Nutrition is the Foundation of a Healthy Hoof

As a farrier for over 40 years, I have seen the hooves of horses in all kinds of conditions. Some good, many not.

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July 9, 2022

This is a Thoroughbreds’ hooves with Laminitic Inflammation and fever rings making them very distorted. (Phil Thommen)

By Philip Thommen

We have all heard the expression, you are what you eat. Similarly, tell me how you spend your money, and I will know your priorities. As a farrier for over 40 years, I have seen the hooves of horses in all kinds of conditions. Some good, many not. It is the old what goes in, is what comes out or garbage in, garbage out. Unfortunately, this is what has happened to the horse feed industry. The quality of the feed plays a critical factor in the condition and issues that we have today with horses’ feet. 

A personal experience that best illustrates my point happened several years ago at a large equestrian barn where I provided farrier services. I was surprised when a horse that I had shod just two weeks prior walked by and I noticed the blown-out feet (Laminitic looking). I stopped what I was doing and asked the owner, what happened to your horse’s feet? She remarked that she hadn’t really paid attention but agreed it does look like she needs to be re-shod. I asked if anything had recently changed to cause such distortion to the hooves. The owner initially said no, but later came back and said, about a month ago the farm had changed their feed program. 

If we are going to effectively address the issue of horse health, nutrition is at the root of the issue. It is the one thing they all have in common. Since the nineties we have had a consolidation of feed mills in the industry, producing many feeds with the same ingredients under many different labels. That is another story. But it is just one variable of daily or monthly products that the horse’s body is subjected to. I believe simple is best – quality grain minus all the negative by-products that provide the filler.