Skin, Coat, and Hoof Maintenance

Skin, Coat, and Hoof Maintenance

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:

Skin.

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. 

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.

Hoof.

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.

Muscle Support For Horses In Training

Muscle Support For Horses In Training

Horses in all types of training programs undergo a significant amount of physical stress, as they are asked to deal with tack, riders, and new activities on a daily basis. This is not necessarily a negative — it ultimately leads to a stronger, more capable horse. Part of training success is dependent on keeping the individual horse comfortable, giving them what they need to meet physical challenges, and helping them  recover from training sessions. 

What Should I Be Proactive About? 

All the body systems must be considered for horses in training. For example, some are predisposed to ulcers, which must be addressed while the horse is at work. Others may have joint issues that need to be maintained while in training. However, across the board, all horses in training are taxing their muscles to some degree as they are asked to progress through the levels of their discipline. 

Training involves repetitive movements that require the horses to use muscles differently than they do in daily life. They are subject to the possibility of intermittent or chronic soreness. They may experience fatigue. Tension can develop in some cases. Yet, they are expected to go to work most days and progress mentally and physically. It makes sense to support the muscular system during these times in order to make the most of the effort and expense put into the horse and to optimize the outcome. 

What Problems Should I Look Out For? 

Signs of muscle dysfunction include poor overall performance, lack of progress/being behind in training, lack of fitness and stamina, tightness or soreness, lack of suppleness, resenting the saddle or rider, behavior issues, excessive sweating, tie up, inability to hold a chiropractic adjustment and respond to body work, spooking, intermittent/elusive lameness issues, poor range of motion, lack of power/inability to engage, decreased rideability, and poor topline/lack of ability to build visible muscle.

What Kind of Nutrients Do They Need?

Important nutrients to consider for muscle support include the antioxidants that protect cells from damage secondary to the stress of exercise. These include vitamins E and C, as well as selenium. This helps normal muscle deal with the abnormal stress of athletic activity in a timely and healthy manner so the horse’s body can recover and be ready for the next work session. 

Amino acids are also important, as they are essential for muscle formation, and specific ones are needed to allow muscle to build. Horses in training need to build new muscle quickly to keep up with demands and fully benefit from exercises. Magnesium helps muscle relaxation, and a relaxed muscle is a functional and fast muscle. Horses that feel physically relaxed tend to perform better mentally. B vitamins are helpful for energy metabolism — nicotinic acid is a specific B vitamin that is particularly helpful for muscular energy. Carnitin can aid metabolism and optimize muscular activity. 

Prevent problems and address training issues to give your horse the best chance for success.

Nutrition for the Muscles: Feeding for Strength

Nutrition for the Muscles: Feeding for Strength

By Sara Perkins, DVM

When we ride our horses we ask a lot of their muscles in so many ways…we expect them to be strong, quick, supple, flexible, agile, and adjustable…all of this with the weight of a rider and the pressure of a saddle on their back. We expect the horse to progress at a certain rate to stay on schedule with training and competition within reason. Even the most conservative programs undoubtedly ask the horse to use new muscles and go into their edge on given days. Therefore, it makes sense that horses who are ridden could benefit from extra nutritional support for the muscles. The challenge of riding inevitably causes some degree of inflammation in the muscles. Nutrients can moderate this inflammation.  Regular training should cause the muscles to build and strengthen. Nutrients can help this process. Targeted nutrition can help a riding horse balance this cycle of muscle stress and rebuild by aiding a quick recovery from exercise. If the cycle of recovery is out of balance the horse may exhibit signs such as soreness, tension, lack of impulsion, poor musculature, lack of energy, stiffness, and unwillingness. Myofortil has been an excellent aid for riding horses in our practice. It contains Vitamin E and Selenium to aid muscle cellular recovery from stress. It contains magnesium to encourage muscle relaxation. A relaxed muscle is a fast and functional muscle. There are B vitamins to support the metabolic processes. There are also amino acids which provide building blocks for new muscle. We have seen it create supple, strong horses with improved rideability who can better succeed at their intended use. Stay tuned for Myofortil Ultra, soon to come to the US…for the athlete in intense training.

Bioavailability – The Most Important Factor in Choosing a Supplement

Bioavailability – The Most Important Factor in Choosing a Supplement

By Sara Perkins, DVM

When choosing a supplement most of us study the label to check out the ingredients. Whether we are simply trying to provide daily requirements or attempting to improve a health issue, we look to see that the nutrients of interest are there and we might also be interested in the amounts. Unfortunately, the most important factor is not indicated on the label.

BIOAVAILABILITY is what it is all about. If an ingredient is listed on a label, it does not guarantee that it will be absorbed by the horse through the gut and go into the bloodstream to have an effect on the body. Consumers are largely on their own when it comes to sorting this out and deciding which products to trust. Frankly, it is a fairly complicated subject as many factors can determine how well a nutrient in a supplement is absorbed. To name a few:

• The exact chemical form of the ingredient (nutrients often come in various forms, some more easily absorbed than others)
• Ingredient quality
• Balance of ingredients (nutrients interact and can block or encourage the absorption of other nutrients, the recipe must account for these factors)
• Method of processing (some nutrients can be damaged, chemically altered, or lost when processing involves things like heat, pressing, or oxygen exposure)
• Final form of product (for example, some nutrients are better provided in a liquid form than a solid)
• Enhancers (some products contain yeast which assists the digestion of some nutrients)
• Absorption capacity of each nutrient (some are innately more easily taken in by horses than others)
• pH

Therefore, we must carefully determine how much of what is on the label actually gets to our horses. It is not spelled out for us. It is a matter of quality, care, integrity, and scientific development.

Way Station Wellness & Equina: Traditional Veterinary Medicine Meets European Nutrition

Way Station Wellness & Equina: Traditional Veterinary Medicine Meets European Nutrition

A note from one of our founders and licensed veterinarian, Sara:

I didn’t used to think the equine body and mind needed supplementation beyond proper feed.  We have always fed high quality timothy and alfalfa hay, and strongly recommended it to our clients.  My horses have always grazed on lush pasture; they looked good and performed well.  I had used a few supplements throughout the years without much success, which reinforced these ideas.  I thought things were optimal.  One day a client offered me a bucket of Equina’s Meganutril complete nutritional supplement to try on my Lusitano stallion.  In an attempt to keep an open mind, I fed it to him for 3 days.  He wasn’t impressed, and neither was I.  I didn’t even put forth the effort to get him to eat it.

Dr. Sara Perkins and her Lusitano Stallion, Neroc

A few years later, that client became a friend and a mentor in horsemanship as well as some of the healing arts.

Out of respect for her, I tried Meganutril again, this time feeding it to my herd of 10 used for polo, dressage, and breeding.  At the same time, I began feeding it to horses we were rehabilitating with various injuries and illnesses.  My stallion even decided to eat it.  My friend was willing to spend time teaching me what she knew of Chinese medicine and various forms of energy healing as well as classical horsemanship and methods of equine rehabilitation she had learned in Europe and Asia.  Naturally, I questioned some of her methods and we would challenge each other daily, but I always appreciated her time.  When she insisted that I feed the Equina products, I did it mainly because I did not want to let her down after all she had done for me.  I was diligent in giving the Meganutril to all my horses and all possible patients.  Soon, we had access to some of the specialized products and I incorporated those as well.  I studied the source in Germany well enough to know the quality was excellent and the ingredients were sensible, however, I had no particular expectations.

The results were actually pretty significant.

Horses that were normally shiny on springtime grass had dimensional metallic dapples.  Horses with nice toplines now had fuller toplines with increased suppleness to their muscles.  Over the course of a year, poor hoof quality that I had been battling in a few cases became a thing of the past.  Clinicians and clients were starting to ask me what I feed my horses.  Vitality, appetite, focus, rideability, soundness, digestion in a severe post-op colic case, chronic skin conditions healed—the list and details go on.

As a veterinarian who practices traditional medicine, I am a scientist and a bit of a skeptic by nature.  I had to admit, my friend was right.  

Sadly, my brilliant friend passed not long ago at a very young age.  When her family asked if I would like to take part in what she had done to continue importation of the Equina products into the US the answer was a definite YES.  She taught me to look deeper and further refine my image of what each horse can be.  Consequently, these supplements have become a requirement for my personal horses, rehabilitation cases, and many of my clients’ horses.  I think my friend is satisfied to know that her efforts with one stubborn vet have already helped a fair number of horses achieve better health!

And, by the way, it does make sense on a very basic scientific level that horses should benefit from a good supplement.  High quality forage will provide a large component of the daily requirements of an average horse under minimal stress.  However, there are definite tendencies that need to be corrected. Some have to do with deficiency or even excess.  Many have to do with the balance of nutrients.  Most forages do not have ideal levels or ratios of the important vitamins, minerals, or trace elements.  Plant and soil content vary.  Some nutritional value is lost in hay as it is stored.  Horses used for athletic events or breeding have increased nutrient requirements, so do those with physical challenges such as illness, stress, injury, or growth.  There are many factors to consider when deciding what is best for our horses. It is fascinating to consider each nutrient and its function and inspiring to think of how much we can help the horses by tapping into a source of optimal support.

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