Vitamins for Equines: Ensuring Optimal Health and Performance

Horses, like humans, require a balanced diet rich in vitamins to maintain their health, energy, and performance. While equine nutrition encompasses a wide array of nutrients, vitamins play a crucial role in supporting various bodily functions, from energy metabolism to immune response. Understanding the specific vitamin needs of horses can help ensure they receive the proper care and nutrition for optimal well-being.

Two brown horses running in a field

The Role of Vitamins in Equine Health

Vitamins are organic compounds essential for normal physiological functions. They are categorized into two main groups: fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble vitamins (B-complex and C). Each vitamin serves specific roles, and deficiencies or imbalances can lead to health issues.



Fat-Soluble Vitamins

  • Vitamin A
        • Function: Vital for vision, skin health, and immune function.
        • Sources: Fresh forage like green pasture grass and hay.
        • Deficiency Symptoms: Night blindness, poor coat condition, and reduced immune response.
  • Vitamin D
        • Function: Regulates calcium and phosphorus levels, essential for bone health.
        • Sources: Synthesized through exposure to sunlight; also found in sun-cured hay.
        • Deficiency Symptoms: Rickets in young horses, bone weakness in adults.
  • Vitamin E
      • Function: Acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage, and supports muscle function.
      • Sources: Fresh forage, particularly green pasture.
      • Deficiency Symptoms: Muscle weakness, poor immune function, neurological issues like equine motor neuron disease.
    Health-E Supplement by Equine Medical and Surgical Associates

    If your horse suffers from neurological issues, muscle soreness, liver problems, or eye disorders, our Health-E supplement can help. It is the country's highest-potency Vitamin E supplement for horses, at over 16,000 IU/oz, and the best economic value on the market. Health-E contains all eight forms of alpha-tocopherol, which doctors recommend. Due to its low sugar, starch, and fructans, the supplement is the only Vitamin E-certified safe for IR, Cushings, and PSSM/EPSM horses. 

  • Vitamin K
      • Function: Essential for blood clotting.
      • Sources: Green leafy plants, synthesis by gut bacteria.
      • Deficiency Symptoms: Rare, but can lead to bleeding disorders.

    Water-Soluble Vitamins

  • B-Complex Vitamins
        • Function: Involved in energy metabolism, red blood cell production, and nervous system function.
        • Sources: Forage, grains, synthesized by gut bacteria.
        • Deficiency Symptoms: Varied depending on specific vitamin, including anemia (B12), poor growth, and skin disorders (B1, B2, B3).
  • Vitamin C
      • Function: Antioxidant, supports immune function and tissue repair.
      • Sources: Horses can synthesize vitamin C in their liver.
      • Deficiency Symptoms: Rare due to endogenous synthesis but can include weakened immune response.

    Brown horse and foal grazing on grass in field

    Special Considerations for Vitamin Supplementation

    Horses in different stages of life, workloads, and environments may have varying vitamin requirements. For instance, performance horses, pregnant mares, and growing foals may need additional supplementation. However, indiscriminate supplementation can be harmful. Excessive fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate to toxic levels, while water-soluble vitamins, though generally excreted, can still cause issues if provided in inappropriate amounts.

    Vitamin A and E: Common Supplements

    Many horse owners focus on supplementing vitamins A and E due to their critical roles and common deficiencies in stored forage diets, especially during winter months when fresh pasture is not available. Commercial supplements and fortified feeds can help meet these needs.

    Monitoring and Adjusting Vitamin Intake

    Regular monitoring of a horse’s diet and health status is essential. Blood tests can help determine vitamin levels and identify deficiencies or excesses. Working with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can ensure a balanced diet tailored to the specific needs of the horse. 

    Black stallion galloping in field

    The Importance of Vitamins

    Vitamins are a cornerstone of equine health, influencing everything from bone strength to immune function. While a well-balanced diet primarily consisting of quality forage can meet many of these needs, supplementation might be necessary in certain circumstances. Careful consideration, guided by professional advice, ensures horses receive the right vitamins in appropriate amounts, supporting their overall health and performance. By understanding the importance of vitamins and monitoring their intake, horse owners can provide optimal care for their equine companions.

    Equine Medical and Surgical Associates is dedicated to restoring your horse’s health so you can enjoy time together for years to come. Dr. Reilly, our veterinarian with 32 years of experience, is passionate about equine health and education. Visit our website to learn how to provide the best care for your equine companion and explore our collection of all-natural, veterinarian-developed products. Click here to contact us today!