California Riding Magazine • February, 2014

Ask the Vet

by Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA

Question: I own a 13 year old Morab mare that is out on pasture. I have not been riding much lately. Her worming, vaccinations and feet and teeth up to date. Should I give her any free choice mineral and if so what would you recommend. The horses do have access to a cobalt salt lick.

Answer: There are a couple of key pieces of information missing from your question in order for me to give you the best advice, such as what part of the country you live in, how much and what quality of pasture she has access to, and if she is a an easy keeper or at an ideal weight (she could be a hard keeper but guessing from her breeds that is less likely). Depending on the answers to these questions, your horse "may" be getting a complete and balanced diet just from the pasture, but most horses don't, as—you got it—minerals can sometimes be lacking or in the wrong ratio in some areas.

I'm not a big fan of licks for horses, whether they're white salt licks, red trace mineral licks or blue cobalt licks. These blocks were made for the rougher tongues of cattle and while some horses don't mind licking them, others scrape them with their teeth or don't bother with them at all. So loose minerals as you suggest would be a better choice, but rather than asking her to select what she needs or doesn't need (horses don't have a craving for anything but sodium) why not top-dress salt or minerals onto something she likes, like a handful of oats, hay pellets or beet pulp? By separating the horses just once a day to supply their individual minerals, you'll be ensuring that each horse gets his or her daily serving of essential nutrients.


Question: I would like to know, if feeding crimped oats, what vitamin/mineral supplement would be a good choice. My horse is a pleasure AQHA gelding, not worked but 2 to 3 times a week.

Answer: If your horse was getting a full serving of a fortified grain I would tell you that a vitamin/mineral supplement isn't necessary, but since your horse is getting just crimped oats for extra calories, you're smart for looking into a vitamin/mineral supplement to complement his diet.  I'm going to assume that he is also getting an appropriate amount of quality hay. 

When looking for a multivitamin, remember that not every horse's nutrient needs are equal.  Your horse's workload will influence his vitamin and mineral requirements, so look for one that differentiates between different workloads.  Also consider looking for a multivitamin designed for his life stage.  For example, senior horses may benefit from additional vitamins that also serve as antioxidants such as vitamins E and C.  If your horse is older, look for a multivitamin formulated with the senior in mind.  Lastly, palatability is important as the supplement won't do him any good if he doesn't eat it.  Try and find a pelleted option, as most horses prefer them to powdered supplements.

Article provided by SmartPak.
Dr. Lydia Gray is the Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak, where she guides research and new product development, answers questions on her Ask the Vet blog, and speaks around the country at various events such as Equine Affaire, Dressage at Devon, and the USHJA Trainers’ Symposiums.