|Who needs 'em? We all do! In the horse over half of his skeleton consists of organic
matter and minerals. Minerals also regulate many of the life processes. Although acute
mineral deficiency diseases and deaths are rare, inadequate supplies of the essential
minerals can lead to inefficient feed utilization, reduced reproduction, and poor
performance. And often a deficiency is not noticed until it becomes serious.
At the other end of the spectrum are excesses and imbalances. Deficiencies, excesses, and
imbalances should all be avoided.
Reviewing last month's article, we find the following minerals listed:
(measured in milligrams)
|Trace or micro minerals
(measured in micrograms)
Some minerals are called "macro" because they are needed in much greater
quantities. For example, calcium and phosphorus make up about 70 percent of the mineral
content of the horse's body.
So what do the various minerals do and what are the consequences if they're not provided
in the proper proportions? Below is information about the minerals that can be deficient
under normal conditions.
Function - Builds strong bones and teeth. Important during lactation.
Required for proper heart contractions. Affects the availability of phosphorus.
Deficiency - Causes rickets in young horses and osteomalacia in older
Notes - A horse fed only grass hay and grain is often deficient in
calcium. Feeding a little alfalfa will usually compensate. The calcium to phosphorus ratio
should be about 1.1 to 1, although it can be as high as 2:1, but never inverted to 1:2. A
deficiency will cause calcium to be extracted from the horse's bones.
Chlorine and Sodium (Salt)
Function - Help maintain osmotic pressure in body cells. Sodium is
associated with muscle contraction and with making bile. Chlorine is required for protein
Deficiency - Can cause heat stress in warm weather. Can also cause rough
hair coat, depraved appetite, and reduced growth and milk production.
Notes - Horses need twice as much sodium as chlorine. Usually must be
supplemented as feeds of plant origin are generally low in sodium and chlorine.
Function - Essential component of bones and teeth. Activates many
Deficiency - Often causes horses to be high-strung and jumpy. May cause
Notes - Can become deficient if fed lots of grain and little hay. Excess
can interfere with metabolism of calcium and phosphorus.
Function - Important to bones and teeth, also to metabolism of
carbohydrates and fats.
Deficiency - As with calcium, deficiency can cause rickets in young horses
and osteomalacia in older horses.
Notes - The ratio of calcium to phosphorus is less important when adequate
levels of vitamin D are present.
Function - Involved in osmotic pressure and muscle activity. Also required
in enzyme reaction. Influences carbohydrate metabolism.
Deficiency - Reduced appetite, retarded growth, poor gait, muscle
weakness, distended abdomen.
Notes - A diet of at least 50 percent forage usually contains sufficient
potassium, although increased activity increases the amount of potassium needed.
Function - Unknown as yet.
Deficiency - Not known to be essential, however some problems have been
helped by sulfur supplementation.
Notes - For more information, see our article on Sulfur & MSM.
Function - Required for the synthesis of vitamin B12.
Deficiency - Anemia.
Notes - Some soils may be deficient in cobalt causing a deficiency in the
hay produced there. These areas are parts of Australia, western Canada, and eastern United
Function - Necessary (along with iron and vitamin B12) for hemoglobin
formation. May also be needed for normal bone development.
Deficiency - Anemia (with low counts of red blood cells and reduced
amounts of hemoglobin). Poor bone development in growing horses.
Notes - Like cobalt, some soils may be deficient in copper. These areas
include Australia, Florida and the Coastal Plain of the United States.
Function - Needed for proper tooth and bone formation. Helps prevent tooth
Deficiency - Extremely rare.
Notes - Excess is more common. Can cause rough hair coat, discolored
teeth, and lameness due to enlarged joints.
Function - Needed by the thyroid gland to control the metabolism and heat
production. Also essential for reproduction.
Deficiency - Weak and dead foals. High incidence of navel ill.
Notes - Deficiency and excess can cause goiter (enlargement of the thyroid
gland) . Excesses cause symptoms very similar to deficiencies.
Function - Needed to make hemoglobin which carries oxygen to the cells.
Also needed for some enzyme systems.
Deficiency - Anemia.
Notes - Milk is deficient in iron, therefore foals should be offered creep
feed as soon as they can digest it.
Function - Needed for normal bone formation. Helps utilize carbohydrates
and fats. Important to enzyme formation. Aids growth and reproduction.
Deficiency - Poor growth. Lameness. Enlarged joints. Crooked legs. Poor
Notes - Not usually deficient unless excesses of calcium and phosphorus
Function - Needed to produce an antioxidant enzyme and some amino acids.
Conserves vitamin E.
Deficiency - Muscle disorders
Notes - Excess can be poisonous.
Function - Needed for normal protein synthesis and metabolism. Needed by
the immune system and to maintain healthy skin and hair.
Deficiency - Rough, dull hair coat. Lack of appetite.
Notes - Deficiencies are rare under natural conditions.
Although deficiencies are not uncommon, an imbalance is more likely. One mineral can
enhance or interfere with the utilization of another mineral. Because of this it is
important not to "play the numbers game" when buying a supplement. In other
words, choosing a supplement based on the greatest amount of a certain mineral can be
harmful. It is better to buy a balanced supplement.
The information given here is to help you learn more about your horse
and not to replace your veterinarian's advice.
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