matter. Why does it matter if zinc is excessive in the diet or too little compared to copper? Or if there isn’t enough calcium relative to phosphorus?
Trace minerals like copper, zinc, iron and manganese are required in very small amounts but that doesn’t take away their importance in the running of cellular processes in the body. On the other hand, more is definitely not better when it comes to nutrients as excessive amounts of some minerals will create problems by interfering with other minerals.
For example, the 2007 Nutrient Requirements of Horses from the National Research Council (NRC) has set the requirements per day for a 500 kg mature horse in light work at 100 mg for copper and 400 mg for zinc. That is per day, many pastures and mixed feeds provide far less than this in copper and usually zinc. However, it is not just the total amount per day that counts, the ratio of copper to zinc counts just as much if not more. The recommendation is to feed copper to zinc ideally at the ratio of 1:3. So if your horse is getting 600 mg of zinc per day in his diet then the copper amount ideally should be boosted to 200 mg.
Why is this necessary? Because in many cases minerals compete with each other.
Some examples –
Furthermore, adverse mineral interactions can lead to:
To provide an optimised diet to your horse all the major minerals (calcium, phosphorus and magnesium) and trace minerals (iron, copper, zinc and manganese) need to be in balance. And it is easier than you may think. Balanced Equine provides a balanced diet and the ‘recipe’ for making your own custom mineral supplement. Easy to make and the ingredients are not expensive.
You can learn how to balance your horse’s intake by enrolling in NRCPlus with Dr Eleanor Kellon VMD.
Q. Why can’t I just put out a mineral block and let the horses eat what they need?
A. I wish it could be that simple. For a start, many horse owners believe that horses ‘self medicate’ to mean that a horse will eat what he needs, when he needs it and in the right amount. If that was the case then horses would never eat tasty poisonous plants like Croften Weed and dietary laminitis wouldn’t exist unless the horse had no choice but to eat high sugar + starch feed.
Horses love tasty feed just like us, wild horses get chronic laminitis too if they have access to high sugar + starch grasses in spring. If it appeals at the time they will eat what you offer.
The problem with mineral blocks is that horses will only take what appeals to them, not the amount they would need and some horses won’t touch them at all. Mineral blocks usually contain molasses or similar to make them palatable so some horses will over do it. However, it is better than not providing any minerals at all but it won’t be an optimal balanced diet.
Q. I like to feed ‘Product X’ mineral supplement, my horse has improved on this supplementation. Can I continue feeding it?
A. If you would like to continue feeding a commercial supplement then that is fine as I can devise a custom mineral mix that will balance all the the pasture/hay + supplement to ensure that your horse is not deficient in any nutrient and the nutrients are in the right proportions to each other to avoid adverse mineral interactions. A lot of people stop buying the commercial supplement once they have learnt to mix and feed their own custom mineral mix. Commercial mineral mixes are usually very expensive and contain nutrients that your horse doesn’t need, all of which has to be excreted. Pasture or hay is always an excellent source for most of the nutrients so it is only the ones that are deficient and need balancing that would be in your custom mineral mix.
What I like to do in this case is to provide the recipe for the custom mineral mix with the commercial supplement and a recipe without the commercial supplement in case you decide later to stop buying the supplement.
Top of the page is a set of photos sent to me by Melinda Windle who was delighted to see the change in her liver chestnut Chester.