Hoof supplements are big business. It only takes a cursory glance around any tack shop or feed store to realize that they’re everywhere. They’ve got catchy names and labels, and lists of ingredients as long as your arm, all purported to help your horse grow tougher, shinier, more durable hooves.

Poor hoof quality is a complaint common to the owners of many types of sport horses, with Thoroughbreds likely being the worst offenders. And we all know the adage, "no hoof, no horse." So, it’s natural that we look to nutrition to address our horse’s pedal infirmities. But what do we really know about how nutrients translate into hoof horn?

Some of the feed ingredients promoted as hoof strengtheners do, in fact, have some dependable research behind them; others are based only on folklore or a manufacturer’s assertions. Let’s have a look at where your money is best spent.

Nourishing The Hooves

First, remember that any inadequate diet–whether it’s deficient in protein, energy, vitamins, or minerals–will eventually make itself felt throughout the horse’s body. He’ll have a dull coat, poor muscle tone, no energy, and the growth of his hooves will be slower than normal, resulting in splitting, cracking, and difficulty holding a shoe. Take such an undernourished horse and provide him with a complete and balanced diet, and all of those conditions gradually will correct themselves. He’ll grow better hoof horn, and produce it faster, because his body is being supplied with the raw materials he needs to do so.

Sometimes, though, horses grow poor