When it comes to the world of equine supplements, vitamin E is one you’ve likely heard mentioned. Like us, horses require this vitamin in order to thrive, and fortunately, it’s fairly easy to come by if they spend most of their day grazing in a pasture; in fact, fresh, green, healthy grass usually contains all the vitamin E a horse needs.
While this is good news, there are, however, several factors which can lead to deficient vitamin E levels in pasture. These include changing seasons (with fall and winter having the lowest levels of vitamin E) as well as a lack of rainfall. Overgrazed pastures are also likely to be lacking in vitamin E.
Due to boarding situations and other management practices, many horses have limited access or no access at all to fresh grass, and unfortunately, once grass has been cut and dried for hay, it quickly loses its vitamin E content. Because of this, any horse living on a hay-based diet will need vitamin E supplementation.
While it’s true that many commercial feeds do contain some vitamin E, most don’t contain enough, especially if you’re not feeding the recommended amount (which most people don’t).
And even if you are feeding commercial grains at recommended levels, there are different forms of this nutrient, which affect absorption, utilization and overall vitamin E status in the horse’s body.
So as you can see, there are many instances when horses WILL require proper vitamin E supplementation.
What does vitamin E do for horses?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin which must be obtained from feed. Once inside the horse’s body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals--unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging.
Naturally-occurring vitamin E exists in eight different forms, but for horses, alpha-tocopherol is the most notable because it plays an important role in the glutathione pathway which protects cells from the inevitable oxidative stress associated with exercise, metabolism and more.
As mentioned above, it is also important to consider the form of vitamin E offered. Natural vitamin E, which is the form occurring in hay and grass, is labeled on horse feeds and supplements as d-alpha-tocopherol.
Synthetic vitamin E, which is the main form added to horse feed and supplements is labeled as dl-alpha-tocopherol.
While the difference in labeling is very slight, the form of vitamin E offered to horses is critically important! The natural form (d-alpha-tocopherol) will be absorbed at the highest possible levels and is stored much more efficiently than synthetic versions, aiding in the horse’s innate recovery mechanisms.
What are the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency?
Without supplementation, horses eating a hay-based diet with little or no access to fresh pasture may become deficient in vitamin E over time. The following are symptoms of equine vitamin E deficiency:
- Reduced immunity (recurrent coughs and colds)
- Muscle soreness and stiffness
- Muscle wastage and loss of tone (more common in older horses)
Two diseases associated with deficiency with severe clinical signs are equine motor neuron disease (EMND) and equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy, which both affect the spinal cord.
The best vitamin E supplement for horses
Non-working adult horses or those in light work are usually just fine with the minimum equine vitamin E requirements recommended by the National Research Council (NRC) of 1 IU per kg of body weight per day. This is equivalent to approximately 500 IU for the average 500 kg (or 1,100 lb) horse.
However, exercising, hard-working and larger body weight horses will require more vitamin E.
Luckily, vitamin E supplementation is easy with Fullbucket’s Medical Muscle. Top dress this supplement on your horse’s feed and provide them with potent and plentiful amounts of d-alpha tocopherol (natural vitamin E for horses). In combination with the other unique ingredients in Medical Muscle, this supplement is designed to support:
- Energy and endurance
- Recovery after exercise
- Muscle, tendon, and joint health
- Protection from oxidative stress
Check out this antioxidant powerhouse here and provide your horse with an effective and safe way to maximize performance, recovery and overall health.
We can’t wait to hear about you and your horse’s successes!