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Build a Better Hoof Part 1--4 Factors in a Good Horse Hoof

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"A horse is only as sound as his feet." Or "No, hoof, no horse." We've all heard these expressions a thousand times, right? Keeping your horse's hooves healthy requires almost constant attention and care, and your horse's health and usefulness can quickly be impacted if you miss the signs of trouble in the hoof. 

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Manna Pro has created a 3-Part Blog Series on "Buiding a Better Hoof," and this is Part 1.  Parts 2 and 3 will appear later this week, so be sure to keep your eye on this blog, our Facebook page, and Twitter profile so that you don't miss them. Here's what we'll cover this week:

Part 1: Contributing Factors to a Healthy Hoof

Part 2: Basic Hoof Care

Part 3: Spotting Hoof Trouble and How to Address It

Factors in a Healthy Hoof

Genetics. Horses suffer from the same genetic challenges we do, and there's not a lot to be done about it other than to recognize and compensate for these genetic misfortunes.  Common genetic issues include misshapen soles, flares, or low-slung heels.  These genetically-induced conditions will be best served by advice and special care from your vet and farrier.

Environment. One of the most important factors in hoof health is moisture balance (more on that in a minute), so as a result, environments that are either extremely wet or completely dry, can be detrimental to the health of the hoof.  While you can't control the weather where you live, you can take steps to make sure your horse's environment is as healthy as possible by making sure the paddock is not muddy for an extended period, that your horse does not stand in manure or urine, or on the flip side that the stall, arena, or paddock are not completely dry at all times. There are numerous ways to compensate for very dry or very web climates. We like some of the suggestions in this article from equisearch (see Tips #8 and 9).

Nutrition. Hooves rely on a nutrient-rich blood supply to create and maintain their hardness.  There are countless points of view and articles on which nutrients are the most important for hoof growth, but in truth everything that goes into the horse's body from energy to minerals and vitamins, to amino acids has an impact on the hoof one way or the other.  Several specific nutrients do seem to be most commonly associated with the hoof: methionine (an amino acid that contributes to growth and fights infection), biotin (for hoof growth and repair), vitamin A (promotes tissue growth) , vitamin E (an anti-oxidant that helps to slow cell aging), and zinc (for growth and hoof strength). Work with your vet and farrier to make sure that your horse is getting the nutrition he needs to maintain his feet, especially if you are seeing any signs of trouble.  While changing your feed or supplementation too rapidly could worsen any problems you are experiencing, gradual changes to your horse's diet could likely lead to the results you are looking for in his hooves within months. Manna Pro recommends Sho-Hoof Hoof Care Supplement, which contains recommended levels of biotin, methionine, chelated zinc, and vitamins A and E.

Moisture Balance.  Extremes on either end of the moisture spectrum can be  disastrous for your horse's hooves.  You may hear people say the hoof should be dry, and others say it should be nice and moist, but neither is true...it's all about the balance.  A hoof that is too dry can become hard, brittle, and easily cracked.  A  hoof that is too wet is often soft, and does not provide the protection the inner, living part of the foot requires to protect it from harmful bacteria, yeast, and 

Corona_Hoof_Dressing_32_oz-1.jpgfungus. If your horse's hooves are dry and need a helping hand due to nutritional or environmental factors, a hoof dressing can help to prevent the hoof from drying out, cracking, or splitting.  Manna Pro offers Corona Hoof Dressing, which is made with Lanolin to preserve moisture balance in the coronet, horny wall, frog, sole, and heels.  It's ideal for everyday use and can be used efficiently in a hoof pack when needed. 

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