A 9 year old warmblood gelding competing to advanced medium dressage level keeps losing shoes, especially during winter. The hoof horn is poor quality and crumbles easily. He is fed ad lib hay, with a competition mix, but only half a scoop twice daily, with low calorie chaff because he can get very fizzy and strong. He maintains his weight easily. He is stabled and has around 4 hours turnout daily during summer and around 2 hours during winter. The owner leaves his shoes on for as long as possible to try and avoid too many nail holes in the hoof horn.

Advice
Good hooves rely on a balanced diet, a balanced trim (and shoeing) and plenty of movement (exercise). The horse is not having the full recommended amount of fortified compound feed, so he is not receiving a balanced diet and will be short of some vitamins and minerals. The feed should be changed to a lower starch, fibre-based nut or chaff fed at the same weight (since this is helping him maintain weight) and a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement added to balance shortages in his diet. A hoof supplement that supplies good levels of biotin, copper, zinc and methionine could also be fed at the recommended rate.

Hooves rely on plenty of movement for good health, so plenty of hacking can help hoof health in stabled horses with limited turnout.
Hooves rely on plenty of movement for good health, so plenty of hacking can help hoof health in stabled horses with limited turnout.

Trimming and shoeing should be done regularly and ideally at no more than 5 week intervals. Once the horse starts growing better quality hoof horn, this should be possible. Leaving the hooves longer than 5 weeks means the foot will become out of balance, which will put uneven forces on the horn, stopping it from growing properly. The owner could consider taking either the hind or all the shoes off, especially if the horse is ridden mostly on surfaces. Boots could be used for hacking.

More turnout – if possible – will help by getting the horse moving more, and more hacking once the hooves are stronger, should also help. Having the horse without shoes will allow more turnout in winter if it is limited due to the risk of losing a shoe.

Horses with poor hooves who regularly lose shoes may be better without shoes.
Horses with poor hooves who regularly lose shoes may be better without shoes.

The stable should be kept as clean as possible, since urine in bedding has a degradative effect on the hoof horn, and the bedding should not be deep littered. Topical products can be applied to the hoof to help further.

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About Clare MacLeod

Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr is one of the UK’s few registered independent equine nutritionists who also has expertise in health and fitness. She advises private and commercial clients in all sectors of the horse world and is a hands-on horse owner herself. Clare is passionate about correct nutrition as a foundation for good health, without which peak fitness is not possible. She states “Good nutrition isn’t everything, but there’s nothing without it”.