Vitamin A is important in equine diets because of its powerful antioxidant action. This vitamin also supports vision, reproductive functions and the equine immune system. Vitamin A is synthesized in the horse’s intestine from beta-carotene, which is abundant in fresh forage, so grazing horses are usually well supplied. Freshly cut hay also contains some vitamin A, but the level declines quickly after the hay is baled.
Vitamin A is stored in the horse’s liver, and supplies are usually sufficient to see the horse through winter months when fresh grass is not available. To be sure of providing enough vitamin A, owners can feed a grain product that is fortified with this nutrient and designed for the type of horse being fed. Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist Kathleen Crandell, PhD, pointed out that pregnant broodmares have an increased vitamin A requirement, and a feed formulated for this class of horses will contain an adequate amount.
Carrots are a good choice for a winter treat because they are high in beta-carotene. Most horses like carrots and are able to chew them easily, but to avoid choking, especially in horses that are enthusiastic eaters, it’s a good idea to cut or break the carrots into small pieces before offering them as treats. Carrot pieces or shreds can be fed by hand or mixed into the horse’s feed.
For more equine nutrition information visit Kentucky Equine Research's website.