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No Hoof, No Horse

Written by: Jenna Tranter

Published on: 05/24/2022

We’ve all heard the age old saying- “No Hoof, No Horse”, and it is without a doubt true. Without a structurally sound and maintained hoof our horses cannot stay sound, let alone thrive. As owners it is of utmost importance to ensure our horses hoofs are properly cared for to ensure that our equine companion is set up for success. With a plethora of products ranging from feed through supplements to ‘paint on’ dressings we want to delve a little deeper into the equine hoof, specifically how the equine hoof regulates moisture.

Cracks, Chips and Splits?

As you're working your way through your horse's grooming routine you notice that your horse has some cracking and chipping on their hooves. What causes these changes to the equine foot? What can be done to prevent it?

There are two predominant types of cracks in the equine foot- grass cracks and sand cracks. Grass cracks originate from the bottom of the horses hoofs and extend vertically upwards. Sand cracks originate at the coronary band and extend vertically downwards. Incomplete cracks are cracks that do not run vertically across the entire length of the hoof. Complete cracks will run vertically across the entire hoof. Incomplete grass cracks very seldomly cause lameness whereas complete cracks, and sand cracks involving the coronary band often do. Grass cracks are usually caused by dry/brittle feet, long hoof walls, and unbalanced hooves. Sand cracks are usually caused by a traumatic injury to the coronary band or as a result of abnormal stress placed on the coronary band by unbalanced feet, overlong hoof walls, and concussive stress.

Environmental stressors can also play a role in cracking, chipping, splitting and overall hoof health. If your horse is being kept in a particularly wet environment this can affect overall hoof health and promote issues such as thrush. If your horse is in a particularly dry, hot and arid environment they may need ‘help’ in the form of a supplement or topical dressing to help their hooves achieve proper moisture levels. Riding your horse on hard, uneven or rocky ground can also cause cracking, chipping and general damage (this could be an example of sand cracks from concussive stress). These are just a few of the elements you should take into consideration when evaluating your horses feet and any cracking you may see.

Prevent Prevent Prevent!

The first and most important step in preventing cracking and keeping your horses hoof healthy is ensuring your horse's hoof is properly balanced and receiving regular farrier care. Now our intention is not to wade into the ‘barefoot vs. shod’ debate as it's a hotly contested subject and the purpose here is to simply talk about hooves as a whole. When looking at the equine hoof for balance you will want to look first at the dorsal/palmer angle (The angle of the dorsal hoof wall relative to the heel). You want to see a parallel relationship between the dorsal and palmer hoof wall. You will also want to examine the medial (inside) /lateral (outside) relationship from the front of the horse. There should be the same amount of hoof on the inside as outside from the midline, as well as the same angle on both sides. Your horse should also have solar symmetry- this basically means that from the bottom of the hoof or sole you should be able to divide the hoof into four equal quadrants. Finally you will want to check the medial/lateral heel length relationship. Each side of the heel should be the same length from the hairline to the bottom of the hoof. If you are not trimming your horse yourself you should ensure you have a qualified farrier as part of your horses health care team who can ensure your horse’s hoof is properly balanced. Most horses do very well on a 6-8 week trimming or reseting schedule however for horses with mechanical issues or ongoing foot issues that time frame may need to be adjusted as appropriate.

Camelina Oil for Equine

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
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Camelina Oil for Equine

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Balanced but still cracking?

If your horse's hoof is definitely properly balanced but you are still experiencing dry/brittle hooves and cracking from environmental factors your horse may need some extra TLC for their toes. While we cannot ever completely eliminate environmental factors, especially with performance horses who travel to different venues where they routinely experience different quality and types of footing, we can help reduce the impact. You will want to ensure that you are using a good topical dressing- there are many out there on the market but I personally really like Hoof Doctor, Hoof Armor, and Argent Hoof. I keep all three in my toolbox and use them as needed for my herd. In addition to topical dressings you should also ensure your horse is receiving the proper nutrition required to grow quality hoof. While we often use feed through supplements containing biotin, horse owners also need to ensure they are supplying a good quality omega source for their horse.

What the heck is the periople layer!?!?

If you feel under your horse’s coronary band you will notice a softer area. That softer area under the coronary band is your horse’s new hoof wall forming and the periople layer covers that soft area and protects it while it hardens. It also creates a barrier protecting the hoof from moisture loss- A normal healthy hoof will have a shine to it due to the presence of fats in the periople layer. Supplementing fats, especially Omega 3/6 fatty acids, will help support the fatty composition of the horse’s hoof, specifically aiding the periople, in turn keeping environmental moisture out, and internal moisture in.

Smart Earth Camelina oil is a wonderful option for supplementing your horse with a quality omega 3/6 fat source for their feet. It’s easy to feed and highly palatable and in conjunction with proper farrier care can help stop cracks before they start.

Meet Jenna Tranter

Jenna Tranter is Smart Earth Camelina Corp's equine nutritionist. She is the owner and operator of Four Corners Equestrian and has been involved in the industry for over 20 years.

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About the Author

Jenna is a lifelong equestrian and lover of all animals big and small. She has both studied and worked within the industry for 20+ years in both the feed sector as well as being a coach and hunter/jumper facility owner with time spent in the UK and Canada. She holds a number of equine certifications from universities in both countries. She also has completed numerous courses in equine body work, including equi-bow, but is not a practitioner at this time due to there just not being enough time in the day! Jenna lives on her farm in Ontario, Canada with her husband, 19 horses, 2 goats, a flock of ducks, a flock of chickens, her barn cats and her 3 loyal dogs, Bosco, Evaa & Eeyore.