Vitamin E is one of the most important vitamins for the health of your horse. It is a powerful antioxidant that is absolutely necessary for your horse’s muscle health and nervous system. Grass contains more than enough vitamin E in an easily absorbable form. But if your horse is not in the pasture, for example in the winter, a vitamin E deficiency is lurking. But horses with muscle problems (for example PSSM) also benefit from extra vitamin E.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant
Vitamin E is important for flexible muscles. During excercise and training, minor damage occurs in the muscles and waste products (free radicals) are released. You call it oxidative stress. Vitamin E repairs the damage and ensures that the waste products are made harmless. This prevents stiffness and cramps. The more a horse works, the higher its need for vitamin E. Vitamin E is also indispensable for the nervous system. In addition, the immune system can be affected if a horse does not receive enough vitamin E. The proportion of fat in the feed is also important: the more fat, the higher the requirement for vitamin E.
Horses can become deficient in vitamin E if:
- Horses do not or hardly stand on grass
- They are in (heavy) training (the harder your horse works, the higher the need)
- They have a disease such as PSSM and liver disease
- Stress creates more muscle tension and acidification in the muscles
- A high-fat ration is fed
Vitamin E is essential for PSSM
Horses with PSSM1 or PSSM2 have an increased need for vitamin E. Horses with a high vitamin E deficiency can develop a nervous disease called “Equine Motor Neuron Disease” (EMND). Horses with EMND get muscle vibrations and stagger on their legs. Foals and young horses with a severe deficiency can develop the muscle disease NMD. Incidentally, vitamin E supplementation is also recommended for people with metabolic syndrome, it is not yet known whether this can also be helpful in horses.
How much vitamin E does a horse need?
The basic requirement for vitamin E for an adult horse weighing 550 kg is often set at 500 mg of vitamin E per day. Researchers usually do not express this requirement in milligrams, but in international units (iu). This is more precise because the specific weight can vary per supplement. The recommended dose is 1 to 2 iu per kg body weight. For a 550 kg horse, that is 500 to 1,000 iu per day.
If a horse has to perform light work, the need for vitamin E increases to 800 to 1,600 iu per day, with heavy work up to 2,000 iu per day. These numbers may be on the low side for sport horses, as these animals are often fed high-fat diets, requiring extra vitamin E. Sometimes even double dosing is recommended for horses with pssm.
When should I supplement with vitamin E?
There can be several reasons for supplementing with vitamin E. Because it is such an important vitamin, you should always feed it if your horse consumes less than he uses. Supplementing with vitamin E is recommended:
- If your horse is not on the pasture (in the winter months)
- If your horse performs (medium) heavy work and has to perform
- If your horse has a muscle disorder such as laminitis or PSSM
- For muscle stiffness, weakness or tremors
Conclusion: the ideal vitamin E supplement consists of natural and natural vitamin E
Vitamin E and other antioxidants are of great importance for a supple and strong horse. These substances ensure that waste and free radicals are quickly removed and prevent stiffness and resistance problems.
If you want to provide your horse with a good source of vitamin E and do not have fresh grass available, two things are important:
- The correct dosage
- An easily absorbable form of vitamin E.
In order to get a high dose that is easily absorbable, you can actually not escape adding RRR-α-tocopherol. A supplement consisting of a basic product that naturally contains a lot of vitamin E, such as wheat germ oil, supplemented with a good dose of natural RRR-α-tocopherol is therefore the best recipe. The advantage of wheat germ oil as a base is that it also contains other vitamin E compounds. Wheat germ oil also contains omega 6 fatty acids, which are important for the absorption of vitamin E.
Grape extract can be added to further enhance the antioxidant effect of a supplement. This contains a high content of proanthocyanidin (OPC), which as an antioxidant has a 50x stronger effect than vitamin E.
Regina Brigelius-Flohe . Bioactivity of vitamin E. Nutrition Research Reviews(2006),19, 174–186.