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Vitamins and Minerals in Equine Nutrition

Updated: Feb 15

Vitamins and minerals are essential for various metabolic processes in the body and are important for body growth and maintenance, among other things. Feeding a balanced diet ensures that the horse receives enough vitamins and minerals to meet their daily requirments.

Prefit Synovium

Vitamins are organic constituents of which a small amount is required for metabolic processes and vital functions in the body (see table 1). The body is able to produce small amounts of several vitamins. However, the body is unable to produce sufficient amounts of these vitamins, to meet the requirements, and is not able to produce most essential vitamins on its own 1. Therefore, it is important to provide the horse with a diverse diet, containing sufficient amounts of the essential vitamins. Vitamins can be divided into two categories: Fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, unlike vitamins B and C which are water-soluble 2. Fat-soluble vitamins require the presence of fat molecules for absorption in the body 3. When the amount of fat-soluble vitamins in the diet exceeds the horse’s requirements, the excess will be stored in the liver 4. Therefore, it is not necessary to provide the horse with large quantities of fat-soluble vitamins daily. Because vitamins B and C dissolve in water, an excess of these vitamins is excreted through the horse's urine 3. Including adequate amounts of these vitamins on a daily basis is therefore required.

Table 1 Vitamins each have an important function in the body and are therefore essential nutrients in the horse's ration. A surplus or deficiency therefore also affects the horse's health.



Vitamin A

Supports eye health, reproductive system and bone, muscle and skin health.

Vitamin B (complex)

Supports hooves, skin and coat, nervous system, digestion, enzyme production and energy metabolism.

Vitamin C

Functions as an antioxidant in the body and is important for collagen production.

Vitamin D

Regulates Calcium and Phosphorus homeostasis in the body, and supports bones, teeth and the immune system.

Vitamin E

Functions as an antioxidant in the body and supports the muscles, liver, immune and reproductive systems.

Vitamin K

Supports the immune system, bones and energy production.

Minerals are nutrients that are essential for creating a balanced diet. Like vitamins, minerals have important functions in the body (see table 2). Based on the amount required in the horse's ration, minerals are divided into macro and microminerals 5. Microminerals are also better known as trace elements (see table 3). In comparison to macrominerals, trace elements are required in lower quantities in the diet to meet the horse’s requirements 6. The minerals Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium and Chloride are considered macrominerals and should be added to the diet in grams per day 7. The minerals Iron, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Cobalt, Selenium and Iodine are trace minerals and are required in milligrams per day 8. In addition, Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Magnesium, and Calcium are crucial electrolytes that balance fluid levels, preventing dehydration 6. For more information on the function of electrolytes in the body, I would like to refer you to the blog "The Importance and Function of Electrolytes in Horse Nutrition".

Table 2 Like vitamins, minerals also have essential functions in the body and it is important that the horse gets enough minerals through the diet. Minerals are divided into micro and macro minerals. Macro minerals are required in grams per day.




An important component required for bone health and quality. Supports muscle contractions.


An important component for strong bones and energy production.


Supports the nervous system and muscle relaxation. An important component for bone health.


Functions as an electrolyte. Supports muscle contraction and relaxation. Important for nerve impulses.


Functions as an electrolyte. Important component for the nervous system and the transport of glucose between cells.


Functions as an electrolyte. Supports the nervous system.

Table 3 Trace elements, or micro minerals, are minerals required in milligrams per day. Trace minerals are also essential for the body and have important functions.

Trace Elements



Is important for the oxygen-carrying protein haemoglobin.


An important component for iron metabolism, energy production and is keratin enzyme production.


An important component for the formation of enzymes and proteins. Supports the immune system.


An important component for the formation of chondroitin sulphate and is involved in metabolising carbohydrates.


Component for the production of vitamin B12.


Supports healthy muscles, and the immune system and reduces oxidative stress in the body.


An important component for thyroid hormone synthesis, the reproductive system and normal physiological functions.

The exact amount of vitamins and minerals in roughage is unknown. This can also vary per each new pack or the different types of roughage fed. Studies and analyses show that forage alone does not provide the horse with sufficient vitamins and minerals to meet daily requirements 9. Daily nutrient requirements differ for each horse and depend on factors such as body weight, level of activity, age and general health of the horse 10. A horse that exercises intensively requires more vitamins and minerals compared to a less active horse. To provide a balanced diet, the ration is therefore supplemented with concentrates or a vitamin and mineral supplement to meet these individual needs.

Concentrates and supplements are formulated to contain sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals. Therefore, if feed is fed according to the feeding guide of the manufacturer, a vitamin and mineral deficiency or excess is unlikely. It may happen that by overfeeding concentrates or feeding concentrates in combination with a vitamin and mineral supplement, the horse's needs are exceeded. On the other hand, a horse may be fed a diet consisting only of roughage that lacks essential vitamins and minerals. Fresh grass contains many vitamins and minerals, which can cause a deficiency in winter when the diet changes and less fresh grass is available to the horse. A deficiency or excess can affect the horse's health and result in a negative effect rather than a positive effect 2,6. It is therefore important, when in doubt about whether your horse is getting enough vitamins and minerals, to seek advice from a nutritionist who can make a ration calculation and give advice based on each individual horse.

Synovium Prefit is a vitamin and mineral supplement formulated to support a balanced ration. The supplement contains a balanced composition of high-quality vitamins and minerals.


1. Manthe, B.N., & Youngs C.R. (2013) An Overview of Vitamin Requirements of the Domestic Horse. Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, 42(1): 179.

2. Zeyner, A., & Harris P. A. (2013) Chapter 9 - Vitamins. In: Geor, R.J., Harris, P.A., & Coenen, M., (Eds.). Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition. Saunders Elsevier: China.

3. Stevens, S. L. (2021) Fat-Soluble Vitamins. Nursing Clinics of North America, 56(1): 33-45.

4. Sankar, R., Ravisankar, P., Reddy, A. A. (2015) The Comprehensive Review on Fat Soluble Vitamins. Journal of Pharmacy, 5(11): 12-28.

5. Tako, E. (2019) Dietary Trace Minerals. Nutrients, 11(11): 1-3.

6. Coenen, M. (2013) Chapter 10 - Macro and trace elements in equine nutrition. In: Geor, R.J., Harris, P.A., & Coenen, M., (Eds.). Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition. Saunders Elsevier: China.

7. Pagan, J. (2001) Micromineral Requirements in Horses. In: Advances in Equine Nutrition. 2nd Edition. Nottingham University Press: Nottingham.

8. Pagan, J. (2001) Marcominerals - Calcium, Phosporus and Magnesium. In: Advances in Equine Nutrition. 2nd Edition. Nottingham University Press: Nottingham.

9. Harris, P. A., Coenen, M., Frape, D., Jeffcott, L. B., Meyer, H. (2006) Chapter 3 - Equine Metabolic Diseases. In: T The Equine Manual 2nd Edition. Saunders Ltd: United States.

10. Ellis, A. D. (2013). Chapter 5 - Energy systems and requirements. In: Geor, R.J., Harris, P.A., & Coenen, M., (Eds.). Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition. Saunders Elsevier: China.


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