Those Amazing Minerals

While they may not make up a very big portion of the daily diet, minerals play a key nutrition role and contribute significantly to horse health

Of all the ingredients found in a horse’s diet, minerals are among the most unusual. While they make up only the tiniest fraction of the weight of the daily ration and contribute no energy and contain no carbon, they’re critically important for literally dozens of daily bodily functions.

Without minerals, horses could not metabolize fats, proteins or carbohydrates; their muscles and nerves would not function normally; and, their bones could not support their own weight.

Minerals help the blood transport oxygen throughout the body, maintain the body’s acid-base and fluid balances and are necessary components of virtually every enzyme that the horse needs for daily metabolism.

Minerals are integral parts of some vitamins, hormones and amino acids. Yet they make up only about 4% of the horse’s total body weight (as compared to 30% to 35% for fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and about 60% water). In the case of minerals, a little contributes a lot.

Micro And Macro

Minerals are generally divided into two categories:

  • Macrominerals, which are needed in larger quantities (relatively speaking) in the daily diet.
  • Microminerals, or trace minerals, which are needed only in infinitesimal amounts (usually expressed as parts per million, or ppm — or sometimes as the metric equivalent unit, milligrams per kilogram).

Macrominerals, which include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur, and chlorine (as chloride) are described in grams per kilogram or percentages. To provide some perspective, the micromineral “unit,” ppm, is 10,000 times smaller than grams per kilogram. Iodine, manganese, iron, cobalt, zinc…

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Karen Briggs

As an equine nutritionist, Karen Briggs researched, designed and marketed a line of premium quality feeds for performance, pleasure and breeding horses. She’s also offered nutritional and ration balancing information to horse owners throughout Ontario. Located in Puslinch, Ontario, the award-winning equine writer is also a Canadian Equestrian Federal certified-riding instructor and has managed several Canadian farms and riding schools.

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