Meeting your Horse’s Nutritional Needs… Don’t take chances with his diet.
Performance horses are burdened with demands that nature never intended. The nutritional demands of a performance horse can be several times those of a horse grazing in the pasture. Grand Vite, a time-tested formula since 1985, has been designed to specifically meet the extra nutritional needs of the performance horse.
Here’s the real scoop on Vitamins and Minerals…
Vitamins play a number of key roles in the diet of the horse. Vitamins are organic, meaning that they consist of complexes of living enzymes. They are needed for healthy body tissue and energy. They are also important in supporting the immune system, are antioxidant, wound-healing, support vision, growth, fertility, blood, bone, muscle, ligament, and connective tissue formation to name a few.
Minerals are essential for the construction of the horse’s skeleton and, equally important, for the maintenance of the skeletal and other body functions throughout the horse’s life. They are involved in enzyme production, energy transfer, soft tissues and many interactions with vitamins, hormones and amino acids. They are available commercially in both inorganic and organic forms – organic being bioavailable for the horse and more expensive and inorganic being cheaper with a very poor absorption profile.
Important for proper functioning of metabolism, vision, fertility, growth, blood formation and a strong immune system. In performance horses, Vitamin A is critical to allowing the body to adapt to physical pressures and stress and is therefore an important component of bone remodeling. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, shedding, progressive weakness, dry hair coat, diarrhea, decreased growth, impaired mineral delivery, decreased intestinal absorption and susceptibility to infections of the respiratory and reproductive tracts.
An upper safe level for prolonged feeding is 16,000 IU per kg of total diet per day.
Vitamin D is critical for calcium and phosphorus absorption and metabolism of Calcium and Phosphorus and therefore is imperative for proper bone growth. This vitamin is normally received by the horse in sufficient quantities through sunlight, but stabled horses may be at risk for deficient levels.
A deficiency can cause a reduced growth rate, bone weakness, increases in bone demineralization, lameness and loss of appetite. It can also cause a depletion of calcium. If a horse is exposed to plenty of sunlight then a Vitamin D deficiency is unlikely.
The most common vitamin toxicity is found with Vitamin D. An upper safe level for prolonged feeding is 2,800 IU per kg of total diet.
An important vitamin that works to help the horse recover after strenuous exercise and to decrease stress levels. Vitamin E supplementation is important for horses that experience tie-up and muscular problems. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that neutralizes tissue-damaging free radicals and extends the life of red blood cells and maximizes cellular protection, and has been suggested to be helpful in the treatment of Wobbler’s syndrome. Vitamin E also acts as a vasodilator which opens up blood vessels so that blood and oxygen flows more freely through tissues. It can also help reduce toxic oxide compounds in the tissues during periods of intense exercise.
The daily requirement of Vitamin E is 60 IU per kg of total diet. Vitamin E has not been found to be to be toxic when large amounts are fed. However, high levels may prevent the absorption of other fat soluble vitamins.
Primarily Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant important for combating free radicals and helping the immune system fight off infections. It is also vital to the formation of healthy connective tissues. Vitamin C aids in the synthesis of collagen, proline, lysine and the absorption of iron. It is a necessary vitamin for tendon and ligament fiber strength (essential element for the formation of the hydroxyl group needed in cartilage synthesis).
Deficiencies of antioxidants would include poor wound healing, reduced performance and frequent infections. The daily requirement of Vitamin C is not established. 60 mg per kg of total diet is recommended by most veterinarians and feed nutritionists. Vitamin C deficiency results in a depressed immune system and reduced collagen production.
Thiamine is an essential part of several enzyme systems. It is involved in the release of energy from absorbed or stored carbohydrates and fats. It also seems to have a direct role in the activity of the nervous system, stimulating peripheral nerves. When fed in higher quantities, it can also calm nervous horses. This vitamin is necessary for proper carbohydrate metabolism and promotes a healthy appetite.There are no established equine daily requirements for B vitamins.
This vitamin is necessary for energy production and proper growth. Riboflavin is a precursor to two co-enzymes: Flavin Adenine Dinucleotide (FAD) and Flavin Mononucleotide (FMN). Co-enzymes are molecules that carry chemical compounds between two enzymes — very important to transport many substances in the body. Being a precursor simply means that the equine body uses B2 to make the co-enzymes.
Niacin is one of those vitamins that is essential to almost everything your horse does. It is involved in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and amino acids. It also functions as a vasodilator and helps to increase blood flow to the extremities. Niacin has been shown to be helpful in preventing digestive tract disorders in the horse.
Pantothenic Acid or Vitamin B5, is part of the enzyme system and has numerous functions in the body. It is necessary in converting proteins, carbohydrates, and fat into energy.
Pyridoxine, a B vitamin, aids in protein metabolism and the RNA and DNA synthesis necessary for cell reproduction. It is very important for energy production, nervous system activity and for blood production. This vitamin is not readily stored in the equine system. Deficiency in this vitamin leads to weakness of muscles, poor hair coat and decreased immune health.
Vitamin B7 – Biotin is found in virtually every cell in the body and is an essential coenzyme in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. It is also important for thyroid and adrenal gland function, reproductive tract health, stability of the nervous system and most importantly to stimulate keratin production to maintain healthy hooves and hair coat.
Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 are essential B Complex vitamins, both vitally involved in many critical metabolic processes related to coenzymes for tissue formation, DNA synthesis, complete utilization of carbohydrates and proteins for nervous tissue maintenance and energy production, and blood counts. There are no established equine daily requirements. The first sign of deficiency is anemia.
Cyanocobalamin, a long-named B vitamin, is responsible for synthesis of DNA, red blood cells and maintaining healthy nerve sheaths. It is particularly important in helping with the production of red blood cells to help prevent anemia, enhance performance and stimulate the appetite.
Choline is an amazing antioxidant. Not only does it fight oxidative damage, but according to a study out of the University of Lisbon, it actually improves blood flow and nitric oxide (NO) production. In case you didn’t know, nitric oxide is one of the most important chemicals in your horse’s body for improving muscle contraction and increasing blood flow to muscles.
For the horse, the main recognized function of Beta Carotene is as a precursor to Vitamin A, however it can provide other important benefits, especially to those horses not consuming adequate beta carotene from green, lush pasture. It is an antioxidant and enhances the immune system. It has been shown to enable immune cells to act more efficiently by increasing lymphocyte response to mitogens, and to assist helper T cells and natural killer cells.
The most well known mineral in the equine diet, Calcium plays a vital role in maintaining strong and healthy bones, cartilage and joints for peak performance without injury/breakdown. In conjunction with Vitamin D, both are required for bone development and strength. Calcium is one of the most abundant elements in the body and represents 35% of bone structure. It is necessary for the conduction of impulses along the nerves to muscle, the contraction of leg and body muscles for exercise, the contraction of the heart muscle for pumping blood, the contraction of the diaphragm for breathing and, the functioning of the gastro-intestinal tract muscles for digestion.
Calcium in excess of 2% of the total diet may be harmful. Symptoms of excess calcium are bone and cartilage inflammation, and can cause decrease in the absorption of other minerals.
This important mineral is essential to your horse’s health. More than 14% of your horse’s bones are comprised of Phosphorus. This mineral is also extensively involved in the production of the major energy units for your horse’s cells. Its main function is in the production Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) and Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which supply the majority of energy to all the cells.
A deficiency of Phosphorous will cause bone problems such as rickets and also have a major effect on the horse’s performance. Excessive levels of phosphorus cause calcium deficiency by binding the calcium and decreasing its absorption causing bone demineralization, lameness and weight loss.
Calcium to Phosphorus ratio in the horse’s diet is extremely important. High intakes of calcium severely limit the absorption of Phosphorus, due to the fact that these two minerals compete directly for absorption in the small intestine. Therefore, the more calcium that is absorbed, the less phosphorus can be absorbed, and vice versa.The ideal Calcium:Phosphorus ration for a mature horse is 2:1 with a minimum of 1:1 and maximum of 6:1.
Magnesium is another very important mineral particularly for muscle function. It is a vital mineral which is freely available in grass. It has over 3,000 known uses in the body, assisting with everything from regulating blood sugar levels to formation of hormones and enzymes, production of muscle tissue, conversion of glucose to energy, maintenance of a healthy nervous system and formation of bone and red blood cells.
Magnesium attaches to Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP so that the ATP can be used by the muscle cells. If the magnesium is not available in sufficient quantities, the ATP cannot be used and the muscle cannot generate enough energy to carry out any functions.
Magnesium requirements of a 500 kg horse are 94 gm/kg of weight. Deficiency in magnesium can cause horses to be stressed, nervous and anxious. Magnesium is needed to help produce some of the hormones that regulate the adrenaline response to keep the horse calm. Lack of magnesium in the diet can lead to increased respiratory rates (the horse takes more breaths per minute), muscle tremors, loss of appetite and aggressiveness or ill temper. Magnesium is crucial to the deposition of calcium into the bones, which can prevent calcium deficiency.
Deficiency of potassium will normally only occur in hot weather or through strenuous extended exercise when the horse loses potassium in the sweat and can cause muscle tremors, cardiac arrhythmias, and weakness. Excessive potassium seldom causes toxicity since excess is excreted in the urine as long as adequate water is available. Horses with HYPP (hyperkalemic periodic paralysis), a genetic disorder, need lower levels of potassium.
Sodium, Salt or Chlorides are one of the most important minerals for your horse’s everyday life and health. Through its roles in the nervous system, it is critical for normal nerve and muscle function. It transports key substances such as glucose and amino acids across membranes and throughout the body. Like potassium, sodium is hugely important in osmotic regulation of your horse’s body fluids. The more sodium there is in an area, the more water will be drawn to that area.
Sodium deficiency includes poor skin quality, abnormal licking of objects as they search for salt, decreased water intake, slow eating, and eventually loss of appetite and an unsteady gait. Toxicity from excess salt levels are rare provided horses have adequate supplies of fresh water
Sulfur is found in many of the agents that are crucial to your horse’s health. It is found in Biotin, Chondroitin Sulfate, Insulin, Methionine and many other elements. So many key nutrients in the horse contain sulfur, that an adult horse stores about 1.5 pounds of sulfur. It is a key element in most of the enzymes in the body.
A sulfur deficiency has never been recorded in horses.
Manganese is an important mineral in the correct formation of bones and cartilage tissues because it is a part of chondroitin sulfate. It is also key to the function of a number of important enzymes, and must be present in the digestion of carbohydrates.
While deficiencies in manganese are rare, and it is the least toxic mineral, deficiencies will show as bone abnormalities, since chondroitin sulfate cannot be properly created in the absence of this mineral.
Iron, manganese and zinc should be fed in fairly equal amounts.
Iron is essential for your horse to be able to transport oxygen throughout his blood. It makes up the center of hemoglobin, which is the oxygen transport molecule in blood. It is also present in myoglobin, which helps get oxygen into your horse’s muscles. 60-80% of the mineral in your horse’s body is found in hemoglobin and myoglobin. Another 20% is stored in the liver, spleen, and other tissues, and the rest is distributed throughout the body in various places.
Horses need the mineral Copper in their diets to develop healthy connective tissue and to be able to properly utilize iron. It is especially key in growing horses, as bone collagen relies on the presence of Copper to develop correctly. It also helps to move iron in the body and it is crucial to the creation of red blood cells.
Copper deficiency in horses has been implicated in causing developmental orthopedic diseases of the bones and joints in foals and young horses such as Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD).
Zinc is crucial for the function of many of the enzymes in your horse’s body; most notably, enzymes that are responsible for blood clotting, insulin production and wound healing along with many other functions.
A zinc deficiency would include hair loss, slow wound healing, reduction in enzyme production and a poor appetite.
This mineral is important to reproduction, growth, and the immune system. Selenium deficiency has been reported in 46 states. Most horses will need supplementation to meet the daily requirement for maintenance of optimum immune function and exercise recovery. Because of significant variations in selenium levels in the soil, it is crucial to find out the selenium levels in your area before choosing to feed this mineral in any quantity. Maximum tolerable level is 2 mg/kg of diet. Selenium, Iodine, and Cobalt should be fed in equal parts.
This mineral is important to reproduction, growth, and the immune system. Selenium deficiency has been reported in 46 states in the US. Most will need horse supplements to meet the daily requirement for maintenance of optimum immune function and exercise recovery. Because of significant variations in selenium levels in the soil, it is crucial to find out the selenium levels in your area before choosing to feed this mineral in any quantity. Maximum tolerable level is 2 mg/kg of diet. Selenium, Iodine, and Cobalt should be fed in equal parts.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They band together in chains to help form the horse from the very beginning. Think of amino acids as Legos for your horse. It’s a two-step process: amino acids get together and form peptides or polypeptides and it is from these groupings that proteins are made. Amino acids are essential to nearly every bodily function. Every chemical reaction that takes place in your body depends on amino acids and the proteins that they build. Lysine and Methionine are the two most important that are regularly included in supplements. At Grand Meadows, a number of our products use a soybean meal base that is an excellent source of these required amino acids.
DL-Methionine is an essential amino acid, meaning it must be provided in the diet since the body cannot create enough of its own. If it is not present in adequate amounts, it limits the body’s ability to make protein. The concentration of Methionine is highest in the hoof and hair, and therefore is often included in hoof supplements.
This amino acid is a critical building block for all protein in the body. It is essential because it cannot be created by the body, so it must be obtained by food or supplements. Using an L-Lysine horse supplement at times of stress is key to calcium absorption, building muscle protein, boosting the immune system and supporting the body’s production of hormones, enzymes and antibodies.
One of the most common diseases of the modern day horse is a disease called Equine Rhinopneumonitis (EHV-1 & EHV-4), which is caused by a herpes virus. Rhino is the inflammation of the respiratory tract somewhere between the nose and the lungs. Horses are typically infected at a young age (between 2-4 years), usually during their first respiratory tract infection. Since Rhino is caused by a herpes virus, it lives in the horse’s body and cannot be cured. Outbreaks may also occur during times of high stress to the immune system (i.e. training, hauling, shows, other disease/infections, ulcers etc.). Supplementing the immune system with L-Lysine can be very beneficial in building resistance.
This amino acid is mobilized during exercise and used by the body for energy. It delays the onset of fatigue and reduces muscle breakdown, especially during aerobic exercise and endurance events.
Isoleucine is an essential amino acid in horses required for the removal of ammonia (a toxic by-product) from the body and it plays an important role in wound healing and immune function. It is a precursor to many other compounds such as creatine (important in muscle) and nitric oxide (important in blood vessels). Specifically, nitric oxide signals blood vessels to relax, resulting in increased blood flow to certain areas.
Glutamine is an amino acid most abundantly found in muscle and plasma. This amino acid is a primary nitrogen donor which is important for maintaining a positive nitrogen balance, which in turn is absolutely necessary for muscle building. If L-glutamine is depleted from the system; strength, stamina and recovery is compromised. This amino acid is included in many equine digestive aids to help reduce the risk of gastric ulcers.
Taurine Is an amino acid found in high concentrations in electrically active tissues such as the brain, heart, retina and muscle. It stabilizes membranes and assists in the movement of electrolytes in and out of cells, which is critical for proper nerve transmission and muscle contraction. Taurine also acts as a detoxifier, is necessary for the absorption of fats and vitamins, and influences proper insulin and glucose levels. It is commonly used to supplement growing horses, nervous horses and horses with metabolic issues.
Threonine is an essential amino acid, meaning it must be provided in the diet since the body cannot create enough of its own. If not present in adequate amounts it limits the body’s ability to make protein. Research shows improved muscle mass in older horses that may have trouble maintaining weight and in young, growing horses when Threonine is supplemented. In addition, it supports the production of a necessary component of the mucus that lubricates and protects the digestive tract.
Leucine & Valine are two amino acids mobilized during exercise and used by the body for energy. They delay the onset of fatigue and prevent muscle breakdown, especially during aerobic exercise and endurance events.