Important Antioxidants…. Both vitamin E and selenium are considered antioxidants and play key roles within horses’ diets. The antioxidants neutralize free radicals in an attempt to prevent damage to body tissues. Free radicals are electrically charged molecules that are constantly attempting to “borrow” an electrical charge that will restore them to an uncharged state. Once a free radical goes on the attack, this molecule has changed from “charged” to “uncharged” but has left a damaged “charge” cell in its wake. This damaged cell then attacks its neighbor to steal its charge and in turn sets off a chain reaction of cellular damage to the body tissue.
A free radical can be produced by exposure to chemicals, drugs, and pollutants, but also can be produced when the host’s immune system is low. Free radicals are also produced through exercise, damaging the exercising muscle. This damage tends to lead to fatigue, cramping and poor overall performance.
The damage from these free radicals may result in horses “tying up” and feeling muscle pain. You’ll witness horses’ having muscle spasms and/or the inability to walk after a competition. You may also observe your horse’s darker colored urine—the result of the kidneys clearing the pigments from damaged muscle.
Selenium, which is also considered a trace mineral, along with vitamin E, is required in the production of glutathione peroxidase (a substance which protects muscles from damage). Vitamin C is also considered an antioxidant and is efficient in recycling the used vitamin E, but it has also been shown to play a role in maintaining both vitamin E and selenium in an active form.
Naturally Occurring Selenium….
Selenium is found in soil throughout the world. Soil’s content of selenium varies in different locales, but can impact the grain and hay grown from the soil. The best way to determine whether your horse requires additional selenium is to consult your veterinarian and/or have your feed tested. The National Research Council recommends 2mg of selenium for every 2.2 lbs. of diet consumed. Consider feeding a performance animal 2% of their total body weight or 2 lb of feed per 100 lbs of body weight. Using this recommendation we will need to feed a 1100 lb horse 22 lb of grain/hay. According to this NRC recommendation, an active animal can safely consume 20 mg of selenium, which is included in the hay as well as in the grain. Note that in this example, we have used a performance animals feed requirements, which has increased the selenium tolerance amounts. The Selenium tolerance increases due to the increased feeding recommendation but also remember that exercise will greatly increase the need for additional selenium. Required amounts diminish greatly for horses that are not active and may cause complications at a rate as little as 3.3 mg/2.2 lbs of feedstuff.
Importance of Vitamin E and Selenium Supplementation
in Performance Horses….
In performance horses, you are able to increase the selenium amount because you are also increasing the amount of food—and active horses may need more. Just prior and immediately following a strenuous workout the animal’s vitamin E and Selenium requirement levels will be at their highest. The vitamin E and selenium levels contained with in your hay/grain are minimal based on a performance animal’s needs and therefore supplementation is beneficial.
Typically you will find daily selenium supplements combined with vitamin E at an approximate rate of 1 mg per day. At 1 mg per day we will see the benefit of adding extra selenium when a deficiency is present but will not be enough for the competing performance animal. For these animals you should look to a pre and post competition type product of vitamin E and selenium at a higher level. This higher amount will be utilized and then used to replenish antioxidant levels that will be depleted. It may also reduce muscle fatigue, increase muscle recovery time and decrease the risk of complications including “tying up”.
Vita E-SE™ and Re-Charge™
Carefully blended combinations to aid in the prevention of muscle soreness, tying up and deficiencies.
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