Finicky Eater Has Terrible Hooves

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My 28-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse has terrible hooves. She’s also a hard keeper and finicky. For years I have been trying different foods and supplements, to no avail.

I give her Pennfield Phase V Senior Choice with 14% beet pulp, but she won’t eat any more than three pounds of it. She loves the Country Acres pellets. Last winter, I started her on Ration Plus, which has really made a great difference in her weight. The hooves are still a problem. They appear to be crumbling away starting from the coronary band and working downwards. They have been doing this for years. Her coat is silky and shiny and sheds out nicely each spring, so she is missing something that is specific to her hooves.

Her current daily diet is:

• 4 lbs. Country Acres
• 3 lbs. Pennfield Phase V Senior with Beet Pulp
• 30 mg. NuHoof Maximizer
• Corta-Flx for her joints
• Ration Plus.

She receives a yearly blood profile analysis as part of her medical plan with the veterinarian. It includes a chemistry and hematology, and our veterinarian said the results are fine. She did have a seizure in October 1999 and never again. The cause remains a mystery.

She is fed twice per day and gets bran mash once per week. She is turned out to pasture part of the day and receives a mix of timothy and orchard grass hay. She doesn’t use her salt block.

After each deworming, I give her Probios to establish the right intestinal bacteria. She is exercised three to four times per week for 30 to 45 minutes doing dressage or trail riding. Her energy has decreased as expected for her age. She is exceptionally healthy for her age, but her hoof condition really concerns me. I believe she is deficient in something, but I can’t figure out what it is.

-Windy Crutchfield
Virginia

Horse Journal responds:

Unless your pasture grasses have significant imbalances, the levels and ratios of major and trace minerals are good, assuming the hays also have average NRC mineral profiles. However, she may have an iodine deficiency, which could lead to poor thyroid function, and her protein intake is barely adequate to low.

Protein deficiency in general, methionine and lysine in particular, can contribute to poor strength in the hooves. The levels in your hoof supplement might not be enough to combat this.

Essential fatty-acid deficiency is also a strong possibility, especially given her age. Older horses often lose the enzyme activity that allows them to convert many fatty-acid forms so that it becomes important to provide them in a form that can be readily utilized without conversion.

We propose you try concentrating on the likely weak spots that could influence her hoof health. We suggest a concentrated lysine and methionine supplement like Uckele Health’s Aminocap (www.uckele.com or 800/248-0330), which also contains supplemental vitamin B6 to maximize protein utilization ($9.95/2 lbs.). Feed at 1 oz. per day for the first month or so to evaluate effect on growth, then try decreasing the dose to see if the improvement holds.

This doesn’t sound like a biotin-related problem, but feeding biotin will encourage rapid growth, so we recommend you continue with the Nu-Hoof Maximizer, which has generous biotin, or go with a straight biotin supplement of your choice.

On the fatty-acid end, we recommend you use an organic flax oil (from a health-food store), at two tablespoons a day. You can get the same benefits from a stabilized flaxseed meal but with a finicky eater your best bet is a small amount of the concentrated oil.

We recommend you consider getting your hay analyzed, just to be sure it’s up to par, and a hair mineral analysis as well. High levels of toxic minerals, which hair-mineral would detect, such as aluminum (a common East Coast problem) or iron, will also interfere with normal mineral absorption and metabolism and could be involved in your problem.

If you’re feeding the wheat bran to encourage normal intestinal evacuation,you might consider psyllium instead. It does a better job and you don’t have to worry about balancing the mineral profile.

If she enjoys mashes, might also consider feeding her Senior Feed and pellets as a mash, too. Add enough water to cover and let soak for 20 minutes or so before feeding. It might improve her feed acceptance.

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