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Biotin and Fat Supplements
WRITTEN BY: RIRDC Equine Research News   [3/95 & 1/96]

Biotin Improves Hoof Wall Quality

Swiss Study Shows That Biotin Improves Hoof Wall Quality
The old adage of "no foot, no horse" is well known to all horse owners and trainers. Problems in hoof wall quality often are difficult to treat and despite various topical hoof dressings being widely used, their effectiveness is unknown. Biotin has been used for at least the last 10 years as a dietary supplement and has been thought to improve the hoof quality of horses and perhaps hoof growth. However, there have been no controlled studies where a sufficiently large number of horses, housed under identical conditions have been examined. A recent study by Swiss research workers (H Josseck,W Zenker and H Geyer Hoof horn abnormalities in Lipizzaner horses and the effect of dietary biotin on macroscopic aspects of hoof horn quality Equine Veterinary Journal Vol. 27, 1995 pg. 175. H Josseck and others, Histological and physical assessment of poor hoof horn quality in Lipizzaner horses and a therapeutic trial with biotin and a placebo Equine Veterinary Journal Vol. 27, 1995 pg. 183) in 152 Lipizzaner horses has shown that biotin has a positive effect on hoof quality. When compared with a control group receiving a placebo (no treatment), horses supplemented with biotin at a daily dose of 20 mg in their feed showed an improvement in hoof quality after a period of 9 months treatment. The improvement continued until 14 months after which there was little further change. However, biotin supplementation did not change the rate of growth of the hoof wall, there being a mean rate of growth of about 7.0±0.3 mm/28 days, or about 1/4 inch per month. With these growth rates, the total time for renewal of the horn on the hoof wall was about 1 year. It was interesting to note that while the gross improvement in the hoof wall quality was seen after 9 months, microscopic improvement in the weight bearing border was not evident until after 19 months.

Fat Is Good!

There is widespread disagreement regarding the usefulness and safety of adding fat to the diet of horses. Some owners hold the belief that adding fat to the diet can cause liver problems and poor performance, whereas others believe that a horse’s performance is improved by feeding fat. A study recently has been completed in Kentucky which aimed to determine whether feeding fat had any long term effects on the health and performance of horses. Two groups of 6, two year old Thoroughbreds in training, received a diet that was the same in all respects except that one group received soybean oil (about 1 cup in the morning and evening feeds). These horses were exercise tested on a treadmill at 2, 4 and 7 months after the initiation of the trial. An exercising horse utilises blood glucose as a source of energy, and as the blood glucose level declines, the horse tires and will eventually fatigue if exercise is continued. In this study the decline in blood glucose levels during exercise was less in the group receiving the fat supplemented diet. This result indicates that feeding fat may help delay the onset of fatigue in horses exercising for long periods of time. There was no evidence of any health problems or poor performance in the group receiving soybean oil over the 7 month period. This study shows that fat can be a useful and safe long term feed additive for performance horses. It is indicated especially for disciplines requiring exercise over long periods of time, for example endurance and three day eventing. (JD Pagan, I Burger and SG Jackson The Long Term Effects Of Feeding Fat To 2-year-old thoroughbreds in training Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement 1995, Vol. 18 pg. 343)

A second study, undertaken in Australia, examined the effect of fat on high intensity exercise performance, such as occurs during racing (MD Eaton, DL Evans, DR Hodgson, WL Bryden and RJ Rose Effect Of A Diet Containing Supplementary Fat On The Capacity For High Intensity ExerciseEquine Veterinary Journal Supplement 1995, Vol. 18 pg. 353) With 12% dietary fat (about one cup of corn oil morning and night), horses that were exercised at intensities similar to racing, were able to run for a longer period (mean of 97.2 seconds) than horses fed a control diet where the run time was 91.7 seconds. This finding is unusual because horses cannot use fat as an energy source during high speed exercise. However, one of the important issues is that racehorses in training often go off their feed and the addition of fat means that horses can eat less amounts for the same number of calories. Feeding of fat appears to be a useful and simple technique for a range of competitive horse activities.

Reprinted from the RIRDC Equine Research News with the permission of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

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