Q. My horses feet do not seem to be very strong and my farrier suggested that I buy a hoof supplement. Is this a good idea?
A. Hoof quality can be a mirror showing us whether the horse’s current diet is optimal and balanced. Hoof supplements can certainly help improve hoof quality if the current diet is not providing enough of the nutrients required to form strong horn. These include zinc, methionine and biotin. However it is important to make sure that the current diet as a whole is optimal and correctly balanced for complete health, not just hoof health. Often we find that the diet being fed to horses with poor hoof quality is lacking in a number of key nutrients not just those relative to hooves. When the diet as a whole is better balanced and any deficiencies removed, including those in zinc and methionine, hoof quality improves. This may or may not be best achieved by feeding an equine hoof supplement and Dr. Thunes can help you to determine the best approach for your horse. Of course some horses have poor hoof genetics and will never have fantastic feet. We believe though that through a well balanced diet every horse can reach his genetic potential whatever that may look like.
Q. I just moved my horse to a new barn and realize that compared to all the horses here my horse’s coat is dull and kind of rough. What can I do to make it slick like all the others?
A. There are a number of factors that can impact coat quality. First it is important to insure that your horse is not suffering from a parasite burden. Even horses that are de-wormed regularly can still be carrying worms and for this reason most veterinarians are recommending the use of fecal testing to determine whether individual horses are carrying a worm burden. You should discuss this with your veterinarian and together you can develop a personalized de-worming protocol for your horse.
Diets that are lacking in quality protein, trace minerals and essential fatty acids can result in dull rough coats. You should insure that your horse is receiving an adequate and balanced supply of trace minerals and essential amino acids in a form that works with the type of forage you are feeding. This may be in the form of a horse feed if your horse also needs additional calories above those provided by the forage or with an equine supplement. For horses that do not have adequate access to fresh good quality pasture an omega-3 fatty acid source such as flax should be provided which will help how the coat feels as well as adding shine.
Q. My horse has recently become rather nervous and spooky, easily unsettled by things in the arena. I’m not sure what is going on but wondered about adding a calming supplement to his diet. Do you think it would help?
A. First of all it is important to make sure that there is nothing physically causing your horse to be on edge for example does your saddle still fit well? Could he possibly have developed ulcers? Once you have ruled out physical discomfort as a reason for his spooky behavior there are a number of products you could try. The most common ingredients in calming supplements are thiamin a B vitamin and magnesium a macro mineral. What works for one horse may not work for another so it may take some trial and error to find something you feel is helping. Performing a dietary analysis sometimes sheds light on the issue as this will indicate whether the diet may be low in magnesium which can help with the decision on which supplements to try first. Other common ingredients in calming supplements include herbs such as valerian. However some calming herbs and products are banned for use in competition so it is important to check with your disciplines organizing body to insure that you won’t be breaking any rules if you compete.