Supplements play an important role in taking the best natural care of your equine’s skin, coat, and hoof. Read below to identify the symptoms of poor health in each of these areas:
The skin is the largest organ of a horse’s body. It provides a barrier against the environment, regulates temperature, gives the horse a sense of touch, and maintains the coat. If the skin is compromised, there is less ability to defend against bacterial and fungal infections. Basic sores can develop more easily, as resilience is lost. Sometimes the skin becomes dry and flaky, causing the horse to itch and be uncomfortable. Quality of life and performance can be affected, especially if lesions occur on the legs or under the tack. A horse’s appearance greatly depends on the nature of the hair coat.
A rough coat is a definite sign of poor health and can be due to poor nutrition or factors such as parasites, illness, or Cushing’s disease. A shiny, functional coat properly protects the horse from environmental factors and allows them to look their best. I like to see dapples throughout the seasons, even in horses that are not stalled or blanketed. That is a sign of great health.
The hoof is one of the most important structures of the horse’s body. No hoof, no horse — no joke! Poor hoof quality remains a leading cause of lameness. Shod or unshod, the horse must maintain a certain amount of mass and resilience within the hoof to remain comfortable, absorb concussion, and protect the delicate inner structures of the foot. Much of this depends upon the quality of the hoof wall. It must maintain durability and elasticity as it grows; otherwise, it will become brittle and prone to cracks and infection. In addition, a healthy wall is needed to maintain proper shape and hoof balance and to hold a shoe if needed.
Horses with poor hoof quality become foot sore. They are predisposed to abscesses and other forms of infection. They may throw shoes often, as the wall is not strong enough to hold nails. Some horses grow very little foot for the farrier or trimmer to work with. Nutrition is a key factor to hoof quality and is always part of the solution when there are problems.
Luckily, the nutritional needs of the skin, coat, and hooves are all the same, so the benefits of a single supplement are multiplied. Owners often start their horse on a hoof supplement and are delighted by the added benefits of metallic dapples and a longer mane and tail. Sometimes when treating the skin, we realize that a horse who seemed to have good feet now has better feet or can go without shoes for the first time.
Biotin is one of the most important nutrients for hoof quality and is the key ingredient in supplements made for the hoof, skin, and coat. Biotin is best absorbed in a liquid form. Other ingredients, including zinc, sulfur, amino acids, B complex, and manganese, play an important role. The average hoof grows ¼-3/8 of an inch per month, so it may take 90 days to see the difference in the feet once the horse is provided with a supplement. The benefits for the skin and coat are often observed sooner.