Understanding about vitamins and minerals and what they can do for the body (yours and your equine friend) is an important part of being a horse owner. In this group of articles, we will discuss what vitamins and minerals are and what they do to the body.
We know from scientific studying that increased farming and the use of chemical additives to the ground has created a situation where the soils are constantly coming up deficient in a range of minerals. This emerged as far back as 1937 in modern day history, and published in many Agricultural Handbooks suggesting that greater attention was needed. Further if you go back to Mayan history.
With this in mind, 'You are What you Eat'. Therefore if the horse does not get to forage on a range of pastures full of a variety of vitamins and minerals, he will come up short in the health stakes. Horses must have strong bones and feet as they need to carry not only their weight around but they need to carry us doing a range of very physical activities which impact on bone structure.
Remember this : 4 minerals and 2 vitamins are the BARE essentials to maintain healthy horses.
BARE Minerals are
Calcium and Magnesium - found naturally in dolomite
Copper - often used in the form of copper sulphate
Boron - naturally found in seaweed or in the form of Sodium Borate, needs only very small amounts of this.
Vitamins are A and D both found naturally in Cod Liver Oil ( and other Marine oils)
So we will start with the Boron which is little known about. First, I need to tell you a personal event. I rescued a 13 year old 16HH big solid TB racehorse that had concussion laminitis. Basically it had been left in a paddock, fed and watered and rugged but no attention to its feet. Consequently the hoof walls had separated. Long story but after 2 and half years, two major rehabilitative hoof sections cut out most of the hoof wall on one front hoof and very thin hoof walls, we now have a very ridable horse. I tell you this story because although he was fed and in a large paddock and held good weight, looking at the cross section of his hoof when cut out, it was only 3 or 4 millimetres thick and shelly, the outer wall had numerous vertical fracture lines. Not deep, but enough to tell me that he was deficient. I knew he needed extra help in his diet if we were going to succeed.
His name was Secret Tunnel, which I was not going to stand at the top of the paddock and call down the valley for all my neighbours to hear. I have to ask, Who Names these Race Horses? Anyway, we called him Horse. Original I know but he was a bit of a S#$@ so after 6 months, we ended up calling him Harry the S@#$. He had a lot of attitude readjustment to go through as in my house, I am the Alpha. With a lot of work we now call him Harold, on a good day. I thought that he may have arthritic type problems. He was in pain but where to start.
So to get him the extra help, I went to the Univeristy of Google and came across a book - Natural Horse Care by Pat Colby. This book gave me a range of clues that I needed to piece together what was happening with this horse. I believed that with his size, as he was heavy boned and thick across the chest ex race horse, the favouring of the feet had caused muscular and skeletal problems further through his body, that we needed to deal with. And with his history, I thought that arthritis might be tangled in the mix. Tried physio and a range of other sciences, but to be honest what this horse actually needed was rest, quality food with a good balance of minerals and vitamins and the right sort of exercise to get the body moving again and socialisation.
Due to the long standing issue of the concussion laminitis (Vets verdict - I took him to a trusted vet to see if he was worth saving as he could hardly walk when I obtained ownership) I decided that basic food which included oaten chaff, lucerne chaff and a sprinkling of bran as the base hard feed. He ran with 3 other horses, so he now had a friendship group which is very important for mental health, on 10 acres of pasture. We look after very well with quality mineral replacement and seeding programs. All very important. We try not to use many chemicals as this gets into the feeding chain and into the horse orally.
This is the important part I gave him the recipe above. To add to this I often removed his blankets so that he can derive the natural Vitamin D from the sun. Horses can't do it as well if they are rugged all the time. The whole body needs it. I also added a tablespoon of double strength 'mother earth' apple cider vinegar, tablespoon of tumeric with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. Pepper is needed as the active ingredient in it reacts with the tumeric to allow it to work properly. (Heaps of study on it online).
So What does the Boron do?
It is an essential trace mineral but needed in very small amounts. Liver damage will be caused if given in excess. The calcium and magnesium will only be partially utilised in the system if boron is not present. This can lead to arthritis issues, or a bone or joint problem. Horses need only a couple of grams a week of this. Boron keeps the skeleton structure as strong as possible. It binds with other elements by producing digestive enzymes allowing the nutrients to transfer to where they are needed. It assists in imporving bone density, preventing osteoporosis and arthritis and importantly it improves the strength and muscle mass.
An update, Back to Harry. We have worked through the hoof issues. His hoof eventually grew out but has had a couple of set backs as the internals for the hoof have had to readjust to the balanced hoof. Remember they were out of whack for a few years with a lot of weight bearing down on them. The cross section of his hoof from the outer wall to under the dermal layers is around the 10mm which is amazing. His hoof looks good, the only time he has slight vertical splinters (what used to be small cracks) is change of season when it gets drier, and I then need to apply a topical application of food to his hoof just to help out. (Our Hoof Moisturiser or Crack Repair products can help you here)
He worked on the exercises which are basic riding, doing a range of exercises to supple up his body movement and cantering on the lunge to get the canter leg correct before we did it under saddle. He tended to favour the incorrect leg on both sides. But he's getting on track. The soreness is gone, I think the muscle groups that were problems have softened and are working better and I beleive the arthritis is well under control.
So, my story is to let you know from first hand experience that a holistic approach of understanding your horse, feeding good food, good hoof work and the right exercises can improve the quality of your horses life. The vet never checked his internals or did blood work, so who knows what was going on inside.