Do you need to feed Iron to your Horse?

Do you need to feed Iron to your Horse?
Authored By Kelvin Sobey

3 Factors to Consider Before Feeding Iron to your Horse

  1. How much iron is in your feed? (you would need to analyse your feed)
  2. What type of work is your horse doing?
  3. Does your horse have any red blood cell loss due to parasites, injury, sickness?

How much Iron is in your feed?

horse feeding

In order to determine this properly, you would need a proper pasture and forage test performed, as well as looking at the ingredients in any feed you are using.

The iron requirement for a horse in heavy work is 500mg per day. It is quite likely – if you are feeding 1% of bodyweight to a 500Kg horse, your forage could be providing 1000mg or more. (this depends on the type of hay used.)

In summary, it is probable that you have enough iron in their diet, however additional supplementation might be required if you understand the impact that hard work, blood loss or sickness has on your horse losing iron. A blood test is a good indication if further iron supplementation is required.


What type of work is your horse doing?

If your horse is engaged in strenuous and vigorous exercise, the need for Iron is essential because Iron is essential to  produce red blood cells, in turn – healthy red blood cells are essential as they carry the oxygen all over the body. If Iron is deficient then it will be difficult for a horse to produce healthy red blood cells.

horse racing

If your horse is only in light work or spending most of it’s time in the paddock, it is unlikely that iron supplementation is necessary.

Another very important consideration is that when a horse is in hard work, they can produce 25 to 30 litres of sweat per day. Iron concentrations within sweat are estimated to be around 21 mg per litre, so that means a horse can lose around 500mg of Iron per day in their sweat. (the full daily iron requirement)


Does your horse have any red blood cell loss due to parasites, disease, infection, toxins, injury or sickness?

If your horse has had surgery or suffered an injury resulting in blood loss, then your horse has lost iron due to the blood loss. It is recommended to supplement with Iron and other important building block ingredients essential to produce red blood cells, namely copper, zinc, Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid. These are all available in the Plusvital Iron Syrup.

If your horse suffers from EIPH (Exercised Induced Pulmary Hemorrhage), commonly knows as bleeder, this will result in your horse losing iron, any blood loss is iron loss, because iron is an important component of hemoglobin in Red blood cells. It is estimated that 75% of race horses will bleed from the lungs, at some stage during their career. Mostly this bleeding is undetected by the trainer or owner.

Parasites, such as worms can cause bleeding within the gastrointestinal tract of the horse, this too can often go undetected.

It is estimated that 90% of race horses in training suffer from some level of gastric ulcers, this can be a cause for further iron loss.

As you can see there are many potential causes of horses losing iron, this is why almost 60% of Australian thoroughbred trainers then add an iron supplement to their horses’ diet. Similar trends are found in the USA.

(A blood test is advisable to determine if your horse requires iron supplementation)

blood taken from horse

Is it a health risk to feed too much iron?

Firstly, while there are some articles that suggest that supplementing iron can cause problems with insulation resistant horses, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

Given the small number of Thoroughbred racehorses that are insulin resistant, despite Iron supplementation in combination with diets that can easily supply amounts beyond requirements, it seems unlikely excess Iron causes insulin resistance.

However excess iron in the body can have a negative impact on a horses health, therefore it is important to consider the factors above and get a blood test done before supplementing your horses diet.

As mentioned above, the daily iron requirements for a horse in hard work is 500mg. Plusvital Iron Syrup contains 175mg of iron (only a portion of the 500mg daily recommendation), but more importantly, there are other important building block ingredients essential for the production of red blood cells, and these are all present in the Plusvital Iron Syrup, namely copper, zinc, Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid.

Plusvital Iron is available in Australia from Amacron Equine.

Call: 1300 791 653 for orders and inquiries.


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