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ABCs of Vitamins – Part 3

  • Post category:Horse Health
  • Reading time:5 mins read


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n past issues we looked at the purpose of vitamins A to E, as well as calcium, copper and electrolytes, followed by an overview of fulvic acid, glucosamine and several important minerals. Here is the final article in our three-part series on nutritional components.

Selenium (Se)

Selenium is required as a trace mineral and in combination with vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that protects the body from oxidative stress. The recommended daily intake of selenium is 1mg/day.
A selenium deficiency may cause white muscle disease in foals, muscular dystrophy, a predisposition to tying up, reproductive problems, and impaired immunity. On the other hand, chronic selenium toxicity can cause partial or total hair loss in the mane or tail, erosion of the long bones, and cracking and sloughing hooves. Selenium with vitamin E is useful in horses who tie up after hard exercise and assists with muscular recovery.

How to feed it

Should your nutritionist recommend it, you may choose to feed selenium in a supplement, such as Vuma Strike R8. Strike R8 contains vitamin E and organic selenium to eliminate deficiency-induced muscle degeneration, vitamin B1 and niacin, and balanced electrolytes. It also assists with the management of gastric ulcers and laminitis. Strike R8 is available from most feed shops, or visit their site.

Salt (sodium chloride)

salt blocks should be available as free choice

Salt (NaCl) requirements are markedly influenced by sweat losses during warmer weather and intense exercise. Most concentrated horse feeds do contain some salt and the upper limit for salt inclusion in the ration of even hard-working horses is set around 6% of the total.

How to feed it

Salt is included in most horse concentrates. In addition, salt blocks should be available as free choice. Most feed shops stock a selection of salt licks and blocks.

Thiamine (vitamin B1)shutterstock_110187893

Thiamine is required for carbohydrate digestion and energy metabolism and is very important to the proper functioning of the nervous system. A deficiency can result in lethargy and low energy, incoordination, loss of appetite and weight loss. Conversely it is often added to assist in calming highly strung horses.

How to feed it

Thiamine is found in most grains and in brewer’s yeast, which is available from most feed shops.


shutterstock_179777423Oils are an essential part of a horse’s diet, the major functions being the provision of energy, production of cell membranes and hormones, and storage for the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Because of their high energy density, oils are playing an increasing role in the diet of sport horses.

Until recently, very little attention has been given to the fatty acid composition of the oils fed, and most often corn or sunflower oil has been used. While these oils may be useful, they are very poor sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These dietary omega-3 fatty acids have beneficial effects including: decreasing blood lipid concentrations; increasing membrane elasticity; increasing insulin sensitivity; and regulating inflammatory response.

How to feed it

With more attention being paid to oils, suppliers are formulating blends for specialised horse care needs. VO3 Max Oil is a specific, correctly balanced omega-3 blend of oils, containing the three critical omega-3 fatty acids. VO³ Max provides the additional benefits of powerful antioxidants, vitamin E and garlic.


Yeast is a high source of protein, amino acids and thiamine. It can also assist with digestion and improved feed digestibility and hindgut health. It is an expensive additive and should not be necessary if your horse is doing well on a balanced meal.


Zinc gives gloss and shine to coat hair and is needed for protein synthesis and metabolism. It assists with wound healing and immunity. It needs to be kept in ratio with copper.

Expert advice

As with all supplements, simply throwing another one at your horse may not necessarily benefit your horse or your wallet, and in some cases may be detrimental if fed in wrong quantities or if it unbalances the correct vitamin and mineral ratios. Always determine what the underlying problem is if you have an area of concern and contact your vet or nutritionist.

Text: Catherine Hartley
Photography: Shutterstock