Grand Meadows Cares Series: Building Your Horse From The Ground Up

by Nikki Alvin-Smith

The essence of good horsemanship is first class horse care and that means taking note of horse health needs from hoof to nose to tail. Building your horse from the ground up is a good place to start, so let’s consider how we can best navigate the management of horse hoof health and keep our horses as sound and comfortable as possible. To attain his best performance potential your horse depends on the health of his hooves and by following a few simple protocols this goal is straightforward to achieve.

Of course healthy equine hooves don’t happen by magic, despite the constant promotions by feed supplement manufacturers on how their product is the antidote to everything from hoof wall cracks to thrush to white line disease. It is so much better to prevent these incidences of hoof damage or decay happening in the first place, rather than trying to sort them out when they arise. Especially as the horse’s hoof takes so long to grow and recover.

While improvements in hoof damage can be seen in 6 to 8 weeks with the right care and supplementation, a hoof can take 9 to 12 months to totally grow out. So it makes sense to address the needs of the horses’ hoof care throughout the year because seasonal factors apply to their well-being.

Every season brings different challenges to the health of your horse’s hooves. In summer and winter we may work our horses hard on hard ground causing soreness in their feet and wearing the delicate dermal layers of the hoof down with abrasive sand. At other times of year mud mayhem may ensue in paddocks and at gateways where horses often gather, causing their hooves to soften and manure or other detritus to collect in the hoof. Important minerals and vitamins in winter grazing pastures are often compromised by cold temperatures and frosts.

A healthy hoof requires certain nutrients to be available for uptake from the blood supply in order to feed its need to build the right foundation.

Consider that the dermal layer of your horse’s hoof is much like our skin and hair and as such is an organ. This dermal layer is greedy when it comes to nutrient needs so it makes sense to cocktail the right ingredients into a hoof care supplement that work well together to ensure they are in balance and are taken up successfully in the horse’s gut to be bio-available where needed.

Depending on the forage and general nutrition available to a horse, he may not have access to sufficient amounts of these nutrients. Regional mineral or vitamin deficiencies in his environment; grain and feeding imbalances; an individual horse’s gut health and thus ability to actually uptake the necessary nutrients for healthy hoof growth, are all variables to think about when considering adding a hoof care feed supplement to his diet.

Most horses will benefit from the addition of the right supplement year-round to their diet in addition to other routines of good hoof care.

The balancing act of addressing changes in equine hoof health throughout the year obviously involves regular farrier visits to keep the hoof balanced and shoes in good shape.

Schooling a horse on appropriate footing materials for the discipline at hand, hopefully materials with some shock absorption capacity that are not highly abrasive, can help mitigate the risk of hoof damage issues. Application of rubber hoof boots can help protect a horse’s hooves from damage on hard ground but remember that their use 24/7 will cause other issues with moisture control in and on the hoof.

Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you will probably have heard about the benefits of adding a hoof supplement that contains biotin and methionine to aid in horse hoof health. Many studies and field tests demonstrate that horses with hoof problems can show noticeable improvements just below the coronary band where the hoof growth starts in just 6 or so weeks.

When you look for a horse health supplement, be careful that you are not taken in by claims that more is better when it comes to the ingredients in a product. Sadly, a number of popular brands with high biotin claims don’t actually contain what they say, not even close. Many companies use a diluted 1% feed grade, triturated form. As biotin is a water-soluble vitamin feeding an excessive amount will simple be excreted by the horse in its urine so feeding more than necessary is a waste of money.

Just like the farrier care of your horse’s hooves, the supplement needs to be properly balanced. Ideally the supplement will have been tested to ensure the ingredients and their amounts actually match what the label claims. The latter factor is best addressed by looking for supplements that are produced from NASC audited brands.

The former factor, that of ingredients to look for that work together to optimize their usefulness and uptake by the horse, should include the following:

  • Biotin is a B-Vitamin that stimulates keratin production in the hoof’s laminae and coronary band; strengthening and improving the periople (perioplic corium is produces the shiny outer layer of the hoof wall). This outer layer prevents moisture loss from the inner layer of hoof wall and stops moisture ingress into that important inner hoof layer too. As biotin strengthens the hoof wall, sole, frog and white line, it helps minimize weak walls and cracks and protects the exterior hoof wall from moisture damage.
  • MSM & Methionine are sulfur-bearing nutrients that increase the delivery of hoof building nutrients and supports the connective tissues inside the hoof wall. Both MSM and methionine work as vasodilators, expanding blood vessels vital to circulating nutrient rich blood into the small capillaries inside the hoof.
  • Lysine is an essential amino acid closely linked to Methionine and plays an important role in efficient protein synthesis, upon which growth, development and almost every bodily function depends. More than any other amino acid, lysine is usually deficient in most equine diets and important to supplement especially to growing young horses whose requirements are even higher.
  • Copper is needed for bone, cartilage and elastin formation and the utilization of iron. Copper also improves pigmentation and the structure of the hair and hoof.
  • Vitamin B-6 (as Pyridoxine) aids in protein metabolism and the RNA and DNA synthesis necessary for cellular reproduction.

Also look for manufacturers that operate out of an FDA approved facility as together with NASC standards and audit process, this offers an extra protection to help ensure safe, pure, potent and effective products and offers a high-quality control of the entire manufacturing process utilized.

Hoof care is an essential part of horse health management. A timetable for regular trims and re-shoeing if the horse is shod, daily hoof picking and prompt attention to any issues noted is all part of the horse care job.

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 About Grand Meadows: Founded in 1989 by visionary Angela Slater, Grand Meadows is a leading horse health product and equine supplement manufacturer driven by the guiding principle of providing affordable, extremely high-quality science-backed horse products to help ensure horses look and feel their best.

For the past 35 years the company’s mission has been honored and developed further, by President Nick Hartog, who among other accomplishments is one of the founding members and current board member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), an organization that has a profound impact on the safety, transparency, and legitimacy of the animal supplement industry.

Grand Meadow products are widely used and trusted across the entire horse community from Olympic medal winning competitors and successful horse racing trainers to backyard horse owners. Their equine supplements are highly regarded for their excellent quality resourced ingredients and completely accurate labelling and effective formulations. Learn more at

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