Hooves are made of a hard, crusty protein called keratin. You cannot add keratin by painting it on – it is produced by specialized cells within the hooves called keratinocytes, which rely on a nutrient-rich blood supply.
It’s important to realize that hooves are low on your horse’s list of priorities. Available nutrients will first be used for survival – feeding vital organs (heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, glands). If nutrients remain, they can be used to feed hoof tissue. Therefore, unhealthy hooves are an indication that there just aren’t enough nutrients to go around. A forage-based diet, with proper vitamin/mineral supplementation to fill in nutritional gaps, will help ensure overall health, while protecting your horse’s feet.
Looking for more advice on optimal nutrition for your horse? At www.gettyequinenutrition.com horse owners and managers will find a library of helpful articles, an online store, and a calendar of appearances, teleconferences and interviews. Dr. Getty also offers a popular (and free) monthly e-newsletter, “Forage for Thought”; sign up through the website.