Supplementary levels of vitamins and minerals aim to improve the nutritional value of feeds by supplementing those elements which are likely to be absent or low in commonly used ingredients.
Stabled horses, horses that are turned out, pregnant or growing are all highly susceptible to nutrient deficiencies (vitamins, minerals and trace elements)as well, depending on pasture and feed quality, season, and environment. In addition, pleasure horses are not always fed the highly complex high energy diets fed to racing thoroughbreds and competition horses and they typically rely more on available pastures, hays and more basic diets where nutrient deficiencies affecting growth, development and performance can have devastating consequences.
Horses in training and competition require supplementation simply to meet the increased nutritional demands imposed by strenuous work, plus the increased need for tissue repair and maintenance. If any essential nutrient is not available at the time it is required, all tissue repair, growth, energy production and performance requiring that nutrient ceases until the essential nutrient is obtained. In the case of performance nutrition, prevention is better than cure.
Essential nutrients required on a daily basis
Vitamin A is essential for all growth processes, including normal vision, bone remodelling in growing horses, tendon strength, mucous membrane integrity. Vitamin A is not manufactured by the horse, it must come from the diet.
Vitamin D deficiency can occur in horses stabled for long periods with little or no natural sunlight. A deficiency depresses calcium and phosphorus uptake, leading to stiffness, lameness, weak bones and swollen joints.
Vitamin E is a potent natural antioxidant which preserves cell membranes and protects cells from free radical damage during work. It is also essential to optimum fertility and breeding performance in mares and stallions. It helps prevent and treat Tying Up.
Vitamin B1 is critically involved in carbohydrate metabolism to produce energy. Heavy sweating and work increase the demands for Vitamin B1. Required on a daily basis, B1 is essential for normal muscle and nerve function. B1 also helps to maintain appetite.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is also critical for energy production from carbohydrates, growth, and efficient feed utilisation. Vitamin B2 is required on a daily basis.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), in association with niacin, is critical for energy production and blood cell formation. Vitamin B6 is required on a daily basis, and is often deficient in feeds. B6 is required for normal nerve function.
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) is involved in protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, as well as working in conjunction with folic acid to maintain red blood cell production. Vitamin B12 contains the essential mineral cobalt.
Niacin is another water soluble B group vitamin required on a daily basis and used in metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and amino acids, as well as red blood cell formation.
Copper is essential for bone development, haemoglobin formation in red blood cells, joint cartilage maintenance, connective tissue repair and the uptake and utilisation of iron.
Zinc is a mineral essential for normal bone, cartilage and hoof development, wound healing, skin health and function.
Iodine can be deficient in late pregnant mares, and foals are either born dead or too weak to stand and suckle. Is a component of thyroid hormones which regulate a wide variety of metabolic processes.
Cobalt is critical for the formation of the oxygen carrying component of red blood cells (haemoglobin), and is an essential component of Vitamin B12. Deficiency results in anemia.
Sodium & Chloride are essential in maintaining normal fluid balance through their action as major electrolytes. They prevent dehydration, and are essential to maintain normal muscle contraction, nerve function and digestion of nutrients. Sodium improves the palatability of feeds and replaces salt lost in sweat.
Potassium is involved in many essential metabolic processes, including assisting the maintenance of fluid balance, utilisation of dietary nutrients, normal muscle and nerve function, energy metabolism and heart function.
Phosphorus is critically involved in energy metabolism, nerve function, bone formation and strengthening, muscle function, and in the buffering systems in blood and other body fluids.
Magnesium is an important mineral in many aspects of normal metabolism, including muscle function, bone formation, and reducing nervous behaviour in some horses.
Vitamin and mineral supplements complement horse’s diets by providing an adequate intake of the essential nutrients. Higher daily requirements for these essential nutrients are found in horses subjected to the physical stress of competition and training, especially under normal stable conditions where high grain diets are often fed, and access to fresh green feed can be limited, or when available pasture does not meet all nutrient requirements on a daily basis.