All Horses Need Antioxidants

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Antioxidant. The word implies that it goes against something involving oxygen. But oxygen is necessary for life, so why need something contrary to it' Truth is that oxidation of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats within your horse's cells is an ongoing process and is necessary for the production of energy to fuel work, maintenance, and normal metabolic pathways.? As a result of oxidation, free radicals are formed?many thousands of them each day.

And these free radicals have an important function in destroying bacteria and viruses, serving a role in protecting your horse's immune function. But, if the horse is experiencing physical or mental stressors (e.g., strenuous exercise, illness, pain, traveling, stall confinement, etc.), the level of free-radical formation can overpower the body?s ability to counteract them, leading to the destruction of normal, healthy cells.

A free radical is an unbalanced molecule. it's missing an electron. To ease this ?discomfort,? the free radical will steal an electron from balanced cells, starting a chain reaction of ?electron stealing? from cell to cell, leading to tissue damage, disease, and accelerated aging.

The antioxidant is the hero?it stops this damaging rampage in its tracks by giving of itself?donating its own electron to the free radical. Since the antioxidant is now unstable itself, it's important to include several antioxidants in the diet to ensure that the unstable one is neutralized and able to function again. See?antioxidant problems and restricting forage.

HORSES NEED ANTIOXIDANTS. A natural setting, with all its variety, offers any nutrient a horse could need. If your horse is fortunate enough to graze on a pasture that offers more than one type of grass, along with trees, brambles, and even edible weeds, then added water and salt are all your horse needs.

These living forages contain vitamins E, C, and beta carotene (all antioxidants) as well as other vitamins, amino acids, and supporting minerals to allow your horse to produce the enzymes that offer antioxidant protection.

If the pasture is overgrazed, drought stressed, or simply not available, the horse owner must offer hay to supply forage. Hay is dead grass and has lost most of its antioxidants through prolonged exposure to air, heat, and moisture. that's when a commercial supplement becomes necessary.

WHAT?S IN YOUR SUPPLEMENT' Most supplements that are intended to offer a complete range of vitamins and minerals will contain at least one antioxidant (the most common is vitamin E). Commercially fortified feeds also offer antioxidants, either individually or by including nutritious feedstuffs (e.g., ground flax, alfalfa meal, etc.).? But these supplements may fall short of meeting the requirements of horses needing additional antioxidant support. See?Common Antioxidants In Supplements.

Products that contain whole foods, the kinds you would eat (e.g., carrots, nuts, quinoa, seeds, oat bran, whole grains, citrus fruits, apples, berries, spices, herbs, etc.), can add nutrients to your horse's diet. Most important, they offer variety to a daily diet consisting of the unchanging forage and feeds. But they augment what is missing in hay; they don't replace everything. You would have to feed enormous quantities of them to replace what is naturally found in large amounts of fresh grasses.

There are many supplements that use the term ?antioxidant? in their name, but check carefully?they may simply offer vitamin E along one or two other ingredients. The goal of this article is to suggest comprehensive vitamin-and-mineral preparations that offer more antioxidant variety as well as elevated concentrations of antioxidants. There are also specialized products that offer an extra ?boost? when dealing with more issues.

Even the best pasture will fall short of meeting the antioxidant needs of the horse who is working or performing, is suffering from diseases or painful disorders, is immune compromised, or has a demanding life.

The focus of most antioxidant research in horses (see sidebar below) is related to equine athletes and those with impaired lung function, revealing higher antioxidant requirements to relieve oxidative stress (inflammatory reaction from elevated concentration of free radicals). However,? many other circumstances call for increased antioxidant supplementation.

Supplements offering comprehensive coverage are likely to contain some antioxidants, as well as B vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and perhaps herbs, probiotics and joint support. The goal here, however, is to focus on those supplements that are marketed as high in antioxidants and also offer overall nutritional support. Therefore, comments are limited to their antioxidant and inflammation-reducing capability.

Your horse's individual circumstances may require more than what your antioxidant supplement offers. These products below work well for enhancing antioxidant intake, and can be tailored for short-term usage. ?See?Antioxidant supplements

BOTTOM LINE. Most horses aren?t fortunate enough to graze on acres of healthy, varied grasses. The mental and physical stress of work, performance, travel, and stall confinement create oxidative stress on your horse's body. Combined with a diet that may have significant nutritional gaps, your horse may benefit immensely from antioxidant supplementation.

Antioxidant Research Sites:

  • ?Rutgers, Department of Animal Sciences.
  • ?Institute of Biochemistry, University of Perugia, Italy
  • ?Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • ?Veterinary Medicine at the University of Liege, Belgium.
  • ?School of Health and Life Sciences, King?s College, London

Article by Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D., Horse Journal Nutrition Editor.