Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Horses

Find out if your horse could be at risk of suffering subtle but serious vitamin and mineral imbalances.
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Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Horses
Nowadays many horses consume commercially prepared feed balanced for their energy, protein, vitamin, and mineral needs. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Depending on his lifestyle and location, your horse might be at risk for suffering subtle but serious vitamin and mineral imbalances

For the most part, horse owners have little to fear when it comes to nutrient deficiencies in their horses’ diets. Nowadays many horses consume commercially prepared feed balanced for their energy, protein, vitamin, and mineral needs.

Kathleen Crandell, PhD, equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research, explains that most horse owners in the United States have access to good-quality forages, and North American horses live fairly healthy lives. However, we shouldn’t take these things for granted. “Nutrient deficiencies in the U.S. tend to be subclinical rather than clinical,” she says. “Clinical means there are obvious signs. Subclinical means symptoms are vague. If the horse is not taking in enough nutrients, the problems may show in subtle ways. For example, a front-end lameness could be the result of an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet. We might put the blame on exercise or an accident, and not relate it to nutrient deficiencies.”

At-Risk Horses and Common Deficiencies

Kristen M. Janicki, MS, PAS, performance horse nutritionist for Mars Horse-care US Inc. and Buckeye Nutrition, says horses at risk for developing nutrient deficiencies include high-level performance horses, pregnant and lactating mares, growing horses up to 2 years of age, and horses that are stalled 24/7 on an all-hay diet with no pasture access

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Written by:

Sharon Biggs Waller is a freelance writer for equine ­science and human interest publications. Her work has appeared in several publications and on several websites, and she is a classical dressage instructor.

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