Polo Players Edition

FEB 2019

Polo Players' Edition is the official publication of the U.S. Polo Association. Dedicated to the sport of polo, it features player profiles, game strategy, horse care, playing tips, polo club news and tournament results.

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POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N 57 started feeding the mares in this study after they foaled," says Warren. "We fed the diets for 25 weeks—a long enough period that we would be able to see any changes in the foot. Studies on feet take a long time because the hoof grows slowly. We fed two diets that we were comparing; they both contained the same trace mineral content in terms of quantity of trace minerals provided—zinc, copper, manganese and cobalt, though we didn't think the cobalt would have any impact on the foot itself," she explains. "The two diets had the same quantity of trace mineral, but in one group of mares the diet contained the trace minerals in a complex form, hooked to an amino acid. The other diet was the traditional sulfate, an inorganic form that is most often used in equine diets. We supplied all of the horses' mineral requirements with either of these forms, in the two diets, and followed these out to assess hoof growth in the two groups of mares—particularly growth of the sole," she says. The study measured sole thickness in these mares and the researchers were able to assess this growth with digital radiographs. "I inserted a tiny bb (birdshot) into the outer hoof wall since this would show up on the radiographs and I could assess the hoof wall growth that way (looking at its position) rather than trying to measure growth with a ruler. It was nice to be able to track the growth with radiographs and they also allowed us to look at the depth of sole to see if it was responding," Warren says. "We monitored sole depth throughout the study. The mares went through regular hoof trimming at five-week intervals, and were wearing shoes. We have sandy soil here in Florida and wanted to keep the foot from being worn away through normal wear and tear--and not being able to accurately determine its growth. The mares wore shoes with pads and non-drying packing, to preserve what growth occurred within the sole," she explains. "In doing that (adding shoes and pads), however, you never know what you might influence, but this made it easier to assess actual hoof/sole growth. We saw the normal hoof growth that you'd expect to see, and didn't see much difference or impact of the trace mineral source on the growth of the hoof wall. When it came to the sole, however, there was some difference," she says. "There was a dietary effect, but not greatly significant. We did see a trend, in looking at the trace mineral source, especially those amino acid complexes, in that it did encourage greater gains in sole depth—especially early on," says Warren. "When we looked numerically at how much gain there was, we're only talking about a millimeter, which seems like nothing, but anyone who has ever dealt with a laminitic horse or one with very thin soles knows that every millimeter gain you can get is a bonus," she says. "All of these mares were healthy and none of them had bad feet or particularly thin soles, starting out in the study. I don't know what the application or outcome might be for horses that do have thin soles or bad feet. I wish we could do some studies on that kind of feet--if we could locate enough horses and see how much improvement they might have," Warren says. Adequate zinc and copper, in whatever form, are important for the integrity of the hoof. "Studying this in individuals that have poor hoof quality to begin with would be a good study, if we could do that," she says. A study at the University of Florida measured sole thickness in a group of mares fed trace minerals in one of two forms, with researchers assessing the growth with digital radiographs. After 25 weeks on the diet, hoof growth didn't show much difference or have much impact from the trace mineral source. However, it showed greater gains in sole depth.

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