grain and hoof health? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 10-28-2010, 04:39 PM Thread Starter
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grain and hoof health?

I keep reading that in order to maintain optimal health of a horses hooves, they should eat a grain free diet? Why is this? And why, then, do so many people use supplements for their horses hooves?
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post #2 of 8 Old 10-28-2010, 04:51 PM
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It's a bit of a complicated answer!

The horses digestive system is designed to be ingesting large amounts of poor quality forage continuously. It's good at leaching out every bit of nutrients from that forage. It is also designed to be moving constantly which simultaneously wears down the feet and promotes circulation to promote new growth.

Domesticated horses are often on improved pasture, which is already much richer, plus they are fed diets high in grain and sweet things like molasses.

Grain is super high in starch and sugars - Which horses are not designed to digest effectively.

Their body doesn't know what to do with the excess sugar - So it turns into fat, and can trigger laminitis, as we know.

What most people don't know, is that even the sugar spike following a large grain meal is enough to trigger sub-clinical laminitis. Most domesticated horses have had/do have sub-clinical laminitis but never come up lame. This contributes to poor feet - Because the laminae are weakened, the feet chip, crack...

A grain diet is equivalent to junk food for horses. A person on a poor diet has weak nails and dry hair - A horse on a poor diet has brittle hooves.

So bringing them back to a more natural diet by feeding mainly forage and supplementing with low sugar and low starch feeds puts the digestive system back in balance which allows for a healthy body = healthy hooves.

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post #3 of 8 Old 10-28-2010, 05:11 PM
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Excellent post W_S.

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog:
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post #4 of 8 Old 10-28-2010, 05:29 PM Thread Starter
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That makes alot of sense! My horse is pasture kept. I board him and he is at the very bottom of the pecking order--this means that he is the last to get food. His weight is currently better since I started giving him some grain. He gets about 1/2 scoop--enough for him to eat in about 5 minutes. I dont have a huge amount of time to spend out at the farm with him some days, and it is my responsibility to give him anything extra--the BO provides the hay, water, and pasture, and shelter. What are some better alternitives? I usually take him out of the pasture to the barn,and do his feet, a quick brush, and some grain--takes about a half hour. This routine has given me a horse that comes running when he sees me--could I use the grain as more of a treat? his hooves are in pretty good condition (there are a few noticable ridges) but they are strong, he is kept barefoot, and I will be learning how to do them myself--
I have only had him for about two months now, but his previous owner supplemented him with grain, especailly in the winter for extra calories as the temperture averages -20 degrees Celcius in the winter.
What about hay cubes as a treat, and maybe a biotin supplement mixed in a handful or two of grain to support healthy hoof growth?
I am most definately rambling now!!! SORRY!
Can someone comment on the angle of Blitzes hooves? This is one thing that confuses me--sorry about the crummy pics. The first one is when I wnet to pick him up from his previous owner--they were WAY too long/the oes look horrible, and overdue for a trim--this results in a low angle heel? The second picture is after a trim.
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post #5 of 8 Old 10-28-2010, 05:35 PM
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What are some better alternitives?
There are heaps of alternatives to traditionally fed grains, and most are just as easy and about the same cost wise.

I personally use Speedi-Beet as a base for everything, it is just so handy. Low in starch and sugar, classed as a forage but a similar energy content to oats, it helps buffer the gut when feeding more concentrated feeds, soakable so they can't sift out anything yucky...

More options (All lower in starch/sugars than grains):

Soybean meal/hulls
Copra meal
Rice meal

Basically the idea is to provide energy through fats, which horses are quite effective at utilising, as opposed to sugar/starch, which they aren't well equipped to handle.

Hay cubes are also a fantastic product.

A balanced diet it the best way to healthy hooves - Supplements only work if the horse is deficient in the first place - And most horses get sufficient biotin through grazing. I would look more toward correctly balancing her diet overall, and then hoof health would take care of itself.

I can highly reccomend - It is a program that helps you balance your horses diet when you key in their details, living arrangements, and then the feeds you use. Fantastic program.

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post #6 of 8 Old 10-28-2010, 05:37 PM
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A good alternative to grain would be some alfalfa cubes/pellets. I personally prefer alfalfa to other forages because it has more protein but there are also some grass pellets out there like Timothy that are good too. Even a nice well balanced complete feed would be a good alternative to grain.

As for the pictures, those aren't the best angles to judge angles from and I am no hoof expert but the angles looked okay in the first pics, just the entire hoof was way too long. It is nearly impossible to tell in the second pic.

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog:
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post #7 of 8 Old 10-28-2010, 06:38 PM
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Timothy pellets can be pretty pricey - alfalfa is higher in protein and less expensive. Our farrier commented Saturday when he was out that our horses hooves were much improved over the course of the year we've had them. They were all fed sweet feed before we got them. We feed alfalfa and beet pulp, along with Omega Horseshine (which is ground flax, psyllium (as in SandClear) and other micronutrients. We also use Red Cel because we had such a horrid problem with horse flies this summer, until we figured out how to get rid of them!

We do have one colt that can't have alfalfa, so he makes do with beet pulp and oats, but gets the same suppliments as everyone else. We will probably bite the bullet and pick up some timothy pellets just to help suppliment the hay we feed. Of all the grains, oats are probably the best of a bad lot.

You could give your guy a full scoop of alfalfa pellets - horses love them and he'll come running for them just as quick as he will grain.

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post #8 of 8 Old 10-28-2010, 11:27 PM
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I would give him alfalfa pellets (1-2 scoops, 3qt feed scoop), flax meal (1/2 to 2 cups), and a good all around supplement like GrandVite or something similar (high in values, compare the contents). You want your base diet comeplete, which it will be with this diet, plus you'll have your low-starch, no sugar diet for healthy feet.

To keep the chipping down, you should have him trimmed every 4 weeks. Have your farrier really round/roll the edges and scopp out the quarters some. Have him back up the toes a bit too, to help prevent chipping there. Clean out his hooves as much as possible, and use thrush treatment/prevention as needed. If you're there daily, use plain apple cider vinegar on his feet daily, to preven thrush. Just put some in a squirt bottle and spray liberally.

If you want to feed something to help speed up hoof growth, I have had great luck with Source Focus HF and Next Level Hoof Liquid. The Source product seems to help with horses that are prone to thrush. You'll see faster and harder (also shinier) hoof growth at the top of his hoof after 30-45 days. It can take 8-10 months for a horse to grow a whole new foot, so you have to be patient.

Good luck!
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