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.

To The Farrier,

Over 40 years ago when Farrier’s Formula® was first introduced, equine nutrition was in its infancy. Little was known about the impact nutrition has on the horse. When Dr. Frank Gravlee brought Farrier’s Formula® to the market he was met with skepticism. The farriers were one of the first to recognize the effect of Farrier’s Formula®. They were our first dealers and helped spread the word that nutrition does play a large role in the health of the horse.  This is one reason why our hoof supplement is named after the farrier.

Farrier Using Farrier's Formula®

We thank you for years of loyalty and support. Thank you for continuing to carry and recommend our products. But most of all, we thank you for your hard work. We thank you, the farrier, for your continued passion to care for the horse. Your commitment for further education, your desire to improve your skills, and your devotion to your craft has helped improve the lives of countless horses from all around the world. We here at Life Data® will never forget the important role the farrier plays in the equine world.

“We thank farriers for their role in informing the public of the importance of equine nutrition. Life Data® is devoted to furthering our research into equine nutrition and to find answers to equine health issues. Through this research, we will continue to discover solutions that can be utilized to help solve the problems farriers see every day.”

Dr. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS

Sincerely,

Life Data Labs, Inc.

www.lifedatalabs.com

1-800-624-1873

256-370-7555

What Creates the Foul Odor of Thrush?

A strong rotting smell is a well-known indicator of Thrush. If you’re a farrier or horse owner, you probably know the smell well. For those unaccustomed to the smell, it is like that of a rotten egg. The odor radiates from the hoof, making regular hoof cleanings and farrier work more foul-smelling than usual. So, what causes Thrush to smell? In this blog, we will sniff out the answer to this question.

Hoof Anatomy and Structure

Your horse’s hooves are comprised of connective tissue proteins. Connective tissue is rich in the mineral sulfur. The sulfur provides the “welds,” or crosslinks, in the connective tissue protein. These crosslinks are responsible for the structural integrity of the hoof capsule. If the bonds are weakened or destroyed, the structural integrity of the hoof will be compromised.

Thrush and the Microbial Invasion

Thrush is an invasion of “hoof-eating” microbes into the connective tissue of the sulci surrounding the frog and heel. These anerobic microbes thrive in low oxygen environments, such as the deep sulci and clefts surrounding the frog. Once the organisms begin dividing in the frog sulci, the stage is set for a progressive invasion and infection.

How Thrush Affects the Hoof

The anerobic microbes consume the connective tissue proteins, including the sulfur, and excrete volatile sulfur compounds as waste. The rotten egg smell we associate with Thrush is the odor of the sulfur being released by the microbes. The same smell occurs during hot-shoeing. The odor produced is the smell of sulfur gas from burning the sulfur-rich connective tissue proteins of the hoof.

Thrush can be devastating to the hoof. As the sulfur crosslinks are destroyed the connective tissue becomes weakened, compromising the structural integrity of the hoof.

It is important to talk to your veterinarian and farrier if your horse develops Thrush. Regular use of a non-caustic hoof topical, such as Life Data® Hoof Clay® and Farrier’s Finish®, can be used as a measure against Thrush. Adding a balanced hoof supplement, such as Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength, to your horse’s diet can also help build a stronger hoof capsule that is more resilient to infections and other hoof related issues. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at 1-800-624-1873.

Soft Hooves: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Soft Hooves in Horses

Soft hooves are one of the more common problems associated with wet and muddy conditions. When discussing the topic of soft hooves, it’s important to understand that the hooves’ main purpose is to support the horse. The hooves are designed to provide balance and stability while carrying the full weight of the horse. When a horse develops soft hooves, other hoof problems that can lead to lameness are likely to follow. In this blog we will discuss:

  • How Soft Hooves Develop
  • Problems Associated with Soft Hooves
  • Prevention and Treatment

How Soft Hooves Develop

The anatomy of the hoof wall plays a large role in how the hoof softens. The hoof wall is composed of horn tubules that provide strength and density to the hoof wall, while at the same time allows the hoof wall to be porous. In normal environmental conditions, these tubules will remain tightly packed and the hoof will remain strong. In wet environmental conditions, the porous structure of the hoof acts like a sponge and will absorb moisture. This excess moisture weakens the connective tissue crosslinks that hold the tubules in place. These bonds will continue to weaken and stretch if the hoof is exposed to moisture for an extended period. This process causes the hoof to lose its structural integrity and shape.

Problems Associated with Soft Hooves

Under normal conditions, the sole of the hoof is concave. This concave structure helps protect the more sensitive parts of the hoof and acts like a shock absorber. When the hoof absorbs too much moisture, the hoof wall expands. The expansion then stretches and separates the white line area. When the weight of the horse is applied to the softened hoof, the hoof begins to pancake, causing the sole of the hoof to drop. Hoof pancaking will also cause the hoof wall to weaken, crack, and split. This creates the perfect environment for numerous hoof related issues to arise. 

Farrier Shoeing Horse

“The first thing that is noticeable when I see a softened hoof is the enhanced aspect of distortion. When softened, the hoof wall is not as strong and can become difficult to manage during rigorous work. When the hoof capsule is weakened, we must worry about the development of cracks and the hoof’s balance. Right now, I am seeing a lot of clients that are being affected by hoof abscesses. Especially in areas where the hoof tissue has become soft. It is important that your farrier is properly cleaning out the seat of corn area, enhancing the vertical depth of the hoof, and paying attention to the sole. This will help ensure your horse does not become too sensitive.” – Darren Owen, Professional Farrier

  • Poor Hoof Quality
    • Hoof cracks, splits, chips, and distortion can form due to the development of soft hooves.
  • Sensitive Hooves
    • Hooves may become tender to hard and rocky surfaces. Foreign objects, rocks, and other material can penetrate and bruise the softened sole. If the hoof becomes too tender, the horse may have difficulty walking or become lame.
  • Hoof Abscesses
    • A softened hoof increases the likelihood of abscessing. The weak hoof wall, stretched white line, and softened sole make it easier for bacteria and/or foreign material to penetrate the hoof capsule. This can result in the formation of hoof abscesses.   
  • Shoe Retention
    • A soft hoof makes it challenging for a horse to hold a shoe. When the hoof becomes too soft, clenched nails holding the shoe will loosen, pull out, or tear away. This can result in chunks of the hoof wall tearing out; especially around the nail holes. The loss of hoof wall makes it more difficult to reset the shoe. The farrier may resort to gluing the shoe if too much of the hoof is damaged.
  • Thrush and Crumbling Hoof Horn
    • Wet and muddy conditions expose hooves to “hoof-eating” microbes that cause thrush and crumbling hoof horn. Crumbling hoof horn, cracks, chips and flat soles are entry points for microbes to invade and thrive.
  • Lameness
    • A soft hoof is susceptible to a wide range of hoof related problems. Your horse could become lame from one or more of the above problems.

How to Prevent Soft Hooves

Proper hoof care, clean and dry environments, and proper nutrition all play a role in maintaining a healthy hoof.

“If your farrier does not have a good solid hoof to work with it is challenging to properly shoe the horse. This is where proper nutrition and prevention come in. This allows the horse to maintain a strong hoof even in times when we are experiencing challenging wet environmental conditions.” – Darren Owen, Professional Farrier

Below are a few steps you can take to help prevent soft hooves:

  • Avoid allowing your horse to spend extended periods of time in wet and muddy environments.
  • Use shavings and provide your horse with a clean and dry environment.
  • Routinely dry and clean your horse’s hooves of any mud, debris, or foreign material.
  • Keep a regular farrier schedule.
  • Provide proper nutrition and a quality hoof supplement such as Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength to develop a denser, healthier, and more resilient hoof.
  • Regularly apply a non-caustic hoof conditioner such as Farrier’s Finish® to help regulate moisture balance.
    • TIP: Adding 2-3 tablespoons of table salt or Epsom salt to a 16 oz bottle of Farrier’s Finish® will help pull out excess moisture and harden the hoof.
Hoof Moisture Balance

If your horse develops soft hooves or other hoof related issues, consult with your farrier and veterinarian. If you have any questions on utilizing Life Data® products to help treat or prevent soft hooves, contact us at 1-800-624-1873 or by e-mail at cservice@lifedatalabs.com.

Why Farrier’s Formula® Still Works

Nutrient Requirements of the Horse

Although thousands of years have passed since the the days of the wild horse, the genetic makeup of the horse has changed little. Therefore, the nutrient requirements for maintenance have not changed significantly.

What has changed is the involvement of civilizations in altering the environment surrounding the horse. Below are a few examples of these changes.

Horse with Farrier's Formula® Double Strength
  • Physical Demands of the Horse
    • Through work and athletics, we are demanding more from many of our horses. The additional physical demands require the horse to burn calories along with other nutrients for fuel. Additional nutrients are required by the performance horse in hard work.
  • Agriculture
    • Modern agricultural practices have resulted in certain minerals becoming deficient in many of the soils. Grasses and forage that grow in the soil will be deficient in these minerals. Fertilizers and chemical applications have also altered the nutrient composition of soils. The horse grazing our modern fields is predisposed to nutrient imbalances.
  • Domestication of the Horse
    • Ancient horses roamed and grazed a wide variety of forages to satisfy their nutritional requirements. Today we keep our domesticated horses confined to pastures and barns, limiting the diversity of the forages and thereby increasing the likelihood of nutrient deficiencies or excesses.

The resulting dietary nutrient imbalances have likely contributed to the hoof, skin and metabolic problems that are common in horses today. Farrier’s Formula® is formulated to fulfill the deficiencies and correct the nutrient excesses for optimal connective tissue health in horses across the globe.

Life Data® Research

Equine Blood Testing

Through research and laboratory tests, Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS determined daily nutritional requirements for horses. When developing Farrier’s Formula®, Dr. Gravlee used this research to develop a “complete hoof supplement” that covered the deficiencies or excesses that can create hoof problems.  Dr. Gravlee also determined the proper ratios and proportions of these nutrients so they work together and do not interfere with one another.

A horse must use energy and resources to process nutrients. If the horse has an excess of one nutrient, it must utilize other nutrients to provide the energy required to process the excess. This may cause an imbalance in nutrients. Farrier’s Formula® is properly balanced to eliminate the risk of over supplementation.

Life Data® is committed to continued research to better understand the relationship of nutrients and the health of the horse. We continue using this research to develop products that will improve the well being and health of horses around the world.

Farrier’s Formula® ushered in the concept of “Feeding the Hoof” in the early 80’s and is the gold standard of hoof supplements. The research behind Farrier’s Formula®, the quality ingredients and the nitrogen packaging to preserve the nutrients separate it from other hoof supplements. What establishes Farrier’s Formula® as the “gold standard” is one simple concept, Farrier’s Formula® works.

Complimentary Products

Life Data® has continued developing a range of products that work with Farrier’s Formula® to not only improve the quality of hooves but also improve the overall health of the horse. Farrier’s Formula® can be used as a stand-alone supplement or used in conjunction with other Life Data® products. Farrier’s Formula® can be fed with Barn Bag® Pleasure and Performance Horse Pasture and Hay Balancer. Both products are balanced nutritionally, will not interfere with one another, and will not lead to over supplementation.

Farrier's Formula and Hoof Clay

For building the optimal hoof, feed Farrier’s Formula® with regular applications of Farrier’s Finish® and Life Data® Hoof Clay®. This will provide the nutrients required to build a healthy hoof internally, while protecting new growth from the external environment.

Farrier’s Formula® continues to work because it was designed with the horse’s nutritional needs in mind. If you have any questions on Farrier’s Formula® or any of our other products, feel free to contact us at 1-800-624-1873 or visit our website.

Nutrition’s Role in White Line Disease Prevention

Equine Nutrition and White Line Disease
Properly balanced nutrition and quality hoof supplements strengthen and increase the density of the hoof wall, reducing the likelihood or severity of White Line Disease.

Burney Chapman, a world-renowned farrier from Lubbock, Texas, became one of the foremost authorities on White Line Disease back in the late eighties and early nineties. At that time, he began to see an alarming increase in the numbers of white line cases he encountered in his shoeing practice both in the U.S. and U.K. Burney determined that it was not a disease of the white line, but rather the result of a fungal invasion of the middle hoof wall. Burney named the condition “Onychomycosis”, or ONC. The disease is also known as Stall Rot, Seedy Toe, Hollow Foot and Wall Thrush. At first blush almost everyone, including 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 that there was no correlation to breed, color, or front versus back feet; and that the initial stages were non-painful and usually detected by the farrier during routine hoof care.

Today, we know a bit more about White Line Disease and recognize that all horses are exposed. The medial (middle) hoof wall is the structure affected. The damage is caused by organisms commonly found in the environment, both bacterial and fungal. These organisms require a nutrient-rich environment that is lacking oxygen to flourish. The outer hoof wall is more resistant to invasion due to its higher density and exposure to environmental oxygen compared to the low density and lack of oxygen in the middle hoof wall. The third section of hoof wall, the inner hoof wall, is more resistant to 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.

Due to this, many horse owners approach White Line Disease as an external battle, but White Line Disease prevention begins with internally healthy hooves. For example, picture a castle protected by a strong exterior wall. If the people inside are healthy and thriving, the outside wall can be maintained and kept strong from outside invaders. If the castle is unable to maintain the wall, over time the outside wall will begin to deteriorate, weaken, and crumble; making it easier for outside invaders to penetrate. We can take this same example and apply it to our horse’s hooves. If we are not properly providing for the hoof internally, the outside integrity of the hoof will reflect the same. As the external protection begins to deteriorate, the hoof becomes less resilient to infections such as White Line Disease. Maintaining a healthy hoof internally begins with proper nutrition.

Proper nutrition and hoof quality are directly correlated. In fact, poor hoof quality is one of the first signs of poor nutrition. Developing a balanced diet and feeding a quality hoof supplement can provide the nutrients needed to support stronger and healthier hooves. It may also help promote regrowth and recovery for hooves suffering or damaged from white line disease.

Feeding your horse an unbalanced diet can have the reverse effect. For example, as mentioned in previous articles, excessive selenium supplementation and excessive bran in the horse’s diet are nutritional factors that can increase the risk of White Line Disease or other hoof related issues.

Although proper nutrition alone may not resolve White Line Disease, it is a vital step in building more resilient, stronger and healthier hooves. Protecting hooves externally utilizing a non-caustic topical product while also providing a quality hoof supplement is the most effective way to prevent and treat White Line Disease. Consult with your veterinarian and farrier if your horse is suffering from White Line Disease. If you have any questions, feel free to visit our website or contact us at 1-800-624-1873 or cservice@lifedatalabs.com.

Learn More About White Line Disease 

Learn More About Feeding for Hoof Health.

Overly Dry Hooves

Dry Hooves

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of summer? Lemonade stands? Swimming or summer vacations? Sunscreen or the intense heat? Maybe it is something else entirely. Here at Life Data® the first thing that comes to mind is dry hooves. Although the idea of a “dry hoof” is usually positive, there is a point where dry can become too dry. During the summer, we see a rise in dry hooves due to moisture imbalance resulting from environmental conditions that are too hot and dry.  In this blog, we discuss the problems that can develop with overly dry hooves, and methods to maintain moisture balance.

Consider your own skin. When our skin becomes excessively dry it can begin to flake, crack, or even split. Our skin loses elasticity and weakens. The same occurs to a horse’s hoof. When hooves become excessively dry they lose integrity. Once the hoof integrity begins to deteriorate, several other issues can develop.

 Hoof Quality and Structure

  • Low moisture balance in the hooves can lead to loss of elasticity and a brittle hoof that is more likely to crack, chip, split and crumble. The compromised hoof quality can impede your horse’s ability to work, train, or hold a shoe.

Bacterial and Fungal Infections

  • Your horse’s external hoof wall acts as a barrier against the germ-laden environment. Cracks and chips create a passage way for bacteria to enter the hoof capsule. This presents an opportunity for “hoof-eating” microbes to gain access to the nutrient-rich middle hoof wall. These organisms multiply and further weaken the hoof wall, leading to additional defects and a collapsing hoof horn. Microbial invasions also promote hoof wall separations and the development of White Line Disease.

Maintaining moisture balance is the main objective when attempting to prevent overly dry hooves. Unfortunately, adding moisture to the environment won’t necessarily solve the problem. Just like human skin and nails, your horse’s hooves are composed of dermal tissue. This tissue contains phospholipids that control moisture balance within the hoof. These phospholipids can become overwhelmed in environments that are excessively wet or dry. In other words, rapid changes in moisture from wet to dry can adversely affect the integrity of the hoof. Frequent bathing, pop-up thunderstorms and soaking hooves can all negatively impact the hoof during the summer, especially if the hoof is not properly cleaned and dried afterward. The best way to maintain moisture balance within the hoof is to assist the phospholipids in doing their job. You can do that two ways:

1. Keep Moisture changes to a minimum

  • Restrict your horse’s exposure to excess moisture.
  • Keep your horse in a clean and dry environment.

2. Use a proven hoof conditioner regularly

  • Regularly apply a hoof conditioner that contains phospholipids to promote correct moisture balance.
  • Ensure the conditioner does not contain harmful ingredients and does not block oxygen.
  • A hoof conditioner with antimicrobial properties may help control cracks and crumbling horn.

3. Phospholipid supplementation

  • Feeding a hoof supplement that contains fatty acids and phospholipids will help assist the hoof in regulating moisture balance.
  • Other nutrients provided in the hoof supplement such as amino acids, vitamins and minerals will help build a stronger and healthier hoof that is less prone to crack, chip, split, and crumble.

Moisture balance is a key factor in controlling the environmental conditions that will affect overall hoof health. If not controlled, your horse can develop several issues that will negatively impact its hooves. Maintaining a regular farrier schedule and feeding a quality hoof supplement also assist in managing healthy hooves. Consult your farrier and veterinarian if you have any questions. You may also call us at 1-800-624-1873.

Suggested Hoof Topical for moisture control: Farrier’s Finish®

Suggested Hoof Supplement: Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength

Download Our Life Data® Hoof Care Booklet

Debunking Hoof Remedies for Equine Thrush

Farrier on Hoof with Thrush

No horse owner wants to pick up the hoof of their horse to find the signs of thrush staring back at them. Seeing that blackish discharge associated with thrush or even catching a whiff of its unpleasant odor can ruin anyone’s day. We do a lot to maintain the health of our horse’s hooves, and fighting thrush can sometimes seem like a never-ending battle. There are many tips and home hoof remedies that claim to be the answer to curing thrush, but many of these “remedies” only allow the infection to spread or kills the microbes only on the surface. As equine science has progressed over the years, many of these “remedies” are now red flagged and known to cause more harm than help. Unfortunately, many of these substances that were once deemed “safe” are still being used today to treat equine thrush.  Much of this is to do to a misinformed public or even due to the tradition of use. In this article, we will discuss many of these unsafe or ineffective practices, and what to look for when finding a proper answer to thrush.

Caustic Chemicals Are Harmful to the Sole and Frog

It is important to remember that, as tough as the hoof capsule may seem, it’s approximately 95% protein. This is the same as your own hair and skin and is likewise susceptible to damage. Application of a caustic chemical to the frog and sole essentially “chemically cooks” the exposed proteins. Yes, you may be killing many of the microbes causing the infection, but you are doing so at a cost to good sole and frog tissue. The resulting necrotic tissue not only becomes a food source for additional microbes, but the damage to the proteins seals off oxygen therefore reducing the tissue’s ability to breathe. The surviving deeper-seated microbes have a low oxygen environment to divide with subsequent re-eruption weeks later. Chemically cooking the surface proteins to create a deeper low oxygen environment hasn’t solved the problem but has counter-productively created a recurring problem. Many horse owners who use caustic materials to fight thrush will find themselves fighting the problem repeatedly as the microbial invasion returns over time.

Caustic Chemicals can Create Fear of Treatment

Caustic materials can induce discomfort if the deeper sensitive tissue of the frog is affected from moderate to severe thrush. Many horses will begin associating the chemical treatment with pain. This can cause the horse to become uneasy during regular hoof maintenance and create unnecessary problems for you or your farrier. In some instances, the horse may even begin to refuse to pick up their hooves entirely. Harmful Chemicals for HorseSome horse owners may associate this as “bad behavior,” when in truth it is not bad behavior. It is a fear of pain. To avoid creating pain, a good rule of thumb is to never apply anything onto your horse’s hooves that you would not apply to your own skin.

Examples of Unsafe Caustic Chemicals: Copper Sulfate, Bleach, Turpentine, Formaldehyde

Don’t Use Materials that Block Oxygen

We briefly mentioned that caustic chemicals will denature proteins of the hoof and reduce the hoof’s ability to breathe. Oxygen can also be blocked to the hoof from packed debris or from the application of grease and oils to the sole and frog. The microbes that cause thrush thrive in areas with little to no oxygen. To prevent or treat thrush we must ensure that we are not nurturing the microbes by cutting off the supply of oxygen. This is why it is also important to clean and pick the hoof every day and maintain a clean environment for your horse. Many of these oils and greases that are “home remedies” will restrict the amount of oxygen to the tissue, creating a perfect environment for thrush and other hoof related diseases. The low oxygen environment not only creates an ideal site for the organisms of thrush, but also encourages “hoof eating” microbes to invade defects of the hoof wall structure leading to additional defects and collapsing hoof horn.

Examples of Oxygen Blocking Chemicals: Petroleum Based Tar, Motor Oil, Axel Grease, Pine Tar, Bacon Grease

Bacon grease not only blocks oxygen from the tissues, but the salt also overly hardens the sole and hoof wall to decrease elasticity and increase the likelihood of cracks and other defects occurring.

Also note that wrapping a foot capsule with plastic wrap and other non-breathable materials creates an ideal environment for the microbes of thrush to divide.

Remedies for Equine ThrushFinding the Right Treatment for Thrush

We encourage you to stay away from “home hoof remedies” because many of these items are caustic, will block oxygen, are untested, or simply have no impact on the health of the hoof. There are many remedies and treatments for thrush on the market, but many are still using the harmful ingredients we mentioned above. When looking for the right treatment, pay attention to the ingredients and ensure they do not contain any material that could be harmful. Make sure it is safe to use on your own skin and contains natural ingredients. Here are a few other tips to finding the correct treatment:

  • Contains non-caustic ingredients
  • Does not block oxygen
  • Contains safe anti-microbial ingredients such as Tea-Tree oil and/or low levels of iodine
  • Contains anti-microbial ingredients that penetrate into tissue
  • A product that stays in the sulci for extended periods of time

Thrush can lead to serious problems for your horse and finding the correct treatment can be difficult. If you begin to see signs of thrush it is important to tackle the issue efficiently and correctly before it leads to lameness. To treat and prevent thrush we strongly encourage the use of a non-caustic antimicrobial hoof clay that will stay in place for extended periods. The same product can fill and protect hoof defects, nail holes, and wall separations.

You can visit our website to find further information on the causes, treatment, and prevention of thrush. Always consult your farrier and veterinarian on any hoof related issues. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 1-800-624-1873.

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