Vitamin E Deficiency In Horses: Can You Prevent It?

Horses are unable to produce vitamin E themselves, so it’s very important that they get plenty of this essential vitamin in their diet. Vitamin E is best delivered along with a bit of fat as this helps it to be absorbed correctly.

Horses naturally get an abundance of vitamin E from the grass they eat. In fact, free grazing can provide as many as two thousand international units of vitamin E every day. Horses who are able to graze freely also get plenty of fat from fresh green grass, and this helps with vitamin E absorption.

Benefits Of Vitamin E In Horse’s Diet

Benefits Of Vitamin E in Horse's Diet

Vitamin E serves many functions in helping maintain a horse’s health. Among them are:

  • Good muscle and nerve function: Vitamin E works with selenium for the purpose of maintaining good muscle function and warding off muscular disease. In addition to providing muscular support, the combination of selenium and vitamin E may also help microphages and leukocytes to survive negative effects caused by invading bacteria.
  • Antioxidant action: The right amount of vitamin E can help provide antioxidants to protect intracellular substances such as cell membranes and enzymes from being damaged by free radical oxidation.
  • Healthy immune response: Ample vitamin E in the diet helps keep your horse’s immune system strong to fight off allergies and viral and bacterial infections.

How Can You Tell If Your Horse Has Vitamin E Deficiency?

How Can You Tell If Your Horse Has Vitamin E Deficiencypros and cons

Without enough vitamin E, your horse may exhibit a wide variety of symptoms and changes. Among these may be nutritional muscular dystrophy. This is caused by lack of oxygen to the muscles.

Frequent illnesses and digestive problems are signs that your horse is experiencing lowered immunity, which may be caused by vitamin E deficiency.

If you have a broodmare who is experiencing vitamin E deficiency, her foal will have few (if any) reserves of this important vitamin. A lack of vitamin E in foals will make them more likely to catch any infectious disease that may be present.

5 Tips To Recognize Vitamin E Deficiency And How To Cure It

What Are Some Good Ways To Supplement Vitamin E?

In addition to fat, fresh grass also provides ample vitamin E for horses health. If your horse has free or ample turnout, you needn’t worry about vitamin E deficiency.

Understand that, even though hay is dried grass, you cannot count on hay to provide vitamin E because it dissipates very quickly after hay is harvested. Within the first few days as much is 85% of the vitamin E found in fresh grass that has been mown for hay will dissipate. The longer hay is stored, the more vitamin E is lost.

Additionally, the amount of vitamin E found in hay varies from bale to bale and even from flake to flake. If your horse is depending upon hay for most of its forage, you must be sure to provide feed that has been fortified with vitamin E and/or to provide a separate vitamin E supplement.

In addition to feeding a good supplement, you must be sure that your horse is getting a balanced diet so that vitamin E can be properly absorbed. Adding a few ounces of vegetable oil to your horse’s feed will provide a bit of vitamin E and will help with absorption of the vitamin E provided by feed and supplements.

High-fat feeds are typically fortified with vitamin E, and it’s a good idea for most horses to provide a feed that is lower in carbohydrates and higher in fat. Stabilized rice bran is a good choice for adding safe fat and carbohydrates, along with vitamin E to your horse’s diet.

Supplementation Needs Vary Throughout The Year

Vitamin E Supplement selection

Remember that your horse’s body cannot store vitamin E for very extended periods of time. A healthy horse that has good grazing throughout the spring, summer and fall can typically store enough vitamin E to get it through the winter, but you should still supplement when grazing isn’t available during the winter months.

One who does not have sufficient natural vitamin E intake will need supplementation throughout the year. Extra supplementation may be advisable during the winter.

How Can You Choose The Best Vitamin E Supplement?

When looking for a good vitamin E supplement for your horse, choose a natural, alpha-tocopherol based product that is water-soluble. This type of product is easier for your horse to metabolize.

While it is a good idea to provide a combination of healthy sources of vitamin E (grass, hay, fortified feed and supplements) be sure to keep track. A horse weighing about 1000 pounds should not consume more than ten thousand international units of vitamin E daily.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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