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FEEDING AND BEHAVIOUR

Vitamins and Minerals for brain and body

Vitamins and minerals are often overlooked in equine diets, with sometimes serious consequences. Deficiencies in single trace elements can disrupt the absorption of other essential nutrients, so meeting requirements is critical for overall wellbeing and performance. Some minerals and vitamins directly impact behaviour, as well as horse health. Sources

Digestion

Vitamins and Minerals are present to some extent in almost all feedstuffs. Hays usually contain more minerals than grains. However, most equine diets do not contain sufficient supply, and some have levels of trace elements in significant excess of requirements. Different horses have quite different needs, and should be supplemented as individuals. Commercially available complete supplements are ideal - mineral licks alone are not sufficient for horses in work or under stress.

Absorption of most vitamins is through the digestive tract. However, some health conditions inhibit absorption, and under or oversupply of some micronutrients can also inhibit uptake or conversion of other nutrients. Correct balance is essential in the diet.

Metabolic Effect: B Vitamins

Metabolic Effect: Fat Soluble Vitamins

The B Group of vitamins is one of the most critical for managing behaviour.

Vitamins A, E and D are fat soluble - that is, they can be stored in the body. This can lead to toxicity if they are oversupplied. However, they are certainly required for horses that don't have regular access to fresh pasture, or horses under stress. Vitamin E and Selenium are required to help prevent 'tying-up' after exercise, and its associated pain and distress. With Vitamin C, Vitamin E helps to maintain the homeostasis of the adrenal and pituitary glands, preventing anxiety and hyper-reactivity. A and E deficiency can limit hormone function.

B1 (Thiamine) is involved in the carbohydrate metabolism. Deficiency causes a build up of lactic acid in the bloodstream, which causes 'fizziness' as well as other metabolic issues. B2 (Riboflavin) is used by the body to metabolise fatty acids and amino acids as well as carbs, and assist the correct functioning of the adrenal glands, which are a part of the horse's HPA axis 'stress cycle'. B12 (Cyanocobalamin) and B6 (Pyridoxine) also assist in the protein, carb and fat metabolisms, and B12 promotes appetitite. B5 (Panothenic Acid) assists the aerobic energy metabolism and energy release, supports the adrenal gland and helps balance hormone levels. A slight deficiency can seriously impact hormone function. Deficiency of B1, B6 and B12 is implicated in coprophagia (eating manure).

Indications All working horses will probably need supplementation. Reactive or tense horses may benefit from additional B Vitamin supplementation in particular, as will those fed a lot. of protein and carbs. Horses that regularly go into 'flight mode' leach minerals from their bones, and will need more help.

Metabolic Effect: Mineral Electrolytes Potassium helps control muscle contractibility, and the cellular uptake of glucose during exercise. Phosphorous activates B Vitamins, so is quite important for regulating energy metabolism. Magnesium controls neuromuscular activity, and deficiency results in restlessness. Calcium also controls muscle contraction and excitability, and deficiency can cause depression. Sodium helps balance the acid/base ratio in the horse's system, preventing acidosis and its associated anxiety and hyper-reactivity. Results

Metabolic Effect: Other Minerals

Deficiency in just one element can have a negative effect on energy levels (spikes or troughs); waste product metabolism (cell damage and associated discomfort and distress during exercise); and also on muscle function (causing spontaneous movement/ excitability). Proper supply balances behaviour as well as aiding performance.

Selenium helps reduce damage to cells from lactic acid and other waste products, and Chromium helps this too. Selenium, however, is highly toxic if overfed, and was the cause of the mass 2009 Polo Pony deaths in the United States. Manganese, Zinc and Sulphur are needed to help regulate the energy metabolism. Iodine also produces a thyroid hormone that helps to control metabolic rate. For more see http://lucanlodge.net

Contraindications Phosphorous and calcium work in apposition, so horses with diets naturally high in one will need extra supplementation of the other, and additional sources of the oversupplied mineral will need to be avoided, to help maintain their balance.

Healthy Attitudes - Feeding Vitamins and Minerals  

Absorption of most vitamins is through the digestive tract. However, some health conditions inhibit absorption, and under or oversupply of s...

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