As a veterinarian AND a certified farrier, Dr. Vernon Dryden is one of the most sought after hoof experts in the country. We caught up with Dr. Dryden to discuss how horse owners can improve the quality of their horses' feet, without having to make drastic changes in treatment.
Equithrive: When is the right time to start a horse on a hoof supplement?
Dr. Dryden: This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get. I think it depends on the environment the horse is in, what they’re doing, what their job is, and what their issues are as far as hoof condition goes. I think a good hoof supplement and daily vitamin supplement is excellent for any horse, especially the horses in need that don’t have great quality feet; that have shelly feet cracks that don’t produce a good horn. I think those cases are well suited for hoof supplementation.
As a veterinarian, what are the key ingredients you look for in a hoof supplement?
It’s very important to make sure the quality of the supplement is there. The first things I look for when I look at the ingredients, I want to make sure it’s got biotin, methionine, trace minerals and amino acids in it. Those are the most important building blocks to developing a good hoof and hair coat, and it’s all interconnected, so those things are essential.
Selenium and Vitamin E are very important in the sulfur bonds of the hoof and the development of the hoof. If those aren’t there then the hoof doesn’t form as well as it should. In some cases you do see a selenium deficiency, and in those cases a supplement that has it is very advantageous to the development of the hair, coat and hoof.
I think chelated trace minerals are definitely more bioavailable to the horse. I think it makes a difference when you’re giving a horse something they’re going to utilize in the biochemistry and how the horse processes it, versus just going through the system and wasting money. So, if you utilize a product with better bioavailability you’re going to be winning in the long run.
Explain how hoof health can impact other areas, such as the joints.
Joint issues and hoof issues can be very similar in that they’re both connective tissue. And if you don’t have proper nutrients for those connective tissues to develop and maintain, then you’re going to have problems.
I think a large part of it is nutritionally based, for sure. The other part of it is genetics. It’s just like with anything, you have good genetics, you have poor genetics. In some cases, the horse has poor genetic makeup when it comes to feet, and they need some help. And I think in those cases hoof supplementation is key.
I would also associate hoof structure and balance with joint health, as well. The base in which the horse is standing, if that’s not proper and secure, then you’re going to tweak the joints and you’re not going to have a happy, healthy joint. The foot is the foundation of the horse, and if it’s not properly balanced then you’re going to have some leverage on the joints that you don’t necessarily want.
Let’s say I’ve just started giving my horse a hoof supplement with all the key ingredients you listed. When can I expect to see improvement and what exactly should I be looking for?
It’s going to take at least a month to see before you can see an improvement in the hoof quality.
A hoof grows from the coronary band, down. When we look at a hoof and want to judge how a hoof supplement is doing, the soonest you’ll see improvement is about a month out. So it takes a while before you will see a significant change in the hoof capsule. Now, by improving some of the nutrients that are going into the animal, you’ll have a nice sheen to the hoof capsule, the periople will improve, but otherwise on the hoof structure you might not see noticeable improvement for months.
All horse owners know the old school of thought that white hooves are more brittle than dark hooves. Is there any actual truth to that?
I have to say, I’ve seen dark hooves that have been just as poor in quality as white hooves, so I can’t say for sure. Generally, most people will say white hooves are more brittle than black hooves, but I can’t say definitively that is the case.
Vernon Dryden, DVM, CJF is the President of Bur Oak Veterinary & Podiatry Services based in Lexington, KY and Wellington, FL. An Arizona native, Dr. Dryden is a graduate of Oklahoma State Farrier School, and Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.