Unsung Trace Mineral Heroes

While copper, zinc, iron, and selenium get a lot of attention in equine diets, manganese, iodine, and cobalt are also important for horse health.
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Unsung Trace Mineral Heroes
Trace minerals, despite being required in tiny quantities each day, have a profound impact on our horse’s well-being. This is just one reason why it is important to make sure the diet you are feeding is meeting all nutrient requirements and is well-balanced. | Photo: Photos.com

Q. I see that the trace minerals copper, zinc, iron, and selenium get talked about a lot, but I see others such as manganese and iodine mentioned on feed labels and supplements. I know copper and zinc are important for hoof and coat quality, iron is an important constituent of hemoglobin, and selenium is important for muscle function. But what do the other trace minerals do?

A. This is a great question, and you are right: We spend a lot of time talking about copper and zinc because they are often deficient in forage-based diets. Selenium can be too low, as well, or it might be too high, causing toxicity. However, manganese, iodine, and cobalt are also important and get far less press.

Manganese: Essential for Fat and Carbohydrate Metabolism

Manganese is essential for fat and carbohydrate metabolism. What might surprise many horse owners is that it also plays a role in the synthesis of chondroitin sulfate, which in turn is needed for cartilage formation. Many of my clients are keen on using joint supplements, most of which contain chondroitin sulfate. I’m not opposed to using (good-quality) joint supplements; however, doing so if the horse’s base diet is lacking in manganese seems unproductive. My recommendation is to ensure your horse is consuming enough manganese that he can manufacture his own chondroitin sulfate, and then from there consider supplementation

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Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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