Why should you know about bioavailable, organic and chelated minerals when choosing a vitamin mineral feed for your horse?

Why should you know about bioavailable, organic and chelated minerals when choosing a vitamin mineral feed for your horse?

Does it really matter in what form the vitamins and minerals are in your horse feed or vitamin- mineral supplement? Do they relate to your horse’s health and performance? 

Is it really worth the money to pay slightly more for those tags in the product?


“Synthetic vitamins may be identical with naturally occurring substances or closely related. The close relations, although useful in many ways, pose some problems in that they may have only a fraction, whether large or small, of the biological activity of the natural products.” “Synthetic vitamins may perform some of the functions of their natural counterparts while being useless for others. But what may be more important is the fact that synthetic vitamins, prepared from chemicals instead of nature, are frequently less active biologically than their natural counterparts, thereby reducing any beneficial effect they may have.” - College of Veterinary Surgeons, Cambridge University



So instead of just having your horse to have expensive pee it’s better to choose the vitamins and minerals in more bioavailable form that the body can actually effectively use. 

When the mineral is bound to an amino acid it is absorbed most easily and is the best choice for delivering a nutrient to the body structure where it is needed. Chelated minerals are also referred to as organic forms of minerals. 

Chelation is the chemical process by which a mineral (iron, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese) is combined with a mixture of amino acids and peptides. The resulting substances are known as chelates. Another descriptive term, proteinates, refers to the amino acid bond. 

These chelated minerals are thought to be more digestible than nonchelated forms. In other words, chelation makes the minerals more bioavailable (able to be absorbed and used for bodily functions), chiefly by shielding them from the effects of other dietary elements in the animal’s digestive tract. Proteinates or chelates are described as organic minerals in contrast to inorganic minerals, those that are not bound to amino acids.


Does my horse need to be supplemented with vitamins and minerals?

The horses most likely don’t get enough nutrients from the food they eat. 

This is because of the depletion of the soil minerals due decades of grazing and farming. 

Horses are often turned out to relatively small fields if at all and the field and hay often contain a restricted variety of grasses and legumes. While horses don’t get enough nutrients from the food they eat, combine that with heavy training, broodmares, high numbers of digestive problems and the demand of performance today and we can all agree it’s best to complement the basic feeding. 

Vitamins play an important role in the body. They are part of growth, tissue maintenance, they work as coenzymes and precursors of coenzymes in the regulation of many metabolic processes and many vitamins regulate glucocorticoid synthesis. Some vitamins must be provided by food and others are produced by the body. 

Horses need vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K for optimal health

Vitamin A is used to support eye function, reproduction, and the health of bones, skin, and muscles. A diet deficient in vitamin A can cause reproductive problems, increased risk of infection, defects in bone and muscle growth, a dull hair coat, and eye problems like tearing and night blindness. Horses get vitamin A from fresh grass and good quality hay as beta-carotene. In winter months this supply of vitamin A is limited. 


B-vitamins  are water soluble vitamins: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folacin and cobalamin. B vitamins are made in the horse’s body either from organic compounds in other foods, or by the microbes that live in the horse’s gut. 

While there is little research available on the subject of vitamin B requirements in horses. Hard-working and stressed horses often benefit from extra B vitamins for energy metabolism, production of red blood cells, and maintenance of appetite. I would always choose B-vitamins in active and natural form. 


Vitamin C is also a water soluble vitamin and the horse's liver is able to synthesize this nutrient from glucose. Vitamin C is necessary for proper formation of bones, teeth, and collagen, and is also a powerful antioxidant that protects cell membranes from the damaging action of free radicals.


Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin produced in the skin when horses are exposed to sunlight. It’s also found in hay, but decreases as the hay is stored. It is important for proper skeletal development in young horses and helps to regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in mature animals.


Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that is also found from hay, but the levels decrease as the hay is stored. Vitamin E has important antioxidant qualities and also supports healthy function of the horse’s nervous, immune, and reproductive systems. Horses that don’t get enough vitamin E may show muscle trembling, weakness, and atrophy. 

Vitamin K is manufactured in the horse’s hindgut and is also ingested in hay. Vitamin K is needed for proper blood clotting. Under normal conditions, it’s rare for a horse to develop a deficiency, but intestinal infections that disrupt the bacterial population of the gut can compromise production of vitamin K.


So vitamin-mineral feed is a necessity, BUT so is the QUALITY of it. When it comes to complementary feeds, cheap is not an option if the horse's health is top priority.

For anyone aiming for optimal health and performance choose added vitamins and minerals in active, proteinates or chelated forms.

Vitamins in natural form are more bioavailable than synthetic vitamins. 

There’s a number of studies showing that it doesn’t help to just feed more cheaper synthetic minerals, but they will more likely just lead to depletion of some other mineral. 

I would also look at if iron is added to the vitamin-mineral supplement. Unless a horse has lost large quantities of blood, it will not benefit from iron supplementation. Low blood counts are due to other factors. Excessive dietary iron can interfere with the absorption of other minerals and vitamins and will likely do more harm than good.

- Jenni Oksala






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