My hoofcare provider (Courtney Vincent) emailed me to ask about a product she recently encountered:
I trim 2 horses, same place, same feeds, 3-4 year age difference, both QH, both on 5oz AZ Copper Complete. Then [someone] gave her a sample of something called hoof armour or something like that - it is a yeast supplement for feet, very expensive. Have you heard of it? Anyway, she put the one horse on it and did not put the other horse on it.
I went back to trim and the horse on it had zero separation and foot looked good overall, the other one looked horrible, had terrible separation and just overall not good.
I had briefly looked at Kombat Boots some time ago and felt that, given the cost, I would just try HorseTech's Yeast+.
I took a closer look at it this morning, and also some other things I feel might affect hoof quality, especially in an older horse.
If you do a comparison, Kombat Boots claims "100 grams of natural yeast in an 8 oz. serving". This is about 12.5 grams per ounce so I presume there is some kind of filler to make it pelleted. HorseTech's Yeast+ is 28 grams of yeast per ounce or 227 grams in 8 ounces. No filler. Same for basic Yea-Sacc or Diamond V.
Kombat Boots' web site says "other" products "...use yeast cultures, yeast extracts..." implying they don't actually contain yeast. The products I looked at above do contain "Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast..." or "Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast and the media on which it was grown..." - this certainly indicates that these products do contain yeast. I don't know how yeast might be grown except on a culture medium of some type so any yeast might be considered a "culture", even if it is removed from the growth media.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast will act as a probiotic and to help older horses (and younger stressed horses) with B-vitamin support, and is thought to help with utilization of feeds - improved fiber digestion in horses hasn't been scientifically proven but is claimed in other species and in horses anecdotally.
Another thing I'd look at for an older horse (or any horse with hoof problems) is the crude protein (CP) and digestibility (ADF, NDF) of their hay, and if the energy level (DE) is sufficient to keep protein from being diverted to energy use. If the hay is not really good, even extra amino acids (AA's) in the supplement might not be enough. Horse's digestive systems weren't really meant to support horses living this long (how many horses over twenty or twenty-five survive in the wild?) - some that aren't doing well on the "basics" may need a boost. Protein sources that also contain moderate levels of fat can be useful, keeping in mind that high fat levels can worsen or induce insulin resistance (IR).
We also need to look at how the horses are processing their feed. Older horses make less saliva which makes chewing more difficult, compounded by less tooth function with age. Are they really chewing adequately? Dunking or soaking hay may help. Do they need to have their hay chopped (a wood chipper from Home Depot of Lowes) or do they need to be switched to
pelleted hay (this is why my aged black Appendix mare is getting close to 8-9 lbs alfalfa/Timothy pellets + beet pulp daily, along with her AZ Copper Complete supplement and Yeast+). Plain or mixed pellets from Mtn Sunrise, or Lakin or other mixed pellets can make up 100% of the ration, with hay provided for "entertainment". This might really be the first place to look for an older horse - it's worth trying a pelleted hay for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference.
There is a wide variety of feeds that can provide supplemental protein. Some of them - and the amount of CP they provide in 0.25 lbs/4 ounces - are:
Soy meal - 116g
Distillers Grains - 34.8g
Flaxseed - 31.7g
Sunflower seeds - 31.7g
Split peas - 28g (high starch)
Wheat bran - 19.7g (high starch)
Rice bran - 16.8g (high starch)
Oats - 14.4g (high starch)
Soy is a fairly complete protein plus it's cheap - thus its popularity in feeds. Soybean hulls may provide lower lysine content or its lysine availability may depend on what's combined with them. Calf Manna is an example of a high soy protein feed (but also contains corn which can make it unsuitable for an IR horse).
None of the others are "complete" proteins by themselves but, used in combination, can provide a more complete AA profile. Moorman's MoorGlo has rice bran, flaxseed and "SoyShine" lipids plus some alfalfa meal and is very palatable. Nutrena Empower is a similar product. Both are high fat (18-22%) so should not be fed in large quantities.
Whey protein isolate has a complete amino acid profile; most products (human sports/protein drink powders) provide about 24 grams protein in 1 ounce - or 96 grams in 4 oz. This is highly digestible protein (vs crude protein); does not add a lot of calories or sugars and would be one of my top choices for an IR horse or other horses where we want to limit sugar/starch. It's easy to add a scoop or two to feed twice a day. I tend to stick with vanilla - your horse may prefer other flavors. Whey (not the isolate) is a common ingredient in many feeds; it will have higher sugar levels and lower protein levels than the isolate. Make sure the product is pure whey - some protein powders also contain egg or soy protein.
So, going back to Kombat Boots, we have another "magic bullet" - an expensive product that appears to be the missing ingredient in our horses' lives. Can it help? - probably. Would it be so effective if protein, energy, vitamins or minerals were missing from our horses' ration? - probably not. Is it worth the cost? Well, until they show me in true scientific terms - double blind crossover studies comparing Kombat Boots to basic Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, I'll stick with my Yeast+ from HorseTech.