Joe Pagan, PhD, founder of Kentucky Equine Research (KER), in Versailles, recently conducted a study on the topic. He presented his results at the 2019 Equine Science Society Symposium, held June 3-6 in Asheville, North Carolina.
Pagan included in his study 14 Thoroughbred racehorses in training over a 12-week period. Their diets during this time consisted of free-choice timothy hay, fortified feed, electrolytes, and free-choice salt—designed to meet or exceed the nutrient requirements of horses in heavy work. Seven horses in the treatment group also received a marine-derived complex with trace minerals and vitamins (the supplement Triacton), and seven received a placebo.
“We were interested in looking at bone changes such as density and mineral content,” during the study period, he said.
During Weeks 0, 4, and 12, Pagan took radiographs of each horse’s left front cannon bone to estimate bone density. He said he found no significant differences in bone or cortical (bone’s hard outer layer) width or medial or lateral density (inside or outside of the bone) between treatment groups but did, however, note an increase in dorsal and palmar (front and back of cannon, respectively) cortical bone density in the supplemented horses.
“We have to chalk some of these changes up to horses being in training (bone responds to the stress of exercise by laying down more bone cells),” said Pagan. “But since the supplemented horses increased bone density more than the unsupplemented horses, we might also be positively affecting density by adding these nutrients in addition to horses’ normal nutrient requirements.”