Types of Minerals Used in Horse Feeds

In the case of minerals found in a bag of commercially prepared feed, the form of mineral used as an ingredient can be looked at.  There are a variety of types of minerals that can be used as ingredients, with varying levels of bioavailability, or ability to be absorbed by the animal, for each of them. 

  1. Inorganic trace minerals, namely oxides and sulfates, are the most common, with oxides having about half the bioavailability of sulfates, except in the case of copper and zinc.  These would be seen on a feed tag as “zinc oxide” or “copper sulfate”. 
  2. Organic* trace minerals, namely “chelates” and “complexes”, are two forms of minerals that are gaining popularity in horse feeds due to their increased digestibility. 
    1. Chelates are a mineral molecule tied to a string of general amino acids. These are seen on feed tags as “zinc amino acide chelate”.
    2. Complexes (the more bioavailable of the two) are minerals tied to a specific amino acid that is known to assist in the availability.  These are seen on feed tags as “zinc methionine complex”. 

Premium horse feeds often contain one of the two forms of organic trace minerals, as they are the more bioavailable forms. They are generally used in combination with the inorganic forms to acheive the desired level, without skyrocketing the price of the feed.

For more information on trace minerals in horse feed, visit ZinPro’s website – ZinPro is a key supplier of trace minerals in the feed industry.

*Please note that “organic” is not referencing certified organic products like you would purchase at a grocery store – instead it is a scientific reference to the chemical makeup of the mineral.

2 Replies to “Types of Minerals Used in Horse Feeds”

  1. New owner of a palomino paint guilding 15.5 h. I have access to fresh sacks of soybean meal, oats, flax seed, corn and other grains/meals that I can supplement the daily ration of hay&store-bought feed with. Please advise what combination I can use for feed & what not to give to my horse. Also can get raw corn oil in sealed 5 gal buckets.
    Thankyou for any advice and guidelines you can provide. Gary

    1. Hi Gary,
      Congratulations on your recent purchase of a palomino Paint gelding! Looks like you have a number of options for feeding this horse. You did not indicate how old he is, but if he is 15+ hands, I am assuming he is at least a 2 year old or better.

      First, the most important basis for the diet will be good quality pasture or hay. If you are feeding hay, you will need to feed about 1.5%-1.75% of bodyweight per day in good quality (leafy, fairly fine textured, no dust or mold) hay. If you do not know how much your horse weighs, you can get a weight tape and use to estimate bodyweight. If he is 15 and 1/2 hands tall, probably in the neighborhood of 1100 lbs, but could be plus or minus from that.

      Second, you want to offer a combination of ingredients to meet the rest of his needs. Easiest way at fairly low cost is to use Empower Balance at about 1- 2 pounds per day. This will be a low cost way to provide the vitamins, trace minerals and amino acids that you need to go with the forage.

      Third, you can add oats to the diet to meet the rest of the energy needs. You did not indicate if you are riding the horse at this time. If you are riding a few times a week for an hour or so per day, that would be light work. You would probably be adding about 0.25-0.5 lbs of oats per 100 lbs of bodyweight. If he weighs 1100 lbs, that would be 2.75 to 5.5 lbs of oats per day, split into 2 feedings.

      Fourth, you need to make salt available free choice and have fresh, clean water available free choice.

      If he weighs 1100 lbs, you would be feeding about 16.5 lbs of hay, 1-1.5 lbs of Empower Balance and 2.75-5.5 lbs of oats plus salt free choice and fresh clean water. If he needs to gain weight, you will be at the higher end of the Empower Balance and the oats. If he needs to lose weight, lower the oats. You can also add 1/4-1/2 cup of corn oil per day for some added bloom to the coat. As you increase or decrease exercise, you can adjust the grain intake to maintain a body condition score of about a 5.

      Using the Empower Balance is easier than using soybean meal plus trying to add vitamins and trace minerals.

      Oats is safer than corn and does not require processing. Corn has higher starch level, higher calorie level and is a bit easier to overfeed. Whole flax needs to be ground or crimped and heat treated. Old time horsemen also boiled it. The whole flax has a very tough hull and the horses will not chew it well. It also contains some anti-nutritional factors that require heat treatment to neutralize.

      Make sure you do get an estimate of your horse’s weight. You may also want to download a body condition scorecard to help you decide if he is carrying about the right amount of weight. Score 1 is extremely thin and Score 9 is obese. 5 is about right for most horses.

      Best wishes,

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