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

Equine ThrushNo 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. Some 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.

The Importance of Maintaining a Regular Farrier Schedule

Regardless if your horse wears shoes or goes barefoot, hoof care is an important part of keeping your horse sound and comfortable. A major part of this maintenance includes trimming, resetting the shoes, and regular hoof care provided by the service of a farrier. But how often should your farrier visit and why is it important to maintain a regular schedule?

Ernest Woodward, a professional farrier, stated that “Routine and frequent trimmings and shoeings on a regular schedule creates a uniform shoeing cycle with no extremes.” In other words, keeping a regular schedule with your farrier leads to a more consistent and healthier hoof. Which makes sense; a regular schedule allows the farrier to ensure the hoof remains healthy, consistent, and helps prevent other issues from developing. There are many reasons why a regular farrier schedule is important to keep. Below we discuss a few of these benefits.

Farrier Trimming Hoof

Benefits of A Regular Farrier Schedule:

  • Balanced Hooves
  • Tendon/Joint Support
    • Overgrown toes and imbalanced hooves create extra stress on the hoof wall. This extra stress can not only lead to cracks and separations but puts strain on the joints and tendons. The extra strain on the joints and tendons can lead to injury. Proper trimming and a consistent schedule helps to prevent this added stress to the hoof wall, joints and tendons.
  • No Extremes
    • As Ernest Woodward said above, routine visits remove the risk of an extreme situation from being created. Having a regular farrier schedule decreases the chance of a hoof related issue from developing. It also acts as a preventive measure against hoof related issues and diseases.
  • Horse’s Comfort
    • By keeping a regular schedule and ensuring the horse has no extremes, correct support, and balanced hooves, you are helping to keep the horse sound which allows the horse to perform. The regular visits will also help your horse become more comfortable with the farrier and the routine checks.

The average horse needs to see a farrier every 4 to 6 weeks, but not every horse is the same. Some horses may need to see a farrier more, or less, often than the average horse. Determining how frequent your farrier visits will depend on the growth rate and current health of your horse’s hooves. A hoof that is badly damaged or suffering from a hoof related disease may require more attention, but assuming the hoof is healthy, the hoof growth can help us determine how often the horse needs to see a farrier. To do this, we must also look at the factors surrounding the horse that can affect hoof growth.

“Routine and frequent trimmings and shoeings on a regular schedule creates a uniform shoeing cycle with no extremes.”

Factors that Affect Hoof Growth:

  • Genetics
    • Although there isn’t much we can do to change genetics, some horses are born with the genes to build better quality hooves than other horses.
  • Nutrition
    • Nutrition plays a vital role in the growth and health of hooves. One of the first signs of poor nutrition will be hoof related issues and a dull hair coat. Correcting your horses nutrition and feeding a quality hoof supplement will help promote hoof growth.
  • Age
    • As a horse grows older the growth of the hooves will begin to slow. Younger horses like foals or yearlings will typically have much faster hoof growth than an aged horse. This is due in part to a higher metabolic rate in young horses.
  • Environment
  • Exercise
    • Horses that receive regular exercise will typically have better hoof growth than a horse with little activity. Exercise will increase the metabolism, which increases the available nutrients, hormones, etc. necessary for hoof growth.

Your farrier should be able to review these factors and get a good sense of your horse’s hoof growth, the conditions surrounding your horse, and how often the visits should occur. Then determining how often your farrier visits becomes a discussion between you and your farrier. The key point to remember is to establish a schedule based on your farrier’s recommendations, and consistently keep the schedule. Going months without seeing your farrier puts your horse’s hooves at risk of developing serious issues. Hoof maintenance should not be ignored or put off. It is a day-to-day requirement and crucial to hoof health, comfort, and the performance of your beloved horse.

If you have any questions regarding hoof health or maintenance, feel free to contact us at 1-800-624-1873.

How Important are Well Balanced Hooves?

Farrier Trimming Hoof

If you own a horse or grew up around horses, you have probably heard the saying “No Hoof, No Horse.” Many of us horse lovers take this statement to heart. Without healthy feet, a horse is unable to be a horse. Running, working, riding – all these activities become a chore; a painful chore at that.

The importance of a healthy hoof is well established, but what about a balanced hoof? Can an imbalanced hoof create hoof related issues? If so, what issues can arise from an imbalanced foot?

We took this question to Darren Owen, a professional farrier, and asked, “Is a balanced hoof important to hoof health?” Here is what he had to say:

“In my opinion the answer would be yes. The imbalanced foot may become predisposed to the invasion of Thrush or White Line Disease. When the hoof of the horse has greater weight responsibilities placed upon it in an uneven fashion it may distort. This distortion will promote the separation of the wall from the sole and allow for bacterial / fungal invasion. I recently had an opportunity to speak with a number of farriers on the topic of “Hoof wall separation.” While this conversation was taking place, imbalance and distortion were discussed as a cause of the wall separations that harbor tremendous bacterial / fungal invasions.”

We took the same question to Dave Giza, another professional farrier, and asked him about his experience with imbalanced hooves.

“When I trim and shoe a horse, I always pay very close attention to the placement/balance of the heels, how deep the cleft split of the frogs are (the groove/split that starts in the back of the central sulcus of the frog that transitions up the back of the heels and between the heel bulbs), and to the movement of the heel bulbs themselves.  If a horse has well balanced feet, with both heels contacting the ground at the same time, there will be very little independent movement of the heel bulbs, frog cleft/split will be shallow, and the horse will be sound.  If the trim is out of balance, with the medial side hitting first and then the lateral side or vice versa, there will be independent heel bulb movement and separation that will cause lameness issues.

Hoof Imbalance
Hoof Imbalance with cleft split starting at the frog central sulcas and splitting up into the hair line.
Separation of Heel Bulbs
Insertion of narrow blade vet knife into the frog cleft to show depth and separation of heel bulbs.

If you look at the hoof from the back and visualize a triangle (the base of the triangle having points at the medial and lateral side of the hoof and the top of the triangle at the apex of the frog cleft), this will present a better picture of what is actually happening.  When the base of the triangle hits evenly on the ground, there is no movement at the top of the triangle, just compression as the bulbs move as one unit.  However, if the triangle base hits the ground, one side first followed by the other, the top of the cleft will be forced to move from right to left or vice versa.  This imbalance will cause tearing and or shearing of the soft tissues between the heels, and deep heel splits that cause the heel bulbs to gap open and allow debris to enter into the cleft gap.  Now the stage has been set for infected/swollen sheared heels.  The debris that is lodged deep into the frog cleft becomes Thrush, the constant independent movement of each heel bulb and shearing causes the heel bulbs to become irritated and swell closed, the developing thrush is entrapped, and the result is a very sore heeled, lame horse.

frog cleft
Cleaning out debris from frog cleft.
Balanced Trim
Balanced trim with infected central sulcas and frog cleft.

I recently drove 700 miles to treat a horse named Cody diagnosed with equine Canker; however, Cody was misdiagnosed and rather suffered from infected, sheared heels.  Without a doubt, Cody’s issues were caused by improper trimming.  Upon examination, I found that the heels of each hoof were out of balance, causing heel bulb displacement with deep frog clefts penetrating up into the hairline and entrapping infection.  The infection not only compromised the heel bulbs, but had also started to compromise each frog.  I trimmed, balanced, thoroughly cleaned and treated each sheared/split heel on Cody’s hooves.”

Both farriers agree, balanced hooves are important to hoof health. As a farrier, it is extremely important to properly trim and balance each hoof. If this is not done correctly, more issues can arise and create further problems for you down the road. Horse owners must also pay close attention to this detail and do their part in picking and cleaning the feet on a regular basis. If you believe your horse’s hooves are imbalanced, do not be afraid to bring it up to your farrier or to seek the opinion of another farrier or veterinarian. If your horse’s hooves were trimmed improperly, it is important to have this fixed as soon as possible. A hoof supplement combined with a safe anti-microbial hoof clay and liquid will help the hooves recover from cracks, splits or other hoof related issues that arise from the hoof imbalance. Using a hoof supplement will also promote the health of the hoof and increase its growth rate.

 

 

A special thanks to:

Darren Owen, CF, APF
Indian Fields Farrier Service Inc.
Phone: (757) 478-1399
Email: indianfields@msn.com

Dave Giza, APF-1
Genesis Farriers
Phone: (571) 921-5822
E-mail: GenesisFarriers@aol.com

Hoof Care Doesn’t Stop in the Winter.

Worse walking in snow

Winter is in full force and Jack Frost is blanketing many of our pastures with snow, freezing rain, and ice. Many of us are now concentrated on keeping our horses healthy, while maintaining body condition through this cold spell. We all have different routines we practice to keep our beloved horses as comfortable as possible during these months. We can debate all day between blankets VS a horse’s natural coat, or even more barn time VS more pasture time – but the one thing we cannot argue about is that proper hoof care doesn’t stop in the winter. Providing a balanced diet, staying on top of any hoof problems caused by the environment, and routine farrier work is a year-round effort.

Worse walking in snow

It doesn’t take an expert to see that any amount of snow is going to leave our pastures wet and muddy, and as we have discussed in previous articles, wet and muddy conditions can create the perfect environment for “hoof eating” microbes to thrive. Prolonged exposure to water can soften the hoof capsule, leading to stretching and separation of the white line area. Regardless of how much pasture time you are allocating to your horse during the winter, ensure to properly clean and dry the hooves before moving your horse back into the barn.

Even if your horse is not spending a lot of time out in the cold environment, it is still important to regularly clean your horse’s hooves. Some horse owner’s may choose to restrict pasture time due to the freezing weather. Extended periods of time in a stall might keep your horse warmer, but this confinement can create hoof problems as well. While stalled, your horse will be standing in its own waste. This exposes the hooves to different bacteria that will affect the health of the hooves. Regularly cleaning your horse’s hooves and maintaining a clean environment for your horse can help prevent problems, but issues such as Thrush or White Line Disease can develop if left unchecked.

Farrier Applying Hoof Topical

Even with regular cleaning, sometimes you may need a little extra help maintaining the health of your horse’s hooves. Regularly feeding Farrier’s Formula® will provide the nutrients your horse needs to promote stronger and healthier hooves. These stronger hooves will be more resilient to problems such as White Line Disease and will help prevent the softening of the hoof capsule. Farrier’s Finish® and Life Data® Hoof Clay® may be applied after cleanings to help fight and kill any “hoof-eating” microbes. These products will also help maintain hoof quality, and are non-caustic to you and your horse. We also recommended talking with your farrier and veterinarian to create a plan to properly care and maintain your horse’s hooves. Regular farrier and veterinarian visits are always recommended. Farrier visits should not be eliminated because of the winter season.

If you have any questions please feel free to call us at 1-800-624-1873 or e-mail us at cservice@lifedatalabs.com.

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