In the animal world, each of the species needs balanced contributions of nutrients to develop properly, to be able to carry out daily activities and, ultimately, be in good health. Horses are no exception and they need their intake of vitamins and other nutrients to be healthy.
When we talk about nutrients we refer to certain components that are essential such as proteins, minerals, water, fiber, vitamins, etc. These nutrients usually reach the animal through food, therefore a balanced diet is essential.
Let's see which of them are essential for our equines.
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In the market we can find a large number of vitamin supplements for horses. However, before starting to give them to our animals, it is important to inform us of their components, what they are for and if our horse really needs them.
The Vitamins are the most sold nutrient when administered through supplements, this is because they are related to a considerable reduction in diseases in horses. But, in addition to being the best seller, it is the one that is used the worst.
It is very important to keep in mind that with a balanced diet it should not be necessary to have to opt for supplements except in certain cases or in some periods of greater work or exercise. If our animal requires an extra contribution, as a general rule, it will be evidenced in some way. And in the case of wanting to give a supplement anticipating an increase in exercise or work of our horse, it is better consult with veterinary professionals before launching ourselves to administer supplements, since an excess of vitamins or certain nutrients can be harmful.
Vitamins are organic compounds that we can find divided into two groups according to their solubility: the fat-soluble or fat-soluble (Vitamins A, D, E and K) and the water-soluble or water-soluble (Vitamin C, of group B and the rest) . The former have a slower elimination and can be retained by body fats, while the latter are rapidly eliminated through urine, which makes them less toxic.
Now, What vitamins are necessary to maintain the health and activity of horses?
This vitamin is well known for its critical role in vision, but also, it is very important in cell differentiation, in reproduction, embryogenesis, birth and development of the foal and, as if all this were not enough, it intervenes in the immune response against infections.
It's important to put attention on an excess of this vitamin is harmful to the bones, making them brittle, too causes teratogenesis and exfoliation of the epithelia.
As we can see, everything is good in its proper measure, hence the importance of making sure of what and when we give our animals and consulting with professionals.
Vitamin A can be found in certain foods such as pro-vitamin A (retinol, beta-carotene) that once ingested are transformed into vitamin A. These foods are forages especially when they are green.
Also called Thiaminit's essential for muscle contraction and therefore is related to carbohydrate metabolism. A deficiency of this vitamin may involve muscle incoordination, tremors, poor appetite and what that entails as weight loss.
Where is this vitamin found? In most cereals and especially in brewer's yeast.
Also called Riboflavin, it is the vitamin that It is involved in energy metabolism and antioxidant defense mechanisms.
It is true that in horses no specific signs caused by their deficiency have been appreciated, but there have been cases of conjunctivitis as one of the symptoms.
We can find them in great concentration in legumes, a good example is alfalfa, and also in some cereals although in lesser concentration.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is important for antioxidant functions As it protects respiratory tissues, it is therefore important to prevent respiratory diseases and to reduce fatigue from exercise.
Horses can assimilate this vitamin from glucose.
It is interesting to give supplements of these vitamins when our horses are over 20 years of age, have undergone obstructive respiratory processes or certain operations.
This vitamin helps the assimilation, regulation and renal excretion of calcium and phosphorus, in addition to the mobilization of both in the bones.
A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to bone malformations due to the lack of calcium and phosphorus. While an excess would cause soft tissue calcifications.
This vitamin can be synthesized by the skin of horses after exposure to sunlight.
If given in supplements, it is convenient that it be supplied with calcium and phosphorus in a ratio of 1.5 to 2 parts of calcium to 1 of phosphorus.
Great known for its antioxidant function. This vitamin protects the lipids of cell membranes and muscles, which prevents them from oxidizing. It also intervenes in the immune response and energy metabolism. Therefore it helps to reduce stiffness and is very recommended for competition horses.
A deficiency vitamin E can cause different diseases such as white muscle disease in foals or degenerative spine disease.
Where do we find it? in many types of food such as fresh grasses, green forages in high concentration, and in less concentration in cereals. Plants have a higher concentration of vitamin E the younger they are.
Vitamin E, along with selenium, can be administered to prevent oxidative damage to cells.
It must be taken into account that selenium can be toxic, but for this we would have to give our animal for several days and a high amount. Therefore it is difficult to get a horse intoxicated. Even with everything, and we will repeat it several times throughout the article, the key is in the balance of the animal's diet and the supplements that are provided if necessary.
This vitamin It is used for the generation of red blood cells, for the coagulation processes, it is also known for this as an anti-hemorrhagic vitamin.
It is very rare to find deficiencies of this vitamin and therefore we cannot talk about its consequences.
Forages have a large amount of concentration of this vitamin although it can also be found in cereals.
Minerals are another of the essential groups of nutrients that our equines need. They are necessary for bone growth and development, in addition, they are responsible for proper circulation.
The essential minerals in the diet of our horses are:
- Soccer, to have a bone structure and strong teeth and for correct functions in blood and muscles.
- Sodium chloride, essential in body fluids and blood.
- Cobalt, for the synthesis of vitamin b12.
- Copper, fundamental along with iron.
- Phosphorus, for a correct balance of calcium and to repair tissues.
- Iron, for the formation of hemoglobin. Be careful as improper use of iron supplements can become toxic.
- Iodine, helps the proper functioning of the thyroid.
- Magnesium, for muscle tone and the correct development of the skeleton.
- Manganese, important for reproductive function and for bone structure.
- Potassium, important for red blood cells and muscle cells, as well as carbohydrate metabolism.
How to know if our horse needs a vitamin supply?
The first of all is to look at the diet of our animal, analyze what it eats and what nutrients it provides. To achieve this, we will pay attention to the nutritional information provided by the feed manufacturer, taking into account the variables of sex, size, age, etc. of each equine.
If the diet provided to our equine is balanced, it is most likely that it does not need any extra contribution except in very important moments from hard work, a lot of exercise or health problems.
There is no valid pattern for horses, as each animal is unique and has unique circumstances and needs. For this reason, we emphasize the importance of consulting with a professional veterinarian.
If we can recommend some general guidelines:
For, sports horses, For example, him vitamin intake must be very complete.
En horses that are usually in stables, the nutrients they get from hay and alfalfa tend to run poor. In these cases, an extra supply of vitamins can be highly recommended.
For foals it is necessary that they have a diet that provides them vitamins A, C and D in addition to calcium and phosphorus. Furthermore, in adult horses, in addition to the three previous vitamins, zinc is very necessary.
The horses that can graze freely do not usually need extra supplements except in a specific period of competition or work.
A common mistake is usually to give a supplement to solve a specific problem such as biotin for helmets. However, all nutrients are interrelated as they work together. That is why we emphasize the importance of a correct and balanced diet. And, in the case of being necessary extra supplements, opt before for the options that offer us a mixture of vitamins and minerals.
And above all, do not err in giving our horse an excess of supplements since we have seen that it can be harmful.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it.