Polo Players Edition


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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Page 18 of 67

POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N 17 roles in cell replication, and plays a major role in the whole process of turning protein into hoof horn," she explains. "People always focus on zinc, but copper is important as well. While zinc helps in the process of making the keratin proteins, we also need adequate copper to form them. These two minerals work together in a symbiotic fashion. Even if you have a lot of zinc, if the copper isn't adequate those bridges are not built," she explains. Manganese is another important trace mineral for hoof health. "It comes into play in the final phases of taking live cells and creating the hard outer hoof capsule. It plays a role in some of the lipids produced. These are an important part of that outer layer that makes a healthy and waterproof barrier," says Larson. Selenium is the other cornerstone for hoof health. If this trace mineral is lacking, or if there is too much of it, the hoof is not as strong and healthy. "Since it is needed in such small amounts, some of the problems we run into are horses that get too much selenium," she explains. Soils in many regions are deficient, so many feeds, mineral mixes and supplements have selenium added. If a horse is getting multiple supplements, there can be too much selenium, and excess selenium can be toxic. "If that happens, hoof growth is disrupted. Copper must be able to form the bridges between keratin proteins. A lot of those proteins contain amino acids with sulfur, and if there is too much selenium the extra selenium replaces the sulfur and those bridges cannot form because the sulfur isn't there. You'll see hooves cracking, disrupted hoof growth, along with mane and tail hair breaking off," she says. All of these important trace minerals must be in proper balance or something suffers. Fatty Acids Fat content of diet is also important. "Normal pasture grass and hay contains 2 percent to 3 percent fat. This is essential because lipids help form the outer barrier of the hoof—which protects it from drying out or absorbing too much moisture and becoming too soft," says Duren. "Omega 3 fatty acids really help with hoof, hair and skin quality," says Gill. "They improve ability of cells to absorb nutrients by increasing the permeability of cell membranes—so the horse can utilize nutrients better. It plays a role in collagen formation, and collagen is a part of keratin. So the omega-three fatty acids are something we recommend for horses that need really good quality keratin formation," she says. "Omega 3 fatty acids should not be included in a processed feed because they oxidize when exposed to heat, light and oxygen, and once they oxidize they are of no use. They must be fed in a vegetarian form in the horse, and flax seed oil is the best source. It should be kept cool, in an area with low light, and well-sealed to keep out oxygen. Add it to the feed just prior to feeding so it is always fresh when eaten," explains Gill. Balanced Diet "Hoof supplements often contain other things besides the 3 crucial ingredients—generally some of the vitamins and minerals that are needed in any diet." says Duren. So you may see various fats, calcium, selenium, etc. These are all found in the horse's natural diet (good pasture, grown on soil that is not deficient in important minerals) but if a horse is on a marginal or deficient diet, a hoof problem is one of the things that might show up," he says. The research on this is well established. "We know the nutrient requirements for horses. If horse owners follow dietary guidelines that have been established, and balance the diet, most horses won't have a nutrition issue that affects the feet," he explains. "If a horse has marginal feet you can often help him with a good supplement. When you evaluate the supplement, it should contain biotin, methionine and zinc in the proper amounts. Be a little wary of supplements that throw everything else in there, however, because some of the extra ingredients may interfere with the rest of the diet," Duren says. "Mixing ingredients using a handful of this and a handful of that in creating a ration makes it very difficult to know whether you are supplying complete nutrition," says Gill. "The best thing is to use the right type of forage for the type of horse you are feeding (nutrient needs will differ for a growing young horse, mature Horses with poor hoof quality require frequent trimming and shoeing, being kept out of moisture and balanced diets. Most good hoof supplements contain the basic nutrients that provide building blocks for hoof growth, including biotin, methionine and zinc. (continued on page 56)

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