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.

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.

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.

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

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.

White Line Disease: Nutrition’s Role in 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 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.

The Hoof Wall

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.

The Importance of Internal Hoof Health

Due to this, many horse owners approach White Line Disease as an external battle, but 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. Maintaining a healthy hoof internally begins with proper nutrition.

Prevention with  Equine 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, 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 the problem. 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. Hoof 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

Recurring Hoof Abscesses and Their Relationship to Hoof Quality

Horse lying down

Hoof Abscesses can seem to appear overnight. Yesterday your horse showed no sign of pain, and today he can barely put weight on his foot. If you have never had a horse develop a hoof abscess, count yourself lucky. They can be extremely painful, often leading to severe lameness. Some horses suffer from recurring hoof abscesses that develop frequently.  Hoof abscesses can be attributed to either the horse’s environment or the health of the hooves. They are often the consequence of a combination of both factors.

Types of Hoof Abscesses

A sole abscess is usually the result of a puncture wound from a nail or other foreign object. Bruising of the sole can also predispose the hoof to a sole abscess. Sole abscesses are common and usually break out at the sole surface. Occasionally the abscess will track under the surface of the sole and break out in another area of the sole.

Hoof wall abscesses often develop from foreign material, such as a small pebble, that enters at the white line area and migrates upward through the laminae. Small stones, sand, or gravel can also penetrate through hoof defects such as hoof cracks, crumbling hoof wall, or old nail holes and carry infection. The resulting abscess is often referred to as “gravels” or “gravelling”. The infection created by the migrating pebble will often break out at the coronary band, and with luck the abscess fluid will push out the foreign object.

Prior to opening and/or draining of a hoof abscess, the associated inflammation and fluid is trapped within the rigid confines of the hoof capsule. Intense pain occurs from the building pressure on the sensitive tissues. The pain often leads to reluctance or refusal to bear weight on the affected foot. The affected foot will often feel warmer than usual.

Hoof Abscesses and the Environment

The environment is one of the first things that should be looked at if your horse is suffering from regular hoof abscesses. Bacteria can enter the hoof through a sole puncture wound or bruise, a hoof wall crack, an old nail hole, a white line separation, or from nailing a shoe.

The incidence of hoof abscesses increase when the environment is wet and muddy. Wet conditions and unclean stalls are breeding grounds for bacteria that can create hoof abscesses. Also, the excess moisture will soften the hoof wall and sole making it easier for the bacteria and/or foreign material to penetrate into the hoof capsule.

Look at the environment surrounding your horse. Does your horse spend a lot of time in wet and muddy conditions? Are your regularly cleaning stalls? Does your horse walk on rocky pastures or gravel roads? Reducing your horse’s exposure to these kinds of environments can help reduce the chances of a hoof abscess developing. There are also preventive measures you can take to help protect against these environmental conditions.

Preventing Environmental Hoof Abscesses

  • Regularly clean and maintain your horse’s hooves daily. Remove any foreign material from the sole and around the frog.
  • Feed a quality hoof supplement, like Farrier’s Formula®, on a long-term basis to provide nutrients important for the horse’s immune system and to build a denser hoof wall and sole, increasing the hoof’s resistance to infection.
  • Apply Life Data® Hoof Clay®, a non-caustic antimicrobial packing, to fill in hoof wall cracks, wall defects and old nail holes. If barefoot, apply the clay directly to the white line to block foreign material and bacteria from penetrating.
    • Do not use cotton balls to pack hoof defects or open abscess tracts. Cotton balls leave fibers when removed. These left-over fibers can lead to infection.
    • Do not pack or wrap the hoof with any material that will block oxygen.
  • Apply Farrier’s Finish®, a topical hoof disinfectant and conditioner, to kill bacteria and regulate moisture balance.
    • In wet conditions, add two tablespoons Epson Salt per 16 oz. bottle of Farrier’s Finish® and apply to the hoof wall and sole surface. The product will not only disinfect the hoof capsule, but will also help harden the softened hoof wall and sole to increase the hoof capsule’s resistance to microbial invasion.
    • Ensure the hoof topical is non-caustic. Using caustic materials such as turpentine or formaldehyde can block oxygen and damage healthy tissue.
  • Maintain a regular farrier schedule and ensure hooves are being trimmed properly. Too much time between trimmings will allow the toe to grow out excessively thereby stretching or separating the white line. A separated white line predisposes the horse to gravels.
  • Maintain a proper body weight. The extra weight of an obese horse can place stress on the hooves, stretching the white line and “pancaking” the hoof wall. This weakens the hoof structurally and makes it vulnerable to microbes and foreign material. If your horse is overweight and suffers from recurring hoof abscesses, getting the weight under control could be the first step in the right direction.

How Nutrition Impacts Hoof Abscesses


[Bob Hill’s horse “Bo” suffered from frequent hoof abscesses. Using a combination of Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength and Barn Bag®, Bob was able to improve Bo’s hoof quality, reduce his weight, and stop the hoof abscesses. You can listen to his full testimonial here.]

There are many factors that affect hoof quality. Genetics, the environment, and nutrition all play major roles. We have already discussed methods you can utilize to protect the hoof from environmental factors that cause hoof abscesses; however proper nutrition also plays an important role in helping prevent hoof abscesses.

A healthy hoof has a denser hoof wall and sole, and is more resilient to microbial invasion and infection. Also the healthier hoof will have less hoof cracks, splits, and other hoof defects for foreign material to enter through. Feeding Farrier’s Formula® can improve hoof health and increase the resilience to these invasions both structurally and by improving immunity. Farrier’s Formula® contains ingredients such as zinc and vitamin C that support the horse’s immune system.

Treating a Hoof Abscess

Consult your farrier and/or veterinarian on treatment if you suspect an abscess. Your farrier or veterinarian will work to draw out the hoof abscess with a poultice or to open and drain the abscess. In the case of a gravel, if any foreign material remains within the hoof wall either the abscess will not resolve or it reoccurs on a regular basis. Foreign objects trapped under the hoof wall will usually require a procedure to open up the hoof wall directly over the gravel.

It is also important to protect and disinfect the exit wound. Once the drainage has stopped, packing with Life Data® Hoof Clay® and regularly applying Farrier’s Finish® will help protect the open wound and keep out any unwanted material.

If you have any questions on utilizing Life Data® products to help treat or prevent hoof abscesses, feel free to contact us at 1-800-624-1873 or by e-mailing us at cservice@lifedatalabs.com.