Types of Vitamins in Horse Diets

There are two main classes of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins:

The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K, and they are listed on horse feed tags as IU/lb. This stands for “International Units per Pound”. They are able to be built up and stored in the body fat and other tissues, and thus are not absolutely required on a daily basis, but should be considered an important part of your horses’ regular nutritional program.

Water-Soluble Vitamins:

Water soluble vitamins, which are the b-vitamins such a niacin, thiamine, folic acid, biotin and many others, are excreted from the body on a daily basis in the urine. All of the B-complex vitamins are essential to horses, but they are synthesized by bacteria in the cecum and colon from ingested feed. After microbes form the vitamins, they are absorbed through the intestinal wall and are available for use by the horse’s body cells. Bacteria in healthy adult horses generally produce adequate levels of the B-complex vitamins.

While none of the vitamins are required by law to be listed on a feed tag, more and more feed companies ARE guaranteeing the levels included in the feeds.  These are generally listed on the tag in either mg/kg or mg/lb, so it is important when comparing feeds or supplements to make sure you are comparing the same unit of measurement.

In coming blog posts, we will look at several of the vitamins individually to learn more about what they are each responsible for.

6 Replies to “Types of Vitamins in Horse Diets”

    1. A good way to help prevent fungal infections is to support the immune system with a balanced diet, which includes vitamins in addition to all of the other essential nutrients (amino acids, fats, minerals, carbohydrates, water). Vitamins A, E, C specifically support optimal immune function, having antioxidant properties. Providing Biotin (vitamin B-complex water soluble vitamin) in a balanced diet can also help support good skin, hair, and hoof quality, which helps defend the body against infection. Vitamins are also essential components of enzyme systems, and support energy metabolism. Horses actually manufacture their own vitamin C, and microbes in the gut produce some of the B-vitamins, and the others are obtained through the diet. If the animal is under high stress, or dietary vitamin deficiencies have been identified, vitamin supplementation may be appropriate under the direction of a veterinarian or equine nutritionist, to ensure the total diet remains in balance. Otherwise, good quality forage (pasture or hay) plus a commercially balanced concentrate fed according to manufacturer’s directions, will supply all of the balanced nutrients a horse requires.

      In addition to making certain that the vitamin content of the diet is sufficient, there may also be some advantage to using a feed that contains trace mineral sources that are highly bioavailable to help maintain skin integrity. We use specific amino acid complex sources of copper, zinc and manganese for this reason in a number of our feeds.

  1. We feed our weanlings and yearlings the 16% mare and foal pellet. We also feed OCD pellets daily. It seems to me that I’m wasting money feeding OCD pellets since the current feed contains all of the vitamins and nutrients needed to prevend OCD lesions. Your timely response would be much appreciated.

    1. Hello Daniel, Thank you for contacting us. As long as you are feeding according to the directions on the tag for the Mare & Foal feed, and you are providing quality forage, then yes, your horses should be receiving the needed nutrients. I took a look at the OCD Pellets on their website, and the product does contain some additives that we cannot put in to feed, such as hyaluronic acid. If you have a lot of trouble with bone issues, then you might consider retaining it for those horses in need of it, but for most horses, they would be just fine without the additional supplementation.
      Thank you ~ Gina T.

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