlier. This can be frustrating for many horse owners who are continually training new horses.  After investing so much time, money, and love into our working horses, it’s understandable that we want to see them stay at the top of their game for as long as possible. So, how do we extend the working life of our horses?

Prevention = Preservation

It is much easier to prevent a joint injury than to fix one. Therefore, prevention is key when discussing how to extend the career of a working horse. By taking the necessary steps to protect your horse’s joints, you are protecting the investment you have made into that horse. Below are a few tips on how to extend the career of your working horse.

Balanced Diet

  • A balanced diet is one of the most important factors in extending the career of your horse. Improper nutrition can lead to a range of hoof, joint, skin, and health related issues.
    • For example: Excess protein in a horse’s diet can cause inflammation in the joints.
  • Providing proper nutrition supports the energy and strength needed to meet extra physical demands. This can make the horse more resilient to injury, recover faster after work, and provide essential nutrients for proper health.

Pregnancy and Birth

  • Many aspects of your horse’s health can be influenced during pregnancy. This is particularly true in the case of joint and bone health. Fetal development is dependent of the nutrition and health of the mare.  Ensuring that the mare is healthy and receiving proper nutrition can help the development of a newborn foal.
  • The health and development of a young foal is a foundation for a healthy adult horse. Improper nutrition and care can negatively affect this development and lead to future problems.

Hoof Care

  • A horse cannot perform at its full potential with unhealthy hooves. Horses inflicted with a hoof related issue can experience pain, discomfort, or become lame. Even a small hoof crack can lead to serious issues if left unchecked. Attempting to perform with unhealthy hooves can also lead to injury.
  • If your horse is inflicted with a hoof related issue that is causing pain, it may begin to distribute its weight to the other hooves for relief. This weight imbalance can weaken the other hooves and apply more pressure to the joints.
  • Unbalanced hooves can also create future hoof and joint problems for your horse. Balanced hooves evenly distribute the weight of your horse across all four hooves. If the hooves become unbalanced, this distribution becomes uneven, and adds extra weight to certain joints. If this uneven distribution continues, joint and hoof problems may follow.
  • A regular farrier schedule along with daily hoof care, a balanced diet, and hoof supplementation can all help maintain healthy hooves.

Supplementation and Remedies

  • Supplementation can be used to help ensure your horse is receiving the nutrients needed to maintain healthy joints, hooves, or maintain body condition. Providing a joint formula is especially important for the working horse. Feeding a quality joint formula regularly and early in the horse’s career can help protect the joint from injury and extend the life of your horse’s joints.
  • When supplementing with a joint formula, it is also important to be mindful of over supplementation. Especially if you are feeding a separate hoof supplement. We recommend using a combination hoof and joint formula that not only helps lubricate and reduce inflammation in the joints, but also strengthens the ligaments that support the joints.

Proper Training

  • It is important to know the limitations of your horse while training. Don’t push your horse too hard too fast, and always warm up before going to work. Start out slow and work your way up. Pushing your horse past their limitations can damage the joints and lead to injury. An injury early in your horse’s career can lead to future problems, and an injury late in your horse’s career can end it.

If your horse is injured or begins experiencing joint pain, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. Feel free to contact us if you have questions regarding equine health at cservice@lifedatalabs.com.

Recognizing Nutrition Related Hoof Problems: Part 1

Dr. Frank Gravlee, founder of Life Data®, has worked with horses suffering from mild to serious hoof problems for over 50 years. During this time, his research has determined that horses with hoof problems often have nutrient deficiencies or excesses that negatively affect the dermal tissue structure. The hoof is dermal tissue and the hoof shows weakness more quickly than other dermal tissue structures due to its function and location. The horse owner should be able to recognize a few of the nutritional concerns that can occur in the hoof:

Excessive Bran

  • Crumbling Hoof and Poor Hoof Quality
    • Bran contains a high level of phytate. Phytate is a substance found in plant seeds containing phosphorus. The excessive amount of phosphorus from feeding too much bran interferes with the absorption of several minerals including calcium. Often, the result is a crumbling hoof due to calcium deficiency.

Hoof from Excessive Bran
Poor Hoof Quality caused from Excessive Bran

Zinc Deficiency

    • Rapid Hoof Growth
      • A zinc deficiency can sometimes lead to rapid hoof growth; however, the hoof quality is low.
      • Some horses with a zinc deficiency need their hooves trimmed every 10-14 days.
    • Brittle Hoof Wall
      • The deficiency can result in poor quality keratin in the outer layers of the hoof wall to make the wall brittle.

Biotin Deficiency

  • Hoof Wall “Peeling”
    • A biotin deficiency is rare; however, when it does occur, one will likely see thick layers of hardened tissue ‘peeling off’ the hoof wall much like the peeled layers of an onion.
    • Other dietary deficiencies usually accompany a biotin deficiency.

Vitamin A

  • Hair-like projections
    • Hair-like projections emerging from the hoof wall or the sole of a horse’s hoof can indicate either a Vitamin A excess or a Vitamin A deficiency.

Hoof with Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A Excess or Deficiency

In addition to the above there are many more ‘nutritional red flags’ too numerous to list here. We will continue expanding on this subject in future blogs. Use a quality hoof supplement such as Farrier’s Formula® to provide the nutrients to grow strong healthy hooves.