Vitamins & Minerals for Horses - Everyday General Supplements

Roughage goes a long way in meeting our horses' nutritional needs, such as energy and protein. However, when it comes to vitamins and minerals, supplementation is often necessary. Below, we clarify what minerals and vitamins are.
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Keep in mind that many minerals and vitamins are dependent on each other or other substances for proper absorption in the body. Vitamins and minerals can affect each other and should always be given in the correct amount in relation to the rest of the diet. We recommend always having a forage analysis to refer to and consulting an expert, such as a feed advisor, if you are unsure.

Minerals

Minerals are important substances for both animals and humans; our bodies are largely composed of various minerals. The reason minerals are so important is, among other things, that they ensure the biochemical processes in the body function properly. To determine a horse's mineral needs, you need to first find out how much the horse gets from the forage, which is done through a forage analysis. Minerals are divided into two groups: macro and micro minerals, where macro minerals are what we need more of, and micro minerals (also called trace elements) are what we need in very small amounts. It is important that the horse receives the right amount of minerals, as both a deficiency and an excess can be dangerous. A deficiency in minerals can lead to diseases, and an excess can lead to poisoning. Below are the most common macro and micro minerals included in a horse's diet.

Macro minerals are indicated in grams (per day) and are as follows:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium

Micro minerals are indicated in milligrams (per day) and are as follows:

  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Cobalt
  • Iodine
  • Selenium

Vitamins

Vitamins are also important, albeit in small amounts, for the body's processes to function.
Different vitamins are important for different functions in the body, and some vitamins work together with each other. Some vitamins also depend on other substances for optimal absorption. Vitamins are divided into two groups: fat-soluble (A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble (B and C). Horses can store fat-soluble vitamins in their bodies, while water-soluble vitamins need to be replenished continuously. All the vitamins a horse needs are naturally found in fresh grass and are replenished when the horse grazes in the summer. The fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body and used during the winter when there is no fresh grass available. During the winter (or all year round), dried grass (hay) is often given, which does not contain as many vitamins as fresh grass. In general, it can be said that slightly yellowish hay, which is sun-dried, contains more D-vitamin than greener hay, which contains more A-vitamin (beta-carotene). When stored forage loses its vitamin content, so to meet the horse's needs, extra vitamins are added to the feed. Some of the most common vitamins that horses need include:

  • Vitamin A is obtained by the horse through green grass and, for example, carrots where it occurs naturally. Vitamin A is important for vision and reproduction. Fat-soluble.
  • B-vitamins are important for metabolism. Metabolism increases, for example, during shedding, which is why many believe it is important for the horse to receive extra B-vitamins then. Water-soluble.
  • Vitamin D is important for the skeleton, which metabolizes a lot of calcium. Vitamin D is naturally produced in the horse's body with the help of UV radiation. Horses that spend enough time outdoors should not suffer from a lack of vitamin D. However, since it is a very important vitamin for the development of the skeleton, one should ensure that growing horses receive enough vitamin D through their diet. Fat-soluble.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the body's cells against free radicals. The horse's need for vitamin E increases if it is subjected to more muscle work or if the fat content of the diet increases. Fat-soluble.
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