Does your horse need vitamin E supplementation?

Apr 29 , 2021

Joseph Poareo

Does your horse need vitamin E supplementation?

How horses meet their daily requirements for vitamin E 


In an absolutely perfect situation, a horse has access to fresh, green pasture year-round. Healthy pasture is the ideal diet for most horses, although this is difficult to attain. Horses live in climates where pasture goes dormant during the winter, some horses can't eat grass because of metabolic issues, and sometimes there isn't enough land to support horses on pasture. 

Photo by Edward Eyer from Pexels


Hay supplements the diets of most horses. Hay fields have ample vitamin E for horses! However, the levels of vitamin E drop significantly after cutting and storage.  


Thus, the supply of vitamin E needs to come from supplementation. This may come from feeds, supplements, and even additional fats in the form of oils. However, the volume of vegetable oil needed to feed for optimal vitamin E levels isn't affordable or practical to sustain.  


Sport horses, pregnant and lactating mares, and young horses need more vitamin E than other horses, especially when pasture is limited or unavailable.  



How much Vitamin E do horses need?


Horses need 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day of vitamin E; this is for a typical 1,100 lb horse. However - we also know that individual horses metabolize and store vitamin E differently.  


Your vet can carry out simple blood tests to check your horse's vitamin E and selenium levels. This checks for deficiencies and excess and can guide you to the proper dose for your horse! When adding vitamin E supplements to your horse's diet, recheck the bloodwork regularly to follow your horse's progress. Most horses do well with the recommended 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day.


As vitamin E is stored in fat cells, underweight horses will need more to keep healthy, sometimes closer to 2,000 IU or more per day.  


Severely deficient horses or stressed horses may benefit from even more supplementation, sometimes upwards of 5,000 IU per day. Metabolic disorders and the associated laminitis, tying up, and even post-surgical healing are all situations that may benefit from these larger doses. 


It has also been found that liquid supplementation is often preferred to powders.




Does your horse need vitamin E supplementation?


Most horses need a vitamin E boost for at least part of the year! This makes up for dormant pasture, feeding hay as the primary forage source, and when your horse is working hard. Training may be intense for your athletic horse, and mares and foals need additional vitamin E.  


You also need to add vitamin E to your horse's feeding plan if his grains and feeds lack the most bio-available form, the d-alpha-tocopherol. Or, your horse's rations of feed may fall short of the daily recommended dose.  


As with most supplements, top-dress your horse's rations or mix them into a mash. Some horses do well with tasty liquids added to their hay pile, too! If you are feeding grains or concentrated meals, split them into multiple meals for utmost kindness to your horse's digestive system.