Feeding Biotin for Healthy Hooves and Hair

I've always been lucky to have horses with good, strong hooves which I put partly down to good genetics, a fantastic farrier as well as feeding really good quality food. I rarely, if ever, have had to buy additional supplements for their hooves despite them all being barefoot and doing a 7km hack twice a week! One ingredient, however, I always look out for on my feed bags 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. 

Horses can produce a very small amount of biotin in their gut using bacteria and microbes. But, like humans, biotin 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 improve 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 keratin, a protein which is a building block for healthy hooves and hair! If you have a horse with weak, cracked, 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 biotin deficiency is rare but it can happen. Symptoms include dry skin, hair thinning, hair loss and fatigue. Older horses, those in hard work or those on restricted diets would be susceptible to having low levels of biotin and may benefit from a supplement. There are no adverse side effects from feeding too high a dose of biotin so, therefore, no risk of overdose.

Biotin exists in food as Biocytin, a protein bound form of biotin. This needs to be broken down by the body before it can be absorbed. It is in this step that some of the original biotin can become unusable. The biotin in maize and dried yeast is almost completely absorbed while in other grains only 20-40% of the biotin can 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 horse after a good training session! Strawberries and raspberries are another great source of biotin.

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 trying? 

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