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  • Vitamin E-ssential - The Importance of Vitamin E Supplementation

    Have you ever wondered why vitamin E supplementation is so important for some horses? Ensuring that your horse receives all of the necessary vitamins and minerals can be difficult, and with so many supplements and balancers available it can be hard to know which one is right for them. In this article we will discuss the importance of vitamin E, how much is appropriate for your horse, and which type you should look for in the ingredients lists.

    What is vitamin E and why is it important?

    Vitamin E is a lipid-soluble antioxidant that prevents free radical chain reactions and protects the body from oxidative stress. These free radicals can cause death to cells by reacting with biomolecules.

    Vitamin E is linked to normal neuromuscular function in horses, and many diseases have been associated with vitamin E deficiency, which can also occur when horses diets are restricted. It is abundant in fresh forage, but becomes unstable during hay production. Horses that are stabled for long periods of time or do not have access to fresh grazing should therefore be supplemented.

    Essentially, horses that lack vitamin E are more susceptible to diseases caused by the deficiency, such as vitamin E deficient myopathy or equine motor neuron disease, among others.

    Natural vitamin E vs synthetic vitamin E

    If you have looked at the wide range of vitamin E supplements available, you might have noticed that some contain natural vitamin E, and some contain synthetic vitamin E. But what is the difference?

    Vitamin E has several isoforms, with the most important being RRR-α-tocopherol. This isomer is able to bind to transport proteins and interrupt free radical chain reactions.

    Synthetic Vitamin E is often chosen as it is a cheaper version of vitamin E, and is a mixture of different isomers. This means that it contains only 12.5% of the most important isomer; RRR-α-tocopherol. More recently, naturally derived sources of vitamin E have become more available, which have an RRR-α-tocopherol concentration of 100%. Natural vitamin E has proved to be more successful in raising blood α-tocopherol levels and therefore more beneficial in reducing oxidative stress and muscle damage.

    How much vitamin E does my horse need?

    Vitamin E requirements can vary hugely between horses. The National Research Council recommends 1-2IU/kg body weight, so a mature horse is recommended to receive 500-1000IU per day at maintenance.

    Horses in moderate work or used for breeding should receive 3000IU per day, as should horses in recovery or needing immune support. 4000IU per day is recommended for mares in foal.

    Recent research has determined that vitamin E supplementation can be extremely beneficial for muscle disorders such as exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER) and polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM).

    Why do vitamin E supplements also contain selenium?

    Selenium is a micromineral and is important for protection against oxidative stress. It enhances the benefits that vitamin E provides in preventing free radicals and oxidative stress. As a team, they work together to prevent lipid peroxidation, in which free radicals attack carbon bonds and fatty acids in the body.

    Most supplements contain low amounts of synthetic vitamin E, and often don’t state the daily feeding rate, so you can never be sure how much your horse is actually getting. Our Natural E supplement delivers a combination of naturally sourced vitamin E and organic selenium, supplying the average horse with 3000IU of vitamin E and 1mg of selenium per day. Our WellHorse range also contains the appropriate vitamin E and selenium concentrations for leisure, veteran or performance horses, so you can rest assured that they are receiving everything they need for optimum health.



    Ballard, C., Jensen-Vargas, E., Lassell, K., & Dobbins, S. (2023a). PSVII-12 the effect of two supplemental vitamin E dosing strategies in Morgan horses with marginal/deficient concentrations of serum alpha-tocopherol. Journal of Animal Science, 101(Supplement_3), 497–498. https://doi.org/10.1093/jas/skad281.587

    Ballard, C., Jensen-Vargas, E., Lassell, K., & Dobbins, S. (2023b). PSVII-13 the evaluation of natural vs synthetic vitamin E supplementation for the management of alpha-tocopherol serum concentrations in Morgan Horses. Journal of Animal Science, 101(Supplement_3), 498–499. https://doi.org/10.1093/jas/skad281.588

    Bazzano, M., McLean, A., Tesei, B., Gallina, E., & Laus, F. (2019). Selenium and vitamin E concentrations in a healthy donkey population in central Italy. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 78, 112–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jevs.2019.04.003

    Fagan, M. M., Harris, P., Adams, A., Pazdro, R., Krotky, A., Call, J., & Duberstein, K. J. (2020). Form of vitamin E supplementation affects oxidative and inflammatory response in exercising horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 91, 103103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jevs.2020.103103

    Garcia, E. I., Elghandour, M. M. M. Y., Khusro, A., Alcala-Canto, Y., Tirado-González, D. N., Barbabosa-Pliego, A., & Salem, A. Z. M. (2022). Dietary supplements of vitamins E, C, and β-carotene to reduce oxidative stress in horses: An overview. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 110, 103863. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jevs.2022.103863

    Gordon, M. E., & Jacobs, R. D. (2023). 88 factors affecting serum vitamin E status in horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 124, 104390. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jevs.2023.104390

    Hondal, R. J. (2023). Selenium vitaminology: The connection between selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and Ergothioneine. Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, 75, 102328. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpa.2023.102328

    Pitel, M. O., McKenzie, E. C., Johns, J. L., & Stuart, R. L. (2020). Influence of specific management practices on blood selenium, vitamin E, and beta‐carotene concentrations in horses and risk of nutritional deficiency. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 34(5), 2132–2141. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.15862

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