Roy A. Johnson, Cargill Animal Nutrition
The appearance of a horse's hair coat and hoof wall tells a great deal about the care and management of that horse. The best grooming products in the tack shop cannot produce the same look as a healthy, well groomed coat and solid hoof walls. Grooming products can enhance the appearance of hair and hoof, but are not a substitute for a quality hair coat or a good foot.
Hair and hoof quality starts with nutrition. Both are comprised primarily of protein. Adequate high quality protein is essential to the growth of hair and horn (the outer covering of the hoof is called the horny wall). The sulfur bearing amino acid methionine appears to be required for the production of healthy fibers. The exact methionine requirement for horses is not yet known, but noticeable improvement has been reported when methionine is added to diets which appear to otherwise be adequate. Protein deficiency may result in slow hair growth and shedding, and slow hoof growth with increased splitting and cracking, as well as other symptoms (Equine Clinical Nutrition, Lon D. Lewis, DVM, PhD, 1995, p. 19). Biotin, one of the B vitamins, has also been used to improve hair and hoof quality. Biotin with methionine is more effective than biotin alone. Maintenance levels of biotin appear to be 1-3 mg per head per day. Therapeutic levels are much higher at 15-30 mg per head per day.