Some of the required minerals are included in hay and grain, but there are
different parts of the country where these can have deficient or low amounts and
the needed minerals will be inadequate in the foodstuffs grown there. More than
just a trace-mineralized salt block is required for proper mineral
supplementation. Providing a well balanced mineral supplement is essential to
ensuring good health. These supplements should have all the essential minerals
such as Southern States’ Equimin for example.
Equimin provides the proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio and all the needed
essential minerals and vitamins in a granular form in ten to twenty-five pound
pails and a twenty-five pound block to give horses balanced amounts or mixed hay
feeding programs such as grass and legume.
For healthy connective tissue and proper iron utilization horses need copper.
Anemia and bone and joint problems can result from a deficiency of copper. A
study in New Zealand recently showed that pregnant mares who received a copper
supplement had foals with a lower chance of developmental orthopedic disease or
DOD. Some horses with a copper deficiency will have a dull, discolored coat; for
example a black horse may have a reddish tinge to their coat.
For Vitamin B-12 synthesis horses need cobalt. Cobalt deficiency is symptomatic
of a deficiency of Vitamin B-12.
To regulate metabolism and growth horses need iodine which is a component of
thyroid hormone. Stillborn foals or foals born weak and unable to suckle can
result from iodine-deficient dams. An irregular cycle is common in
iodine-deficient mares. Goiter or an enlarged thyroid gland is a common symptom
of iodine deficiency and shows as swelling on the horse’s throat.
A component of blood hemoglobin is iron. Horses rarely have iron-deficient
anemia and it is more often a result of an excess or deficiency of copper or
Vitamin B-12. However, anemia is the most obvious sign that a horse has iron
For a healthy skin, bone, hoof and connective tissue a horse needs zinc. Zinc is
also important for a proper reproductive function. A sign of zinc deficiency may
be brittle, crumbly hooves; dry, flaking skin and dull coats.
For cartilage development and the proper utilization of other trace minerals it
is important to have manganese. Cartilage and bone deformation in growing foals
can result from manganese deficiency.
For healthy teeth and bones horses need an adequate amount of calcium and
phosphorus. It is important to maintain the proper ratio of these two minerals
which is between 1.5:1 and 2:1. Osteodystrophy can result from too much
phosphorus which can result in very weak bones and the tendons may detach from
the bones. Rickets can occur in growing foals with a calcium deficiency in
addition to osteomalacia or fragile and brittle bones. Rickets and fragile bones
can also be caused by a phosphorus deficiency which can lead to fractures and
For muscle and nervous tissue function magnesium is needed. Nervousness and
muscle tremors can result from magnesium deficiency and in some severe cases can
actually lead to collapse, convulsions and death. Horses are usually very
excitable, spook easily and may have a poor tolerance for work due to fatigue if
they have magnesium deficiency.
An important electrolyte is potassium which helps maintain the cell’s acid/base
balance and internal cellular fluid pressure. A horse’s potassium requirement
may increase significantly in hot weather and/or strenuous work since potassium
is excreted in sweat. A reduced appetite and weight loss are the major symptoms
of potassium deficiency.
A major blood electrolyte that is needed is sodium which is important for the
regulation of body fluids. Decreased appetite and water intake, dehydration and
a tendency to chew on objects that are salty such as sweaty tack, tools and
people can result from chronic sodium and/or chloride deficiency.
A component of the three amino acids methionine, cystine and cysteine is sulfur
and it plays an important role in biotin, thiamin, insulin and chondroitin
sulfate all of which are building blocks of synovial fluid and cartilage.