Vitamins & minerals for horses

Vitamins, Minerals and Your Horse

Vitamins and minerals are the tiny nutrients which can make a really big difference to your horse!

Vitamins

Horses can receive vitamins through their diet and are capable of synthesising some of them internally too. They are essential for normal metabolism to occur and can be split into two categories: Fat soluble and water soluble.



Fat soluble vitamins are able to be stored in the body (mostly in the liver) more effectively than water soluble ones. Horses get fat soluble vitamins from fresh green herbage, whereas they mainly get the water soluble vitamins from micro-organisms in their hindgut.  Having the correct levels of vitamins for your horse is incredibly important. If levels are too low they can risk suffering from a deficiency and if levels become extremely high there can be a slight risk of toxicity.

Minerals

Minerals are chemical elements which horses receive both through their hard feed and forage. The levels in forages can vary greatly dependant on many things including the type of forage, the age at which it was cut and the mineral content of the soil in which it was grown. Due to these variations some horses will require mineral supplementation as a part of their standard diet. As with the vitamins, minerals can be split into two main groups: Macro minerals and micro (or trace) minerals.




Macro minerals are required by the body in larger quantities then the micro minerals. Despite the micro minerals being required in very small quantities (Less than 50mg/kg), the health of animals which become deficient in them can still suffer greatly.  Having the correct levels of each mineral for your horse is incredibly important. If levels are too low they can risk suffering from a deficiency and if levels become too high they can result in toxicity. High levels of one mineral can also sometimes have knock on effects on your horse’s ability to absorb and use other minerals, so ensuring your horse has a broad spectrum of balanced minerals in their diet is very important.

This article is just a brief overview of vitamins and minerals, other articles will be available on vitamins and minerals, including those not listed in this article, shortly.

Further Reading

Equine Nutrition & Feeding, David Frape (2006)
Equine Science, Sarah Pilliner & Zoe Davies (2009)
Nutrient Requirements for Horses, National Research Council (2007).