Feeding Biotin for Healthy Hooves and Hair

I've always been really lucky when it came to having horses with good, strong hooves which I put partly down to good genetics, a fantastic farrier as well as feeding good quality food. I rarely spend much on supplements but one ingredient I always kept an eye out for was think is very important is Biotin.

Biotin is a water soluble vitamin which, quite confusingly, goes by many names including as Vitamin B7, Co-Enzyme R, Biopeiderm and Vitamin H (for ''Haar und Haut'', the German for hair and skin). It is necessary for cell growth, metabolism of fats and proteins as well as playing a part in the citric acid cycle, a process which converts food into a usable form of energy that our bodies can use. 

Humans and some other animals cannot make or synthesize biotin within the body and so it must be consumed. Horses can produce a very small amount of biotin in the gut using bacteria and microbes. But like humans, it cannot be stored within the body. Biotin is also not able to be absorbed through the skin so products such as shampoo containing biotin will not help a poor coat or hair, the horse has to be nourished from the inside for it to show on the outside! :)

Biotin also works in conjunction with Vitamin B6 to produce the protein keratin which is a building block for healthy hooves and hair! If you have a horse with weak, cracked or slow growing hooves or patchy hair then it may be worth feeding a supplement or taking a closer look at your feed. It has been proven that feeding biotin will improve hoof growth and strength! 

A shortage or low levels of biotin is rare but can happen. Typical symptoms include dry skin, hair thinning, hair loss and fatigue. Older horses, those in hard work or who are on a diet (just like my fatties!) would be particularly susceptible to having low levels of biotin and would benefit from a supplement. There seems to be no adverse effects from feeding too high a dose of biotin so, therefore, no risk of overdosing! :)

Biotin exists in food as Biocytin, a protein bound form of biotin. This must be broken down before it can be absorbed by the body. It is in this step that a part of the original amount of biotin can become un-usable. The biotin in maize and dried yeast is readily available while other grains have about 20 - 40% bioavailability of biotin (i.e. only 20 - 40% of it is actually able to be absorbed).

Maize, soya bean meal, and dried yeast have the highest percentage of usable biotin. These are also the 3 products most commonly found in horse feed. Carrots have a high level of biotin too ... another reason to give them to your pony after a good training session! Strawberries and raspberries are another great source of biotin ... if you can get your horse to eat them! 

The downside to feeding biotin rich food and biotin supplements is that you won't see the results of feeding it until new hoof and hair has grown (which could take 6 -9 months for hooves!) so it is a slow and time consuming process. But if you have a horse with sparse hair, weak or cracked hooves then surely it's worth a shot? It's amazing how something so small can cause a whole system to go out of sync and cause us so many problems...as well as costing a bomb trying to figure out what the problem is! Ahhh horses ...

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