There's a good reason that human athletes take three to four times the recommended daily dose of magnesium. "Magnesium in your body is like gas in your car," says Carla Odetto of Performance Equine Nutrition. "The faster and harder you go, the faster the burn rate and the faster you arrive at a deficiency."
In horses, especially those who perform at a high level, magnesium deficiencies are much more common than most people realize. Deficiencies present themselves in different ways and include a range of physical and mental symptoms. Hardened musculature, head bobbing, stall weaving and an inability to stand still, stay focused on a task or retain training from one session to the next are among the possible clues. About the only common denominator among magnesium deficient horses is that "they are consistently inconsistent," Carla explains.
The causes of magnesium deficiencies are equally wide-ranging. Soil depleted of its nutrients is a leading cause because the hay grown it in has a corresponding lack of nutrients, including magnesium.
Calcium excesses are another common culprit because calcium inhibits the body's ability to absorb magnesium. Alfalfa hay that's a popular feed on the West Coast is especially high in calcium. When it's grown in soil that lacks magnesium, there's a double whammy effect on the end user: the horse. Ulcer medicines make heavy use of calcium and can subsequently be another contributor to the problem. Any time a horse is under stress that can cause the body to deplete magnesium stores, too.
Low magnesium levels are as prevalent in horses as they are misdiagnosed, Carla notes. "It's such a simple concept but it has really been overlooked." Compounding the issue is the fact that "once the deficiency gets to a certain level, it becomes self-perpetuating," she explains. "The lower the magnesium level, the more the horse is flighty and spooky, the more rapidly they burn up what magnesium is left in their system, so the levels go even lower." The sad end of this cycle is when the horse's behavior is interpreted as bad character that should be addressed with heavy-handed training methods, she notes.
Testing the blood serum for adequate magnesium levels won't provide useful results in most cases, Carla warns. "Ninety-nine percent of the body's magnesium is stored in soft tissue and bone. The body guards the percent that's stored in the blood very carefully." A blood test often indicates normal magnesium levels when the opposite is true. "It's the wrong test for this condition."
In her many years of researching this subject, Carla has yet to find a science-based test for magnesium levels in horses. In lieu of that, it's up to owners to know and monitor their horses for signs of this condition. "You have to pay attention to your horse and be aware of the outward and physical signs of low magnesium." The website, www.equinemagnesium.com has a questionnaire that can help owners determine if their horse has a deficiency.
A Personal Journey
Carla came to create Performance Equine, LLC, through her own journey with family and her experience as a lifelong horse owner. Her mother suffered from a severe case of fibromyalgia and her husband has early-onset Parkinson's. In the course of researching everything she could about ways to contribute to their health through nutrition, Carla learned about magnesium's critical role in human health.
When her Quarter Horse mare began to present strange symptoms, Carla had a head start on the cause. "It was like Ground Hog Day for horses," she explains. "Everyday she'd come out a little different. She wasn't retaining any of the training from previous sessions and she became more fearful. That really didn't make sense, because she lives at my home, where she has always been treated well. Yet everyday she acted more fearful."
Helping the humans and horse in her life led to developing the high quality equine supplements that now comprise the Performance Equine Nutrition line. With the powerful properties of magnesium therapy as their common denominator, the line includes supplements, topical treatments and washes designed to keep horses calm and focused.
MagRestore™ and Focus and MagRestore combinations are among the Petaluma company's most popular equine products and Performance Equine Nutrition also offers human formulations. The drug-free products are USP grade quality and address specific deficiencies while also contributing to a horse's overall good health.
For more information, visit
www.equinemagnesium.com or call 707-766-8624.