Hoof Nutrition Intelligence Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.

Below you will find Part 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.

Q: I’m confused by all of the pros and cons I hear about including various vitamins and minerals in the diet of my horses to improve their immune systems. How do I keep it all straight?

By Eleanor Kellon, DVM

A: Basic vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in your horse’s immune system. There is a place for immune stimulating products, but before considering one, it's vital to build the foundation into your horse's immune system with a good vitamin/mineral supplement.

Magnesium: Magnesium maintains the function of T lymphocytes. This mineral also participates in the regulation of inflammatory cytokines.

Copper: This mineral forms the active center of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase. Copper maintains the structural integrity of skin, mucus membranes and lymph nodes. It is required for normal production of the neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.

Zinc: Like copper, zinc can form the active center of antioxidant superoxide dismutase. Zinc is important at multiple steps in the production of immune system cells and their function, which includes the direct cellular killing of organisms as well as antibody production.

Selenium: A selenium enzyme keeps the antioxidant glutathione functioning. Selenium is also involved in antibody production.

Iodine: Iodine forms the core of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones influence T lymphocyte numbers and activity.

B Vitamins: These vitamins are essential for all rapidly dividing tissues, including white blood cells in the bone marrow and lymph nodes.

Vitamin A: A vitamin A deficiency depresses immune system functions across the board, including antibody production.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant and has far-reaching effects in the immune system, including increasing immunoglobulin (antibody) levels in a mare's colostrum and in their foals.

Vitamin C: When fighting a disease, the immune system generates huge amounts of oxygen-free radicals. Vitamin C is the antioxidant that protects structures inside the cells from being damaged and protects the lungs from environmental free radicals.

While these are the major players that can stimulate a horse’s immune system, there are also possible roles for other nutrients, such as chromium and vitamin D.

There are many herbs, plants and probiotics that can stimulate a horse’s immune system. However, they can’t help if the horse’s body does not contain the basic nutrients it needs to respond. That missing link can normally be provided with a proper diet.

Dr. Eleanor Kellon, a staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years. She is a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.

Click here to read part 2 of the Feb. 10, 2022, installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: What are the main nutrients and minerals found in a horse’s hoof? Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.