Hoof Care Archives - Life Data® Blog

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

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.

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.

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:

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 in Horses 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

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 through quality hoof supplements, such as Farrier’s Formula®. 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 such as White Line Disease and Thrush in horses.

Hoof Abscess Recovery

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.

Thrush in Horses

A “Thrushy Hoof” Isn’t a Healthy Hoof

Horse Hoof with mild thrush
Farrier Trims Hoof with Mild Case of Thrush

My horse’s hooves are healthy. They just have a little bit of Thrush,” is a statement we hear too often from individuals battling thrush. Unfortunately, Thrush in horses has become such a common occurrence 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 in horses 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 in horses 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. It is important to stay away from caustic hoof remedies for Thrush
Cycle of Thrush in Horses
The Cycle of Equine Thrush

Equine Nutrition

You may be asking, “What role does Nutrition play when fighting Thrush in Horses?” 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
    • Quality hoof supplements 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.

Hoof Supplements: Finding 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 Hoof Supplements are Key to Improved Hoof Health

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 in Hoof Supplements Matter

pelleted hoof supplement
Pelleted Hoof Supplements are Typically More Palatable

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: Hoof Supplement for Horses
#1 Farrier Recommended Hoof Supplement

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.

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 winter 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

Equine Joints: Prolonging the Career of a Working Horse

Equine Joints: Prolonging the Career

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 equine joints and muscles. 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 equine 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.

Supporting Equine Joints with a 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 for Equine Joints

  • Supplementation for equine joints 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 supplement or 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:

Nutrition Related Hoof Problems: 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.

nutrition related hoof problems: bran
Poor Hoof Quality caused from Excessive Bran

Nutrition Related Hoof Problems: 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.

Nutrition Related Hoof Problems: 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.

Nutrition Related Hoof Problems: 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.