How to Shop for Hoof Supplements
How they work:
The quality of your horse’s hooves can be influenced by a number of factors, from genetics to environment to workload. But all horses have certain nutritional requirements that need to be met in order for them to maintain strong, healthy, resilient hooves. This is why it’s no surprise that the largest category of hoof supplements is nutrient-based, most often referred to as biotin-based supplements. These products offer the key building blocks your horse needs to grow a strong, healthy hoof wall, including biotin, amino acids, and important minerals.
Key ingredients to look for:
This member of the B-vitamin family is essential for the growth of strong, healthy hooves due to its role in collagen formation. A deficiency of biotin in horses may lead to reduced hoof quality, such as a thin and friable hoof wall, crumbling and cracks, and a soft white line. In fact, research has shown that supplementing with 10-30 mg of biotin per day may help support growth rate and quality hoof wall in horses who struggle with poor-quality hooves. This is why supplementing with biotin is a smart choice for owners who want to support their horse’s hoof health.
Typically, hoof supplements will provide 10-50mg of biotin per serving. As a general rule of thumb, providing 5-20mg of biotin per day is generally appropriate for most horses, however if your horse is dealing with cracking, chipping, or slow growth, it may be beneficial to offer 30 or more mg daily.
Lysine, Methionine, and Threonine:
These three ingredients are essential amino acids, meaning your horse’s body can’t make them on its own, so they must be supplied in the diet. All three are also considered limiting amino acids, meaning that if your horse doesn’t get enough in his diet, it can limit his body’s ability to synthesize the protein he needs for strong connective tissues (like hoof structures). Methionine in particular contains sulfur, which is essential for the cross-linking of the fibers that give hooves their tensile strength.
Depending on the amount of support you’re looking to provide, hoof supplements typically offer:
- 1,000-5,300mg of methionine
- 1,000-2,000 mg of lysine
- 500-750mg of threonine
Supplements designed to provide a higher level of support for weak, cracking hooves tend to include an amount in the higher end of these ranges, while supplements designed to offer fundamental support tend to include an amount in the lower end of that range.
Copper and Zinc:
Both of these trace minerals play a key role in the formation and maintenance of connective tissue. Zinc is of particular importance due to its role in the formation of keratin, the structural protein that gives hooves their hardness.
In this category, hoof supplements generally include about:
- 25-100mg of copper
- 250-400mg of Zinc
What to Expect from Biotin-based Hoof Supplements:
Keep in mind that, similarly to our own fingernails, you can’t impact the hoof that’s already there. The outer hoof wall is comprised of mostly dead tissue and it cannot repair itself once it’s damaged. The goal of biotin-based hoof supplements is to support the new growth coming in at the coronary band, so it may take 3-6 months before you really start to see how the supplement may be helpful for your horse.
Horses that may benefit from a biotin-based supplement include:
Many horses can benefit from a supplement that supports strong, healthy hooves, and they are particularly beneficial for those horses who tend to have weak or poor-quality hooves that are prone to cracks.
How they work:
Like most things, there’s more to your horse’s hooves than meets the eye. While the outer wall may be mostly dead tissue, it surrounds, protects, and supports bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, nerves, and an intricate circulatory network. These pathways — composed of arteries, veins, and capillaries — function as a key element in maintaining the health of the foot. That’s because the strength of the equine foot depends on nourishment provided by good circulation and blood flow.
Owners and care providers can promote good circulation by attending to and focusing upon three major influencing factors: activity, hoof balance, and nutrition. To learn about how promoting activity and ensuring that your horse’s hooves are properly balanced impact your horse’s hoof circulation, you can visit SmartPak.com/HoofCirculation and hear it straight from the farrier’s mouth. Besides activity and hoof balance, supplements can also play an important role in circulation support. Formulas in this category often include ingredients like arginine to support normal blood flow as well as ingredients like yucca, boswellia, turmeric, and other antioxidants to help address discomfort and support a normal response to inflammation.
Of course, if your horse is dealing with particular hoof problems, we’d suggest reviewing your management program, including your horse’s supplements, with your veterinarian and farrier to ensure that it’s appropriate for your horse’s needs.
Key ingredients to look for:
This essential amino acid is a precursor to nitric oxide. Research has shown that arginine helps maintain healthy blood flow.
Antioxidants help to address excess oxidative stress, support a normal response to inflammation, and support overall health and wellness. Common antioxidants in hoof circulation supplements include resveratrol, grape seed extract, and N-acetyl cystine.
Not only do herbs help to address discomfort, they also help to support a normal response to inflammation. Herbs like yucca, turmeric, and boswellia may be particularly helpful to look out for if you’re looking to address heel discomfort.
What to expect from Hoof Circulation Supplements:
Like most supplements, it may take 6-8 weeks to see the full benefits of a supplement in this category, depending on what results you’re hoping to see. For example, if you’re looking to help your horse stay comfortable, some horse owners have noted signs of a normal stride and comfortable movement within just a few weeks of starting on a hoof circulation supplement. On the other hand, if you are looking to support normal hoof growth, remember that you cannot affect the hoof that’s already there. Just like with biotin-based formulas, it may take a few months before you begin to see the new healthy hoof growth that you’re looking for.
Horses that May Benefit from a Hoof Circulation Supplement include:
Horses with a history of hoof issues — especially heel discomfort, slow or retarded growth, and uneven growth — will often benefit from a supplement designed to support healthy circulation. This category can even be provided in addition to biotin-based products for more comprehensive support!
How they work:
Your horse’s laminae are the tiny, interlocking “fingers” that attach the coffin bone to the rest of the hoof. Healthy laminae are a critical component to your horse’s overall health and soundness, but some horses are at risk for weak or otherwise compromised laminae, particularly overweight horses, those with poor metabolic and/or pituitary function, and horses that binge on sugar-rich spring and fall grass. That’s why, for some horses, supporting laminar health from the inside is a smart choice.
Laminar support supplements provide ingredients like MSM and omega 3s to support a normal response to inflammation, and other specialized ingredients such as hops to help sugars and starches be digested appropriately. Since issues with laminar health can be quite serious it’s also important to work closely with your veterinarian if your horse is at risk for, or dealing with, issues related to laminar health.
Key ingredients to look for:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Omega 3s are a vital part of any horse’s diet and they help to support a normal response to inflammation. Research has even shown that they may help maintain laminar health during times of stress.
While its most recognized as the flavoring agent in beer, this herb also helps sugars and starches be properly digested in the foregut. Research has suggested that hops may help support laminar health during times of sugar and starch overload, when laminae can be particularly under stress. In fact, sugar and starch overload is one of the most common causes of laminar issues.
(Note for competitive riders: Some competitive organizations prohibit hops, so we recommend you check with your organization before giving this ingredient to horses who are actively competing.)
MSM, Yucca, and Boswellia:
These ingredients not only support a normal response to inflammation, but they can also help address discomfort, which may be particularly beneficial for horses with laminar issues.
What to Expect from Laminar Health Supplements:
If your horse has generally healthy laminae and your goal is to provide him with proactive support to help keep it that way, it’s possible you won’t see marked differences by feeding a laminar support formula — and that’s ok! If your horse has risk factors for laminar problems, it’s smart to support his foot health proactively day in and day out.
If your horse has struggled with laminar issues in the past, this formula may take approximately 6-8 weeks to reach its full benefit. While you may not be able to see all the health benefits of this formula, you can feel great knowing that it’s providing a comprehensive selection of supportive ingredients! Because this formula is designed to support the normal health and function of the laminae, as well as support a healthy inflammatory response, customers do frequently note that they see signs that their horse’s feet are feeling comfortable within the first month or two.
Horses that may benefit from a laminar health supplement include:
Laminar support may be the ideal choice if your horse is either at risk for laminar issues, or has dealt with them in the past.
Need help deciding? Our smarts are at your service!
If you’re still not sure which supplement would be ideal for your horse, don’t fret - our Horse Health Experts are here for you! Just give us a call at 1-800-461-8898, email us at CustomerCare@SmartPak.com, text us at 26756, or live chat with us at SmartPak.com, and we’d be happy to help you choose the perfect hoof supplement for your horse. If you’re managing active hoof issues, we also recommend working with your farrier and veterinarian to help pinpoint why your horse’s hooves are struggling and to come up with the best plan going forward, which may include support from an appropriate hoof supplement.