- Is it necessary to feed additional fat or oil to my horse when I supplement with a natural vitamin E powder like Elevate?
No, it is not necessary to provide additional fat or oil to your horse when supplementing with the natural vitamin E contained in Elevate Maintenance Powder. A typical horse will consume enough fat from their diet to support the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. An exception to the rule would be a horse that is severely malnourished or one that has a medical condition that interferes with fat absorption.
A little bit of fat goes a long way.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and dietary fat is necessary for its proper absorption within the small intestine. However, the amount of fat needed is small and readily provided in a normal diet of hay and/or grass pasture. The research studies conducted on the source of natural vitamin E contained in Elevate Maintenance Powder were performed on horses consuming diets considered low in fat. The data in these studies showed Elevate to be extremely well absorbed
Where does fat come from in a horse’s diet?
Most horse people don’t consider hay and pasture as sources of dietary fat, but they are. For example, mixed grass pasture contains between 2.7% and 4.8% fat, depending on the variety of grass. Alfalfa hay contains 2% to 2.8% fat, and grass hay between 1.7% and 3.2% fat. Concentrates (grains and pelleted feeds) are more often recognized as providing calories in the form of fat. Depending on the feed’s formulation, the average fat levels in a commercial concentrate range from 2% to 12%.
Equine nutritionists who are experts in the field of vitamin E nutrition do not feel it is necessary to provide additional fat (or oil) when supplementing with the natural vitamin E contained in Elevate Maintenance Powder.
- Does Elevate contain sugar? How much?
A scoop of Elevate Maintenance Powder contains 1,000 IU of natural vitamin E and 7 grams of sugar. This is a very small amount of sugar. For comparison, one medium apple contains 15 grams of sugar and one cup of chopped carrots contains 6 grams of sugar. Supplementation with Elevate Maintenance Powder does not significantly increase the level of sugar in your horse’s diet and is appropriate to feed to horses on a low sugar/starch diet.
- How can I tell if my horse is deficient in vitamin E?
The most accurate way to determine your horse’s vitamin E status is to ask your veterinarian to run a simple blood test. He or she can review the results with you and then discuss if supplementation is necessary.
Horses that have sub-clinical vitamin E deficiencies may exhibit the following behaviors:
- Compromised immune response and lower resistance to illnesses
- Laziness or lack of energy
- Low fertility levels
- Poor growth rates (in young horses and foals)
- Slow to recover after a hard workout
- Sore or stiff muscles or episodes of tying-up
- Unwillingness to engage and move forward when being ridden
- Which horses benefit from vitamin E supplementation?
Because of vitamin E’s influence on nearly all body processes, horses of all ages can benefit from supplementation, particularly if they do not have regular access to fresh pasture.
Horses at Maintenance
Vitamin E supplementation is essential for horses that are not allowed to graze. The vitamin E content of dried forages such as hay is severely diminished, with forages often losing 75% or more of their vitamin content upon harvesting and storing. Therefore, supplementation with vitamin E is most crucial during the winter when horses are fed diets almost exclusively composed of preserved forages. Inadequate fortification of textured feeds or the feeding of straight grains (oats, for example) may also contribute to vitamin E deprivation.
Supplementation may be indicated year-round for racehorses and show horses confined to stalls or those that are restricted from grazing for metabolic reasons.
Vitamin E is an essential component to body-wide antioxidant defenses, with one of its most important duties being cell membrane maintenance. Cell membranes are composed largely of unsaturated lipids and are therefore vulnerable to assault by free radicals, compounds that can irreparably damage cell membranes.
As athletic effort increases, free radical production flourishes and natural stores of antioxidants have difficulty providing sufficient protection against the flood of free radicals generated. Supplementation is therefore necessary to help ward off the ill effects of mass-produced free radicals associated with intense exercise. Horses with an inadequate reserve of vitamin E may experience muscle soreness or stiffness during an exercise bout and prolonged recovery following strenuous work.
Broodmares and Foals
Recent research has lauded the use of vitamin E on breeding farms. Mares supplemented with vitamin E have shown increased passive transfer of antibodies to foals, which ensures the strength of the neonatal immune system. Failure of passive transfer leaves foals susceptible to septicemia and bacterial infections. In a study conducted at the University of Connecticut, researchers found that mares supplemented with vitamin E had higher antibody concentrations in blood and colostrums than control mares. The concentrations of foals reflected those of their dams, with foals from supplemented mares having increased levels of antibodies. In addition, in some areas of the United States vitamin E is customarily given to all newborn foals to stave off white muscle disease, a serious malady caused by deficiencies of vitamin E and/or selenium.
There is also increasing evidence that vitamin E supplementation may increase fertility in mares. Due to modern management practices, including winter breeding dates, mares may not be receiving adequate vitamin E nutrition through rations composed solely of hay and grain. Supplementation will increase circulating levels of vitamin E and may positively affect fertility.
Vitamin E has been linked with increased libido and semen quality in stallions. One of the most important functions of vitamin E in stallions is cell membrane protection, achieved by scavenging free radicals. Chilling, freezing, and shipping semen increase free radical production.
Horses with Neurological and Muscular Disease
Over the past several years, researchers have been studying the effectiveness of megadoses of vitamin E in the prevention and treatment of neurological diseases such as equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy (EDM), equine motor neuron disease (EMND), and equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM).
EDM is a progressive disease of the brain stem and spinal cord. The disease occurs principally in young horses, and the primary sign is progressive ataxia or incoordination. Researchers have determined that EDM is not a congenital disease, though a horse may have a genetic predisposition to it.
Scientists linked vitamin E deficiency with EDM more than a decade ago. Of particular interest is research conducted at the University of Florida, where scientists worked with the EDM-affected get of two Standardbred stallions. The mares bred to these stallions and the resulting foals were given 1,500 IU of vitamin E per day. A year after supplementation began, only 10% of the foals were affected. Further offspring of the stallion were not diseased.
Cornell University first identified EMND. Although the cause of the syndrome is unknown, a commonality among affected horses is reduced exposure to green grass for more than a year and availability of poor-quality hay during that time. Dramatic clinical improvement was documented in horses that were allowed unrestricted access to lush pasture and vitamin E supplementation.
Vitamin E is often prescribed for horses with equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), to be used concomitantly with antiprotozoal medications. It’s not unusual, for instance, for horses to be supplemented with up to 8,000 IU of vitamin E per day during convalescence.
- I was told that vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and is stored in the tissues. Can too much hurt my horse?
Vitamin E toxicity has not been noted in horses. Veterinarians will often feed high levels of vitamin E to compromised foals or horses challenged by neurological disease. However, it is always best to follow the recommended feeding directions when using any supplement. Do not give your horse more than the recommended amounts unless directed to do so by your veterinarian.
- I know vitamin E is an antioxidant, but how does it work?
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) is a critically important nutrient for all horses, and supplementation is especially important for horses with limited or no access to lush pastures. This vitamin is not synthesized by the horse; therefore, it is an essential dietary nutrient. It is the primary lipid-soluble antioxidant that maintains cell membrane integrity and enhances both humoral- and cell-mediated immunity. Other metabolic roles of vitamin E have been reviewed by Brigelius-Flohé and Traber (1999).
Changes in husbandry practices and ingredients used to formulate equine diets have dramatically increased the need for supplementing diets with this critically important vitamin in all segments of the horse industry. Gestating and lactating mares, young growing horses, and performance horses have the greatest need for vitamin E supplementation, especially those that do not have access to lush, green pasture.
Free Radicals May Harm Cells
Free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) are unstable atoms with unpaired numbers of electrons that are formed when oxygen interacts with other molecules in all cells. Once formed, these reactive radicals can initiate chain reactions, resulting in a cascading negative effect on many other molecules within cells and cell walls, which in turn causes oxidative stress within the animal. Free radicals are commonly produced as part of normal cell metabolism, but also can become excessive following injury or disease. Left uncontrolled, free radicals can cause considerable irreparable damage to cells and cell membranes. They can alter the structure of cell membranes, and create havoc to polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), proteins, and DNA within cells. The more active the cell, the greater the potential risk of cellular damage. Excessive free radical production or oxidative stress results when the formation of free radicals overwhelms the body’s ability to break the chain reactions that take place and an imbalance between production and removal of free radicals occurs. Uncontrolled oxidative stress can overpower the horse’s ability to fight back and may result in tissue damage, thus possibly impairing life.
In several species, including humans, this damage has recently been linked to degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, renal disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cataracts. It may have a deleterious effect on the immune system (NRC Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium and Carotenoids, 2000).
Antioxidants Help Prevent Cell Damage Caused by Oxidative Stress
Antioxidants are the horse’s major defense system against the scourge of free radicals and oxidative stress. Enzymatic antioxidants are synthesized in the body to neutralize free radical production. Key enzymatic antioxidants include superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase. Other major sources of antioxidants available to the horse are nonenzymatic or nutritional antioxidants. Nonenzymatic antioxidants, like vitamin E and C scavenge and convert free radicals to relatively stable compounds and stop the chain reaction of free radical damage. Therefore, all antioxidants are critically important to protect horses from tissue damage and disease, and may enhance immunity during these processes. Horses are able to synthesize vitamin C, so it appears that vitamin E is the major antioxidant vitamin required from dietary sources. The critical phases of reproduction in mares and stallions, growth of foals, and exercise of equine athletes are all especially important. Thus, for the horse, vitamin E appears to be the most important dietary fat-soluble nonenzymatic antioxidant to assist in combating free radical production and propagation.
Vitamin E is unique among vitamins in that it is not required for a specific metabolic function. As alpha-tocopherol, vitamin E’s main function appears to be the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Thus, vitamin E is notably essential for the proper function of the reproductive, muscular, nervous, circulatory, and immune systems.