Vitamin A for Horses

When you think of Vitamin A you think of carrots right? Well they actually do not have vitamin A in them but beta carotene that turns into vitamin A in the body.

What is beta carotene? It is a powerful antioxidant that helps boost the immune system. Beta carotene is the safest way to provide the horse's body with vitamin A and is found in fresh pasture, recent cut hay (looses beta carotene after being stored for 6 months) and carrots. The body will only convert what is needed into vitamin A and the rest will be stored or is put to use as an antioxidant protecting the body.

Do not go and feed your horse a whole bag of carrots but as a treat every now and again would be a great idea. Grazing on fresh pasture has many benefits and beta carotene is just one. Check the label on any feed you are feeding to see if vitamin A is listed or beta carotene. Preferably beta carotene is listed not vitamin A. Vitamin A is toxic in large doses to horses so be sure to check anything you feed. Horses can have a deficiency in vitamin A if they do not have access to fresh pasture or in the winter if enough was not stored. Be sure to supplement in these situations with beta carotene or a vitamin supplement that contains A.

Benefits of Vitamin A

Eyesight: For horses it helps with night vision. If a horse is deficient it may present as night blindness. Adding the correct amount of vitamin A back to the body can reverse the night blindness if caused by not enough vitamin A.

Bones: Helps with bone growth and making new bone tissue. If there is not enough joint pain and fragile bones may occur.

Respiratory tract: Vitamin A creates a mucus that lines the respiratory tract and defends against infection. So if your horse is experiencing a respiratory infection it is worth looking into the amount of vitamin A he is receiving.

Requirements for an 1100lb horse. According to 2007 NRC Guidelines:

15,000 IU per day for maintenance horses
22,500 IU per day for moderately active horses
30,000 IU per day for pregnant/lactating mares

IU (International Units)

Be sure to look at all feeds and supplements that you feed to make sure the vitamin A amount does not exceed the above amounts. Remember to look for vitamin A listed. If beta carotene is listed you do not have to worry about feeding too much as the body will only covert what is needed to vitamin A.

So grab a carrot for each horse and head to the barn to calculate how much vitamin A you are feeding.

Knowledge is power! Forage for thought!