Every vitamin and mineral you supply to your horse, be it through feed or supplements, plays an essential role in the animal’s health. Just as calcium is known for strengthening bones and vitamin C defends the body against free radical chemicals, iron is a crucial nutritional component, due to a variety of healthy roles the mineral plays. While iron is a relatively easy nutrient for horses to obtain, as it’s found in the dirt while horses’ graze, there can still be signs that an animal isn’t getting the necessary amount of the mineral it needs to thrive. Here are a few reasons why iron is an essential nutrient for your horse’s diet, as well as how to spot potential deficiency and recommended sources for the mineral:
The role of iron
The most important part iron plays within the body is transferring oxygen to the muscles. Hemoglobin, the protein molecule in red blood cells that’s responsible for taking oxygen absorbed in the lungs and distributing it to the rest of the body’s tissues, relies heavily on iron. This is because nearly 70 percent of iron in the body is found within hemoglobin, according to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. Without proper transfer of oxygen into the muscle tissues, your horse would not be able to adequately train and fatigue would be common. Another role that iron contributes to a horse’s body is its association with myoglobin, cytochromes and enzymes, all of which help produce energy.
While this condition is rare in horses, occasionally some animals do suffer from iron deficiency. When a horse’s body doesn’t produce enough hemoglobin to sustain efficient oxygen transfer from the lungs and to the tissues, fatigue is generally the most common symptom that’s noticeable. Anemia is another potential consequence of a lack of iron in a horse’s body, and signs such as decreased performance, irritability and lethargy could mean that your horse might need more iron in its body. Horses are most susceptible to iron deficiency when they are foals, between one to three months in age. Providing young horses with oral iron supplements may be necessary if you notice a lack of energy. However, iron deficiency is typically not a major concern for horses that have access to healthy soil, as iron can easily be consumed while they graze. In the event that you suspect a potential iron deficiency in a horse, blood testing may be necessary, and changes in diet might be recommended by a veterinarian.
Sources of iron As previously stated, horses can easily get sufficient amounts of iron through the feed and soil they ingest while grazing. While most sources of forage for horses contain adequate amounts of iron it’s important to read the label and make sure you don’t overload your horse with iron, as feeds with more than 1,000 parts per million (PPM) may complicate a horse’s digestive system and deprive other nutrients such as zinc from being absorbed.
An easy way to promote healthy iron levels within your horse’s blood cells is by using Iron Power®, an easy to consume supplement that comes in both liquid or powder form. This supplement also includes numerous vitamins and minerals, ranging from vitamins C, B1, B2, B6, B12 as well as niacin, copper and folic acid.