We all know that vitamins and minerals are important but have you ever wondered what they actually do? Although required in relatively small amounts, vitamins and minerals are needed for many essential processes in the body including the muscle contractions that make your horse’s heart beat!
Vitamins are classified as either ‘fat soluble’ (A, D, E & K) or ‘water soluble’ (C and B vitamins) according to how they ‘dissolve’ in the body.
The importance of enzymes
Enzymes are proteins which speed up chemical reactions in the body. Hundreds of essential body processes rely on enzymes. Starch, sugar and fats/ oil for example must be broken down into smaller molecules by enzymes in order to be absorbed and then converted to energy. A number of vitamins and minerals are components of enzymes or act as ‘helper molecules’ which enable enzymes to function.
The sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D is known as ‘the sunshine vitamin’ because it’s produced in the skin in the presence of UV light. However providing additional vitamin D in the diet may still be of benefit, particularly at certain times of year or in horses that are stabled or rugged for long periods.
Vitamin C is produced from glucose in the liver and under normal circumstances, providing vitamin C via the diet is generally unnecessary in healthy horses. However additional vitamin C may help to support immune health during periods of stress or intensive exercise or travelling. Scientific research has also shown that vitamin C help to support lung health.
Did you know biotin is a B vitamin?
Like other B vitamins, biotin is produced as by product of fibre fermentation in the large intestine. Although most commonly associated with hoof health, biotin is taken up by nearly all types of cells and converted to a component of many enzymes. As a result, biotin is involved in a number of essential processes including protein and fat metabolism. There is no published requirement or ‘recommend daily intake’ for biotin in horses but a few scientific studies have shown that supplementary biotin can improve hoof health.
Minerals are classified as either ‘macro minerals’ or ‘micro minerals’ according to the quantity in which they are required. Macro minerals are required in larger amounts (grams per day) whilst micro minerals, also known as ‘trace elements’ are required in much smaller amounts (milligram per day).
Did you know most horses don’t need additional iron?
A 500kg horse requires just 400-500mg (0.4-0.5 grams!) of iron per day. Iron is abundant in forage and in the large majority of cases, far exceeds daily requirements even for horses on restricted rations. This together with the fact that many of the ingredients used in horse feed provide naturally occurring iron, means that further supplementation is unnecessary for the vast majority of horses. Iron deficiency in horses is extremely rare but over-supplementation may be harmful or have detrimental effects at relatively low levels.
If you need help deciding which feed is right for your horse our friendly team of nutritionists are on hand Monday – Friday 9am-5pm and can be reached via 01908 226626 or helpline.horsecareUK@effem.com