Last time, we discussed some symptoms of muscle issues and how to diagnose them. Now, let’s go over some of the major nutrients required for adequate muscle health, recovery, and performance: vitamin E, selenium, thiamine, and magnesium. If any one of these components is missing from the diet, the horse will be unable to perform at its peak abilities regardless of how rigorous and thorough the training schedule.
Vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant meaning it is excellent at neutralizing free radicals that are a byproduct of the energy created within the muscle cells for work. Adequate levels of vitamin E are critical for the horse to recover from a work out, allowing the horse to get back to work sooner. If your working horse is deficient, initial signs would be: prolonged soreness after strenuous work which may eventually progress to muscle tremors, general lack of energy, poor muscling and even neurological signs (dragging back feet). While the vitamin E levels in fresh grass are adequate to meet the needs for a horse in no work, as soon as the horse begins work or they are only being fed dried forage, then an additional source of vitamin E must be added to the diet in the form of a concentrate feed or supplements. As with most good things, though, there is such a thing as too much vitamin E. Above 10,000 IU per day, signs of bone demineralization and poor blood coagulation with negative performance effects such as lethargy are seen at just 5,000 IU per day.
Selenium is like the partner to vitamin E: without one or the other, neither works very well. Without sufficient vitamin E, the horse seems to be unable to utilize the selenium in its diets and making it appear as though the horse is deficient despite adequate levels in its ration. What selenium does is it neutralizes excess peroxidases, which are great for energy regulation, but will also degrade the membranes of muscle cells, destroying those cells. While a deficient horse not in work will often not show any signs of deficiency, once in work, the horse will show signs of tying up. Selenium deficiency is also more common in young foals, possibly due to low grade deficiency in the mare throughout gestation. Keep in mind, though, that symptoms of selenium toxicity can occur at relatively low levels at only 20 mg per day and generally advised to not feed above 5 mg of selenium per day.
To ensure that your horse is able to keep working, one has to make sure that they are able to break down their energy stores and that is where thiamin comes in. Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, is a critical component of the enzymes required for the breakdown of carbohydrates found in the muscle cell. Think of it as the shovel for an engineer trying to fuel a locomotive with coal. Without thiamin, carbohydrate metabolism would simply stop despite there being plenty of carbohydrates (the coal), inactive enzyme (the shovel-less engineer) and working muscles (a ready engine). Energy production would simply cease causing the muscles to essentially suffocate. This would show up in the performance horse as general weakness, limb incoordination, or muscle spasms. Fortunately, cereal grains, particularly oats, wheat, and barley, are naturally high in thiamin.
Magnesium is very important for muscle contractions and a key component for allowing the muscle to relax or release after a contraction. Without magnesium, the muscles will become chronically bound and will lack fine motor control. The horse’s disposition could even be affected causing the horse to become over-reactive or nervous. The horse may also develop muscle tremors since the muscle is essentially stuttering as it tries to relax without adequate magnesium in the muscle cells.
If one is looking for a supplement to address all of these key nutrients for muscle health, a great one to look into would be Cavalor Muscle Fit. Muscle Fit combines all of the mentioned nutrients, along with a few other key nutrients for muscle function, such as vitamin C, bioflavonoids, lysine, and the chelated minerals manganese and zinc, for optimal muscle health and recovery. Once nutritional imbalances are remedied using Muscle Fit, a more work-ready and often calmer horses are seen in 3 to 7 days. Limited samples are available of this product by request to Mawghan (firstname.lastname@example.org).