To function and perform properly, a horse needs sufficient vitamins and minerals. It is often difficult to know whether your horse is realy getting enough. What makes it extra difficult is that minerals and vitamins mutually influence each other. Recent research shows that the mineral silicon plays a central role in many bodily processes and also helps to absorb certain vitamins. How is that exactly? And is there an easy way to remedy mineral deficiencies in horses?
In theory, a horse that is not high in the work should have enough of good quality roughage and an additional vitamin and mineral pellet. For sport horses you can supplement this with some concentrate, tailored to the breed of your horse, its age and the required work.
In practice: Poor hay and limited grazing
In practice, things are often more difficult. In the Netherlands, roughage is often poor in minerals these days, especially if it comes from sandy soils. Minerals such as magnesium are often insufficiently contained in hay or silage. Horses that are not on the pasture (for part of the year) usually receive too little vitamin A, C and E without supplementation. Because it is not possible for everyone to test every batch of roughage or analyze every pasture, many people are looking for a somewhat simpler solution to prevent mineral deficiencies in their horses.
The importance of silicon
The mineral silicon is very important for humans and animals. Connective tissue, collagen and synovial fluid are made up of silicon. That makes it an essential mineral for a healthy musculoskeletal system. All organs, except the lungs, should always contain a constant amount of silicon, because silicon is essential for the healthy functioning of those organs. In practice this turns out not to be the case. This is, for example, because the absorption of silicon in the intestines decreases over the course of life. The use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids, can make absorption even lower.
Also important is the relationship between silicon and vitamin C. The enzyme that stimulates collagen production contains vitamin C. If there is no vitamin C, this enzyme stops working. If there is vitamin C, the enzyme can only stimulate the production of collagen if there is also sufficient silicon present. This means that it makes no sense to give horses that are not in the pasture vitamin C to stimulate the production of collagen, if you do not also give silicon. This is just one example of the often complex relationships between different vitamins and minerals.
Silicon and contaminations
Silicon also plays an important role in “cleaning up” and disposing of certain contaminants that horses can ingest with their feed. Unfortunately, pesticides are still used in agriculture that can affect human and animal health. Consider, for example, the controversial glyphosphate, which is also still found in Dutch fields. But other pesticides also affect the health of our horses. What often happens is that substances from the pesticides bind the minerals that the horse’s body needs to function properly. This means that these essential minerals, such as manganese, phosphorus, iron and zinc, are “captured” and can no longer be absorbed and used by the horse.
Silicon improves mineral balance
So it may well be that your horse in principle gets enough minerals in its diet, but that it cannot use them properly. Unfortunately, no research has yet been done on how glyphosate and other pesticides could be removed from the body. What we do know is that silicon can remove aluminum from the body. Aluminum is one of the toxic elements that horses can ingest through contaminants. We also know from research that the addition of silicon in addition to the normal diet significantly improves the mineral status in animals within a few months. Animals that are supplemented with silicon are therefore much less likely to have a mineral deficiency. Apparently silicon therefore plays a role in the absorption of other essential minerals.
Example: copper, iron, aluminum and silicon
An example of the complicated interplay of minerals can be seen with an iron deficiency. Iron deficiencies can lead to anemia. Sometimes anemia cannot be treated with iron tablets. This has to do with the relationship between iron, copper, aluminum and silicon. Iron and copper work together and promote each other’s absorption. Aluminum counteracts copper, so if a horse has too much aluminum in its body, copper cannot be absorbed as well. Because less copper is absorbed, less iron is absorbed and anemia can occur. To remove aluminum you give silicon, which restores the copper balance and also absorbs iron. Silicon then fights anemia through a few intermediate steps!
Silicon is the basis
Studies indicate that silicon could be the basic mineral needed to overcome vitamin and mineral deficiencies. That is of course good news, because it means that you do not have to sort out all minerals separately and feed them separately. Feeding easily absorbable silicon, in liquid form (hydrolysed silicon) can help to straighten the mineral balance and also ensure better absorption of Vitamin C.
In addition, it is wise to prevent contaminants from entering the body as much as possible and supplementation of the mineral magnesium is also recommended for most horses (and people over 40). Magnesium is essential for the muscles and nervous system and is not stored in the body, so it is needed on a daily basis. Many roughage contains too little magnesium or too much calcium, which hinders the absorption of magnesium.
For horses that are not on the pasture, it can also be a good idea to feed the Vitamins A, C and E, for example by feeding carrots (A and C) in the winter and giving a vitamin E supplement. Do you want to give extra minerals? Then go for minerals that are extracted from the sea. This may sound crazy, but these are more absorbable than sulphates. In addition, it contains phytoplankton, which ensures that the intestines can absorb the minerals much better.
Conclusion: silicon remedies mineral deficiency
Silicon is so important because it:
• Is essential for healthy joints, muscles, connective tissue and collagen,
• is essential for the healthy functioning of organs,
• Promotes the action of other minerals and vitamins,
• Contributes to the removal of contaminants such as aluminum.
A simple way to prevent or combat a mineral deficiency in horses is to supplement with:
• Silicon in hydrolysed (easily absorbable) form,
• Magnesium in an easily absorbable form (such as citrate or chelate),
• Vitamin A, C and E for horses that do not go pasture.
• Minerals from Bering seawater due to the phytoplankton present
With this combination, any deficiencies are corrected, without you having to find out exactly which minerals your horse is deficient in. Silicon in liquid form is a safe supplement with normal use. Research shows that it is an important basis for a good vitamin and mineral status in your horse.
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