Horses need both fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins for normal growth and metabolism.
Fat-soluble (dissolve in fat) vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K, while water-soluble v(dissolve in water) vitamins include vitamin C and the B vitamin group—thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), folacin (B9), pantothenic acid (B5), biotin (B6), and cobalamin (B12).
The more important question: is your horse getting enough vitamins from his diet?
When it comes to our horses—a lifeless coat, poor hooves, and sluggishness are alarming telltale signs. Something’s off.
That makes Vitamins hard to dismiss. Plus, dietary supplements are screaming these days “your horse needs me”.
Get peace of mind.
We’ve lined up the vitamins essential for peak performance and longevity. Along with the reasons on why your horse could need more than the rest in this list. From here, you can make a solid decision on how to improve your horse’s diet and life. No more horsing around.
Vitamins for Horses: What they do ?
Vitamins – Our horses need these organic elements in small amounts for normal cell function, metabolism, growth, and development.
However, horses can naturally produce their own vitamins in the body (except for Vitamins A and E). Therefore, it’s assumed horses have their vitamins covered.
Furthermore, vitamins are divided into two definitions.
Fat-Soluble Vitamins – Fat-soluble means a horse requires fat in the diet to absorb these nutrients. Hence, they bind to a fat and get stored for later use. This is a classic case of too much of something is bad enough. It can be toxic.
These vitamins are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Water-Soluble Vitamins. Meanwhile, the rest of the vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they get absorbed readily by cells. There’s lower risk of overdosing, if at all.
But they get flushed easily too so these vitamins require constant replenish:
- Vitamin C
- B Vitamins (thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), biotin (B7), folacin (B9), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6) and cobalamin B12)
You may also like: The 4 Best Horse Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.
Horse Nutritional Requirements Table
What vitamins do horses need? It’s important to take a look at the bigger picture first before going down the vitamin lane.
After all, nutrient requirement varies for every horse. Among the factors to consider are age, weight and work level.
Can you know how much vitamins your horse typically needs?
So far, the most trusted resource for vets, manufacturers, and owners is the standard set by the National Research Council (NRC) Nutrient Requirements of Horses, published in 1989.
You can get the latest (2007) version or go online to figure out if your horse is getting what he should from his diet.
“The NRC guidelines represent our best estimates, but realize that they aren’t law and that there is wiggle room,” says Sarah Ralston, VMD, associate director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center and a specialist in equine nutrition.
“It is not necessary to balance rations to the nearest one percent for all known nutrients. If you make sure needs for energy, protein, and some macrominerals are met, the rest will usually be OK,” she added.
With that in mind, it pays to take a look at this BASF recommendation for vitamin supplementation per 100 kg live weight/day. This is also based on NRC guidelines.
|Vitamin||Foals||Leisure Horses||Race & Breeding Horses|
|Vitamin A, IU||10,000 – 12,000||6,000 – 8,000||12,000 – 15,000|
|Vitamin D, IU||1000 – 1200||600 – 800||1200 – 1500|
|Vitamin E, mg||100 – 120||60 – 80||200 – 300|
|Vitamin K, mg (mendaione)||3||2||3|
|Thiamin, mg||8 – 10||6 – 8||8 – 12|
|Riboflavin, mg||8 – 12||6- 8||8 – 12|
|Vitamin B6, mg||6||4||6|
|Vitamin B12, ug||60 – 80||50 – 70||60 – 80|
|Biotin, ug||200 – 300||200*||200 – 300*|
|Niacin, mg||10 – 20||10 – 15||15 – 25|
|Pantothenic Acid, mg||8 – 10||6 -8||10 – 12|
|Choline, mg||150 – 250||150 – 250||300 – 400|
|Vitamin C, mg||200||100||200 – 300|
|B-cartene, mg||400 – 500+|
* for improvement of hoof health and integrity 15 – 20 mg/day for at least 6 months.
+ for reproduction per horse per day, 4 weeks before birth to 10 weeks after
What Vitamins Do Horses Need?
With all the refresher course on vitamins and nutritional requirements, it’s safe to assume we can answer this question.
There are 13 essential vitamins. For horses, these are the five key players.
This vitamin does more than aids the vision. It also helps to rebuild bones, encourages red and white cell production, keeps the immune system strong and regulates cell growth and division.
Recommended Dose: A 500-kg (1,100-pounds) horse would need 15,000 IU of vitamin A per day. Increase that at 22,500 IU for a heavier workload. Don’t exceed 160,000 IU though.
Best Sources: Vitamin A itself is not directly found in plants. Instead, your horse can convert Beta Carotene in his gut into Vitamin A.
Aside from corn and carrots, fresh, non-dormant pasture grasses have the highest beta-carotene concentration while old grass hays the lowest.
Supplement Option: If your horse has no access to green forage, it’s worth considering. Also, according to a report, vitamin A gets lost in the hay after six months of storage.
Watch out if your horse is eating old hay with no supplemented grains. You may need to level up his Vitamin A sources. An extra carrot can do the trick if you want.
Or choose supplements in stabilized forms as retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate.
E is the most reliable antioxidant that protects essential lipids from damage, battles free radicals and supports the immune system. Along with Selenium, it ensures muscle strength.
Recommended Dose: The current recommended daily dietary intake of Vitamin E for adult horses is 500-1000 IU
Best Sources: Wheat germ, stabilized rice bran, and soybean oil are excellent natural sources of vitamin E
Supplement Option: Vitamin E supplementation of 500 to 1,000 IU per day is recommended when your horse is sick or performing at higher levels.
Horses have to love the sun. Or miss out on the essentials of Vitamin D for normal calcium metabolism, immunity, nervous system function, and bone density.
Recommended Dose: A 500 kg horse will require 3300 IU of Vitamin D per day
Best Sources: Grass and sun-cured hays are good sources. It’s best if your horse grazes in sunlight for 6 to 8 hours too. Moreover, commercial feeds have decent amounts of vitamin D3.
Supplement Option: Vitamin D deficiency is rare in horses. But toxicity reports are not.
Does your horse live inside a cage? Is your horse devoid of sunshine? Then you can supplement with 800 to 1000 IU of vitamin D per kg.
This vitamin is required for wound healing and bone development due to its role in blood clotting.
Recommended Dose: No requirement has been established for horses
Best Sources: Vitamin K is best found in fresh and dried green leafy plants. Green grass growing under the rays of the sun have the highest levels.
Do Horses Need Supplements
Horses with no constant access to fresh green pasture could compromise bone density and strength.
Thus, a research from Japan found that the most effective way to supplement horses with vitamin K is in the form of K3 or menadione.
Performing horses may benefit from a dose of 20 mg/day.
What vitamins do horses need for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and nucleic acids?
But Biotin, in particular has a positive effect on improving hoof condition.
Recommended Dose: No requirement has been established for horses
Best Sources: Horses can synthesize their own supply of B-Vitamins when there’s enough fiber in the intestinal tract
Supplement Option: According to the Horse and Hound these horses are candidates for getting B-vitamins supplements:
- Horses with metabolic dysfunction
- Horses under a low-fiber diet
- Horses who get stressed in traveling
- Horses under heavy antibiotic use
- Overly stressed Racehorses
- Older horses with poor teeth
- Horses recovering from illnesses
Want to improve your horse’s hoof? Go for biotin supplementation at 15-25 mg per day.
Also read: What kind of food do horses eat?
Wrapping it Up
If your horse lives and thrives in an excellent pasture and good stable condition, it’s a less concern.
What vitamins do horses need?
The thing is, experts believe that high-quality forage is the foundation of a balanced feeding program.
To ensure your horse meets the vitamin requirements, have your hay nutrient content analyzed or whatever his main source of diet is.
It’s your equine nutritionist’s call on what changes should be implemented.
Whatever it is, have well-informed choices. Give it time to work. You’ll know if your horse improves with the way he looks and moves.