Dr. Eleanor Kellon says that there are three basic supplements a horse needs: Salt, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin E. “Even if your horse is on a supplemented feed or a balancer you are probably not meeting requirements.” She says that a strong case can also be made for Selenium, Iodine, Zinc and Copper, but they are not quite as universal as salt.
A universal requirement for horses around the world is salt, primarily for Sodium but Chloride can also be deficient. Moreover, all equine feedstuffs are deficient in Sodium yet the horse has an instinctive hunger for it. The question is, how did horses survive through the years without people to feed them salt?
Feral horses make regular sojourns to areas with natural salt deposits where they stock up, and bone has a sizeable reservoir of Sodium. In between stocking up on salt, homeostatic mechanisms allow the horse to hold on to electrolytes in short supply. Feral horses normally do not move at a pace beyond a walk and therefore do not normally have excessive sweat losses. They are, however, at risk of the severe consequences of dehydration if anything upsets this fragile balance.
Dr. Kellon notes that research has quantified the daily losses of Sodium amounts, and we know how much is lost in sweat, “There is no harm whatsoever in supplementing those losses as they occur to prevent the horse from going into a negative balance. Doing so ensures optimal hydration, enhances digestion and mineral absorption, and maintains normal nervous and muscular function.”
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
During the times of the year when fresh grass is not available, the horse’s diet goes from one rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids (about half of their intake) to one with virtually none because these fragile fats do not survive long in cut and baled hay. Grains, brans, etc. are also low in Omega-3s.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are typically thought of as important to anti-inflammatory balance, but two studies have also shown supplementation boosts immune system responses in general. Dr. Kellon says they are also pivotal in the development and health of the brain and eyes, and may influence behavior in young horses. She stresses that they must be present in the diet as they cannot be manufactured by the body.
Vitamin E, abundant in fresh plant material, is also lost as hay ages. Inadequate Vitamin E intake is associated with a longer list of medical conditions than any other vitamin. It protects the integrity of every cell with well documented roles in everything from immunity to athletic performance.
“Unlike the other fat soluble vitamins, A, D and K, Vitamin E is not stored in the liver,” Dr. Kellon explains, “Although horses with abundant fat may store some extra, the horse basically depends on a constant dietary supply. This is not a vitamin the horse can manufacture in the body and can only be supplied through diet.”
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, offers products that address the three supplements every horse needs:
Equi Omega 4:1 Oil or Grandular. Highly palatable formula supplies fatty acids in a balanced ratio that mimics the horse’s natural diet. Provides support for a shiny coat, strong, solid hooves and top performance in the ideal ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6, enriched with antioxidants.
Liquid E. High strength liquid Vitamin E plays an indispensable role in protecting the lipid membranes of cells and cell structures from damage caused by free radicals
Pro-Lyte. Highly concentrated, low sugar electrolyte. Add to feed or water for fast results to maintain the balance and flow of vital body fluids and the healthy function of the muscles and circulatory system.
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Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. For more information visit www.ecirhorse.org.
Uckele Health & Nutrition is an innovation-driven health company committed to being on the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years. Uckele takes pride in formulating and manufacturing a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances for equine athletes and companion animals to help achieve optimal health. For more information visit www.uckele.com.