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Correlations Between Equine Hoof and Joint Health: PART 1

Equine Hoof and Joints

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

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

Overweight Body Condition

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

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

Overweight Body Condition: What to Do?

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

Nutrition & Supplementation

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

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

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

Nutrition & Supplementation: What to Do?

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

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

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

Prevention Versus Treatment

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

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

Thrush and White Line Disease in Horses

Thrush

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

How Does Thrush Develop in Hooves?

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

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

The Importance of Oxygen in Thrush Prevention

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

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

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

Important Nutrients for a Strong Hoof

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

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

Effective Thrush Prevention Involves:

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

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

Important Tips for Thrush Treatment

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

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

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

Learn More About Our Recommended Treatment for Thrush

White Line Disease

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

White Line Disease
Hoof with White Line Disease

Burney Chapman

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

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

Burney’s Observations

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

What Causes White Line Disease?

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

White Line Disease and the Hoof

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

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

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

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

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

Nutrition and White Line Disease

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

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

Dr. Kempson’s Research

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

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

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

Calcium Deficiencies

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

Final Observations

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

5 Tips to Feeding Horses with Laminitis

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

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

1. Manage the Body Condition of your Horse

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

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

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

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

2. Avoid Grain Overload

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

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

3. Limit Fructan Digestion from Forage

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

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

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

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

4. Horses with Laminitis Need to Chew

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

5. Provide Nutritional Support for Horses with Laminitis

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

Hoof Supplementation

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

Recommended Hoof Supplement: Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength

Supplement for Horses with Laminitis

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

Recommended Supplement for Laminitis: Life Data® Lamina Formula

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

Supplements for Laminitis
Supplements for Laminitis

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

How Winter Affects the Hoof

Hoof care in winter

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

Horse Owners and Winter Care

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

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

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

Wintery Environment and Stalls

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

Winter Horse Barn

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

Too Cold to Exercise

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

The Frog and Exercise

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

Farrier Hoof Care

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

Preparing Your Horse for Winter

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

©2020 Life Data Labs, Inc.

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.

The Importance of a Healthy Equine Skin and Coat

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

Brushing Horse with Winter Coat

The Function of the Horse’s Coat

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

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

Factors that Affect Equine Skin and Coat Quality

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

Genetics

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

Nutrition

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

Environment

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

Disease and Equine Conditions

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

Improper Maintenance

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

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

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

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.

Anhidrosis in Horses. What Can be Done?

Horse with Anhidrosis

What is Anhidrosis in Horses?

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

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

Is Your Horse at Risk?

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

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

Recognizing Equine Anhidrosis

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

Brushing Horse Coat

Here are a few key symptoms of equine anhidrosis:

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

What Causes Anhidrosis in Horses?

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

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

Treating Equine Anhidrosis

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

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

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

Life Data® Anhidrosis Research

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

Life Data® Sweat Formula is a new product developed from several years of anhidrosis research at Life Data Labs, Inc. The in-house Life Data® research lab utilizes blood tests and a sophisticated software program to determine the relationship between blood work results and specific conditions in horses. Equipment in the lab analyzes macro and trace mineral content of whole blood in horses to discover any correlations between certain minerals and specific conditions. Through this current research, Life Data® has discovered several consistent correlations between blood test deficiencies and excesses within a group of horses diagnosed with anhidrosis.

Life Data® Sweat Formula

Life Data® used this research to develop an anhidrosis formula for non-sweating horses. This formula delivers a combination of essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to balance the deficiencies and excesses in the typical anhidrotic horse. The active ingredients will help improve skin and sweat gland condition to help regenerate the horse’s ability to sweat. For example, the fatty acids delivered in Life Data® Sweat Formula helps restore the lipids of the sweat gland membranes, which may help the transfer of fluids out of the sweat glands.

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

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

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.