Circulation – Keep it Flowing!
When balancing minerals to build the best hoof, there are a few things to consider. We now understand that hooves are blood pumping devices meant to circulate blood in throughout the hoof and back up to the heart. This is a full circulatory system. A fully functioning nutritional arrangement that operates most effectively when properly fueled. It’s like the gasoline in your car. If you’re racing a Maserati, the fuel requirements are different from your occasionally-used farm truck.
Everything is Connected
Horses extract what is required for their health and fitness from the earth. Plants grown in the earth feed the cellular structure that is encapsulated within and of our horses hides. Mineral deficiency can be a major problem for our domestic horses. Deficiency or imbalance of minerals inhibits the formation of enzymes that support immune function, digestion, glucose metabolism, and overall health. This includes the quality of bone, muscle and hoof tissue. The common deficiencies are magnesium, chromium, copper, zinc and selenium. Be aware that this is not a simple situation where more is better, because something like too much calcium can cause a magnesium deficiency. Your horse is a dynamic living ecosystem. Her body is composed of and conditioned to that which makes up the environment. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
Healthy horses instinctively try to balance, and self regulate. If we observe horses left to roam freely, we may notice that they find plants growing in calcium-rich soils. Then they may travel miles in another direction to munch plants abundant in phosphorus. This is important because it supports balance in their system. Now let’s say, you give your horse a supplement that claims to improve hoof health by providing zinc. If your horse is lacking in stable mineral content, he will use that zinc in a general application throughout the body. This means you may not see results in the hoof tissue specifically. If there is an already existing imbalance, his system may be unable to send the nutrients to specific areas.
Feed Your Horse’s Feet
Changes in animal feed, climate, farming and food-processing methods, soil conditions, water quality and weather patterns have a negative effect on the quality of food available. Increased use of genetic engineering and toxic pesticides can also impact food quality.
Many say that horses eating good quality pasture or hay take in all the nutrient energy needed. This is not so, because many fields producing hay are not only negatively affected by the conditions mentioned above. They may also be overworked to the point that the hay no longer contains natural vitamins, minerals, proteins, good bacteria, and enzymes. These things are necessary for a healthy horse.
Build from the Ground Up
Building health from the foundation, we must work toward overall nutrition and mineral balance. And the interesting thing is, once overall health is achieved, specific things like weak hoof integrity disappear. You haven’t fed him an explicit hoof supplement and yet hoof strength increases and he’s healthier overall.
Of course, we can’t just turn our horses loose and say, “Go look for nutrition”. My horses would have a very long way to travel because we live in a rain forest,and much of what they require from the earth gets washed away. You could try emulating the benefits provided by a natural environment by offering your horse free choice of the four main ingredients that boost sufficient mineral content. These are Salt, Calcium, Phosphorous and Trace Minerals (which include Copper, Chromium, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Molybdenum, Manganese, Selenium and Zinc). You may be astonished to find he will chow down on one thing for a period and then suddenly, not touch it. He then moves on to something else. Self regulation. Then after gobbling up the other thing, he stops. He has achieved a mineral balance and now, if you wanted to focus on a certain area, you could provide a supplement and it would be utilized effectively.
Your Horse is Not a Cow
If this seems cumbersome, there are some very good compounds created by reputable companies that can make it easy to offer your horse free choice minerals. Just watch out for bogus marketing schemes. Don’t fall for things like the salt block. Horses don’t have the same tongues as cows that are able to extract the salt off the lick. Additionally, there are often toxic binding agents in the mix to hold the block together, which further compromise your horse’s system. I’ve even seen claims that certain salt blocks include appropriate minerals. Very questionable. Pelletized feed can fall into this category also. While touting mineral richness when there’s hardly enough to make a difference, they include glues and other binding agents in the manufacturing process that threaten health.
Consider your horse’s activity, age, health, digestive issues and level of fitness. It’s unfair to ask your horse to perform on a level beyond his physiological capability.
As nature intended, horses should be fed regularly to keep their digestive systems functioning. Watch for any mastication problems and make sure the teeth are sound. Avoid moldy, musty, dusty, frozen and sweet feed. Watch his manure for changes in colour, quantity, consistency and odor. Notice his behavior, the quality of his coat, the brightness in his eye and particularly his contentment and level of energy. Make sure horses have a plentiful supply of fresh water available. If your water quality is unsure, you could get it tested for infectious organisms, such as salmonella or toxicity. Consultation with a veterinarian to determine if there is any cause for concern.
Above All – Have Fun!
Ride your horse often, have loads of fun and as always, use Cavallo Hoof Boots to provide safety, protection and shock absorption.
Wishing you many happy trails on healthy hoofs,
Cover Photo by Waqas Arshad