Vitamin D: Is it the Sunshine Vitamin for Horses Too?

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As we know, vitamin D has many benefits when it comes to living a healthy life. Often, a parallel can be seen between ourselves and our horses, but there are some major differences regarding nutrient consumption, diet, and general health. There is some debate as to whether vitamin D supplementation in horse food is necessary. Vitamin D is synthesised within the skin through exposure to sunlight. It can also be found in plants, with some supplementations containing it in a synthetic form. If you are unsure if your horse is receiving an adequate intake of vitamin D, always consult your veterinarian or nutritionist before opting for any horse feed supplements of any sort.

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Vitamin D Sources for Horses

Vitamin D can be synthesised through the skin and is often known as the “sunshine vitamin”. When it comes to horse nutrient intake, it is entirely possible that they will not need any additional dietary intake, assuming your horse has exposure to sunlight. Although it is not known how much time is needed precisely when it comes to optimum levels of vitamin D in horses, sun exposure for humans can reach adequate levels with just 20 minutes of exposure. Vitamin D is also abundant in grass and cured hays, which makes intake for your horse even more accessible, with grass being one of their major sources of food.

Feeding your horse sun-cured forages will also allow them to consume a plentiful source of vitamin D2, as levels of this vitamin increase during the curing process. It has been argued that this source may not be quite as abundant as it once was, as farming practices have changed dramatically since this research was initially carried out. This is further reason to always ensure you use a well-established, trustworthy provider of horse food, so you know exactly what your horse is consuming,

How Much Vitamin D Should You Feed Your Horse?

How much vitamin D your horse should be ingesting, either orally or through their skin, is dependent on a number of factors. As well as your horse’s unique biological chemistry, it will also depend on whether they are kept indoors or outdoors, their age, and their overall health.

Vitamin D Should You Feed Your Horse

As further studies on vitamin D synthesis and metabolism in horses is needed, it is still recommended that you feed mature horses for 6.6 IU per kilogram of their body weight. For growing horses, the recommended amount differs between age. Generally, it would be said that horses of varying ages require the following IU per kilogram of their body weight:

  • 0-6 Months: 22.2
  • 7-12 Months: 17.4
  • 13-18 Months: 15.9
  • 19-24 Months: 13.7

Although these recommendations may not be entirely accurate, these figures are a rough estimate of how much vitamin D a horse needs, with the levels decreasing as your horse ages.

If you are considering vitamin D supplementation, always seek expert advice and approach a trusted, well established source, to ensure your horse is able to live its best, healthiest and most comfortable life.