A daily dose of the proper vitamins and minerals is essential to your horse’s well-being.
Vitamins are organic compounds, which, when provided in the proper amounts, play a major role in the well-being of your horse. They are vital to the promotion and regulation of virtually all of the body’s normal functions.
Vitamins are available to your horse through a variety of sources, ranging from forages, such as grass and hay, to concentrates and supplements. Some vitamins, such as vitamin K and the B vitamins, are actually manufactured by the bugs (microflora) in your horse’s digestive tract. Many vitamins come in synthetic (man-made) and natural forms. In some vitamins, like vitamin E, the source of the vitamin is very important. Natural vitamin is much more readily absorbed and retained in tissues, while synthetic vitamin E is not.
Minerals are inorganic compounds that serve both as components in body tissue and as catalysts for various body processes. They also play a critical role in a horse’s health and well-being.
Minerals are broken down into two categories: macrominerals and microminerals. Macrominerals are those required by the horse in larger quantities. Calcium, phosphorus, and most electrolytes are macrominerals. Microminerals, or trace minerals, are required in smaller quantities. Examples of microminerals are zinc, copper, and selenium.
Minerals are found in forages, concentrates, and supplements. The mineral content in feedstuffs varies based on growing site, growing conditions, and various processing methods. Minerals that have been “chelated” go through a process that makes them easier to digest.
Change through the ages
A horse’s vitamin and mineral requirements change throughout his lifetime. The following horses and ponies may have higher vitamin and mineral requirements:
- Growing horses
- Performance horses and racehorses
- Broodmares and stallions
- Horses on restricted diets (processed forages and small quantities of concentrates)
- Horses without access to at least part-time grazing on quality pasture grass
- Horses consuming feeds grown in deficient areas
- Senior horses