Researchers explore tensile strength and mineral composition of horse hoof trimmings

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A healthy hoof structure is essential to horse welfare and performance, with many owners feeding supplements to aid hoof condition.

Gabriel Rueda-Carrillo and his fellow researchers in Mexico set out to learn more about the mineral profile of horse hooves in a preliminary study.

They wanted to determine whether factors such as body weight, sex, age, and riding disciplines correlated with the hoof mineral profile, and any links with hoof tensile strength.

The researchers, reporting in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, collected 165 samples of equine hoof cuttings from horses from different regions of Mexico. The samples were collected from routine shoeing and trimming.

All horses were free of apparent locomotion problems and were considered clinically healthy.

The samples were analyzed for their mineral composition, and a universal testing machine was used to measure tensile strength.

In all, 63% of the samples were from males, and just over half of all the horses were aged 3 to 5. Most of the horses that were sampled were used for reproduction (36%), while 29% were working animals.

The most abundant mineral found across the samples was potassium, followed by sodium and calcium.

Tensile strength ranged widely, from 1.2 to 45 Newtons per square millimetre. The authors noted previous research showing that the properties of keratine-based materials are strongly influenced by their state of hydration. This, they said, could explain the differences in tensile strength found in the study.

The researchers found some patterns in the mineral composition but, overall, they found no evident connection between sex, ages, breeds, and riding disciplines from the different regions and the mineral composition of the hoof or its tensile strength.

Females had higher amounts of zinc than males. Animals aged under 3 had lower sodium than those aged 3 to 5.

Horses used for reproduction had lower magnesium concentrations than those used for racing and working.

Tensile strength was similar between demographic characteristics, they reported.

Horses from the Santa Gertrudis military ranch had higher levels of calcium, selenium and sodium compared with horses from other sampling locations.

Copper was higher in the racehorse samples, while potassium was higher in horses from the Presidential General Staff.

The study team said their results provide the first profile and established references for mineral profiles from Mexican horses with different characteristics.

“Overall,” they concluded, “there was no evident connection between sex, ages, breeds, and riding disciplines from different regions of Mexico and the mineral composition of the hoof or its tensile strength. Further research should focus on the relation on specific feeding regimes, horse individual characteristic, hoof mineral contents, and tensile strength.”

The study team comprised Rueda-Carrillo, René Rosiles-Martínez, Anaid Ireri Hernández-García and Francisco Trigo-Tavera, all with the National Autonomous University of Mexico; and Einar Vargas-Bello-Pérez, the University of Copenhagen.

Rueda-Carrillo G, Rosiles-Martínez R, Hernández-García AI, Vargas-Bello-Pérez E and Trigo-Tavera FJ (2022) Preliminary Study on the Connection Between the Mineral Profile of Horse Hooves and Tensile Strength Based on Body Weight, Sex , Age, Sampling Location, and Riding Disciplines. Front. Vet. Sci. 8:763935. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.763935

The study, published under a Creative Commons Licensecan be read here.

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