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Does My Horse Need a Multivitamin / Mineral Supplement?

Does My Horse Need a Multivitamin / Mineral Supplement?

Tigger Montague

This question comes across my desk via emails and texts several times a week.  I see it often on internet horse bulletin boards, and it appears among commonly asked questions on commercial feed company websites.

The feed companies maintain that if you feed their recommended amount per day, you do not need additional multivitamin/mineral supplements.  On paper this makes sense.  Most feeds these days are “complete” feeds, or ration balancers fortified with vitamins and minerals so that the horse owner doesn’t have to add another supplement.  But when we look deeper into the fortification of processed feeds, we see that the vitamins they contain are petroleum byproducts (vitamin A and the B-complex vitamins, as well as d-alpha tocopherol acetate which is a common form of vitamin E).  Also, the minerals in these feeds come primarily in their inorganic forms: carbonates and oxides (ground-up rock) that provide low bioavailability.

Many owners ignore the advice of the commercial feed companies and add an additional multivitamin/mineral supplement, either on intuition or on the belief that more is better.  However, most of the multivitamin/mineral supplements they add are made from the exact same petroleum-derived ingredients and inorganic minerals used by the feed companies.

There are some exceptions. A select group of companies use minerals that are chelated (pronounced “KEY-lated”).  This means the mineral is bound to an organic substance such as protein, thus increasing the bioavailability.  A protein-bound mineral is called an “amino acid chelate”.  Plants do this on their own, with the minerals delivered to them by fungi and microorganisms in the soil.  The plants pull the minerals up through their roots and bind them to free amino acids in a process called “plant mineral chelation”.

Why are chelated minerals better for horses and humans? It all comes back to the question you should always ask when reading the ingredients on any feed or supplement: will this decrease stress on the GI tract, or increase stress?

For example, vitamin B1 (thiamine) is commonly made from coal tar, which is a petroleum derivative.  Under laboratory analysis, it looks the same as the thiamine found in food sources such as nutritional yeast and rice.  But the GI tract is not a lab bench.  It’s a sensitive series of organs that readily identify nutrients from food, because nutrients are meant to be digested and absorbed within the matrix of real food.  It is this matrix that provides the co-enzymes, food enzymes, co-vitamins and minerals and other nutritional factors such as antioxidants that all contribute toward reduction of stress on the GI tract.

This is why wild horses can live without commercial feeds and supplements, maintaining their health just from eating plants.  When we add a whole-food multivitamin/mineral, we are providing real nutrition from plants.  After all, is nutrition really nutrition when it comes from petroleum?

So, to answer the question, “does my horse need a multivitamin/mineral,” my answer is… it depends on the supplement:

  • If your horse is currently on commercial feed and your supplement does not contain real, whole food, then no — you don’t need that supplement, since it’s made with the same non-food-based ingredients that are already provided in the feed.  Petroleum-derived nutrients and ground-up rocks do not provide the same nutrition or bioavailability supplied by real, whole-food nutrients, nor do they reduce stress on the GI tract.
  • If your multivitamin/mineral contains nutrients in their real, whole-food form, then yes — supplement your horse’s feed with this in the amount recommended by the manufacturer.  Real food nutrition is far friendlier to your horse’s GI tract, and just happens to be the best nutrition on earth.

BioStar’s Optimum multivitamin and mineral supplements provide real nutrition from 100% whole food:
• Optimum EQ in bars or powder,
• Optimum Senior EQ – powder for Senior Horses
• Optimum JS – multivitamin with joint support
• Optimum JS Senior – multivitamin joint support for Senior Horses
• Optimum K9 – bars and powder for dogs
• Optimum K9 Senior – powder for Senior Dogs

All Articles amino acid chelate bioavailability chelated minerals commercial feed Equine Health food-based Formulator's Corner multi-mineral multivitamin Nutrition & Feeding petroleum whole food


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