Vitamin E: An Essential Necessity for Horses

Last Updated on October 29, 2020 by Allison Price

It's not too late: Government looks for solution to growing wild horse  population in American West - ABC News

Horses, by nature, are strong and fast. This is the reason why humankind domesticated them for years – they are helpful in farms, for pulling carts and riding. Some people use them to race for competitions. Moreover, they are one of those animals that can sleep while standing-up or lying. It is a characteristic that help them to avoid harm from predators.

Since horses are useful, you should take good care of them. Just like us, health is also important to them. Giving them enough attention would help them in maintaining it. Along with that, vitamins and minerals are the most essential to avoid deficiency. 

For the last decades, supplements such as vitamins and minerals became lucrative in animal nutrition. Wide variety of products are offered for horses. Some of them are harmless, some have side effects in the health and mostly are good for horses.

Among all the vitamins, let’s talk about the Vitamin E for horses. It is very important to have some knowledge about this since it is important them. Do you have any idea how good it is to have natural Vitamin E for your horses? Or where can you get this? 

Let’s get to know more about Vitamin E, so keep reading!

What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E serves as a powerful antioxidant that maintain the muscular health and the function of the neuromuscular. Horses need this since they cannot produce it in their own body. Lack of this results to nutritional myodegeneration, equine neuroaxonal dystrophy, and equine degenerative myeleoncephalopathy for young horses. For adult horses, it develops vitamin E deficient myopathy or equine moto-neuron disease.

Also, it combats the effects of free radical production that damages cell components. Naturally, free radicals are produced by the body of the horse. This occurs when horses metabolize protein, carbohydrates, and fats to make energy. But free radicals are not bad at all. The horses’ body should have a little amount of it since it helps the cells respond to body signals.

The antioxidants of the vitamin E serve as the neutralizer of free radicals. This compound neutralizes it before it can cause severe damage. As the exercises increase, the free radicals also increase due to the large demand of muscle’s energy. With that, the adequate number of antioxidants is required to counter free radicals. So, as the workload of the horse increases, their vitamin E intake must increase. Antioxidants have a various form. The selenium as mineral, including Vitamins C and B, and enzymes work together. Moreover, having low antioxidant results to soreness of the muscle of horses, frequent illness, and slow recovery from diseases. 

So, vitamin E is a group of eight compounds. It is composed of four tocopherols and tocotrienols that are fat-soluble. Since, it is a fat-soluble vitamin, this should be consumed with dietary fat for the body of the horses to absorb this properly. Furthermore, tocopherols and tocotrienols have four variants namely alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. The most bioavailable and abundant from feed is the Alpha-tocopherol. 

Alpha-Tocopherol Importance

The distinguishing factor of Alpha-Tocopherol is it’s transporting enzymes. This factor allows it to pass through to liver, and through blood, to go to other body cells. Also, some forms drop through urinating, manuring, or converts to Alpha-tocopherol. Through nature, you can have 10% to 15 % of Alpha-tocopherol in the plants’ oil. The susceptibility of Alpha-Tocopherol to heat, light, oxygen and fluorescent is very low. Just as opening the oil’s bottle destroys most of Alpha-Tocopherol due to the exposure to oxygen.

So, Alpha-Tocopherol is what your horse needs. It is the only form that can be stored for small period in tissue, the liver can metabolize with, and has most antioxidant. Supplements that are high of Beta, Delta, or Gamma will not help. The oil from pure plants may have lots of omegas but it is poor in vitamin E.

The Vitamin E Requirements for your Horses

In accordance with the National Research Council (NRC 2007), they recommended that the vitamin E intake for mature (500 kg) horses is 500 IU per day at rest. If the horses have a light work, 800 IU is required for them. Also, 1000 IU is needed for heavy loads of work. According to other studies, more vitamin E is better. For average-size horses on diet or not on the pasture, 5000 IU per day should be supplemented to them. With a balanced diet and with high-quality hay or grass, this is achievable. The vitamin E of horses which is considered as normal is greater than 2 μg/ml.

For horses that have health issues, higher vitamin E level is recommended. Horses that have allergies are suggested to have 5000 IU per day. Also, those horses that have muscle problems can have 5000 IU per day. Furthermore, horses that have laminitis, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance can receive the same intake. Horses that are recovering from stress, illness and surgery may have 1500 to 5000 IU per day.For horses that have severe underweight, they need to have 1500 to 2000 IU per day. 

Sources of Vitamin E 

autumn horse horses fall pasture grass - NW Horse Source

Good-quality green grass pasture is an essential source of vitamin E. Luckily, most horses have more access to green grass that can give them Vitamin E. However, horses are not required to have it on a daily basis. This explains why horses do not show any problems about the lack of vitamin E, even if they don’t have the access for green grasses. For adult horses, they can endure 18 months without having vitamin E before health problems manifest. Also, keep in mind that fresh pasture has a high sugar content which could lead to overweight. The consideration of magnesium level of the grasses in springtime is a must.

Moreover, there are horses that are not lucky enough to always have access to green grasses. However, even in the areas with desert climates, most of the horses do not show any signs of deficiency. Even if the pasture lands are likely to be deficient in vitamin E, low percentage of horses show signs of deficiency. Whether horses show vitamin deficiency related problems or not, some factors may affect their health. These could be age, genetics, the period of time the horse experiencing deficiency and undetermined factors.

It is hard to know if the horses are vitamin E deficient or not since some of them show no signs at all. Apparently, no one can automatically draw blood, check the levels of vitamin E, and to have assurance that the horses have no problem. With an expert, such as veterinarian, a proper diagnosis is possible. They can identify the vitamin E status which can relate to vitamin E deficiency. Also, they will do a biopsy test for muscle, as well as removing disease that have the same signs. 

Good-quality grasses is a magnificent source of vitamin E for horses in any form. A horse that is overly exposed to good pasture can consume higher Vitamin E than the requirement of NRC. Unfortunately, vitamin E is not stable in heat, so the level may decrease over a period of time. With this, horses that are in poor pasture or those who can’t maintain on good pasture must have enough hay to eat. Also, there are horses experiencing shortage of hay so they should receive another source of vitamin E. The vitamin E level of a good commercial feeds must meet the requirements of NRC if it suits to the guidelines of the manufacturer. Apparently, the feeds’ components have an impact to horses. It will be better for a veterinarian to run a test to see if another source of supplement is required. This is a better approach for horses that show signs of vitamin E deficiency or have worsened neurologic conditions. 

Moreover, selenium is added to various vitamin E supplement in the market. A 50 kg. mature horse at rest or has a light work needs to have 1 milligram per day and may increase to 2.35 milligram if the work is heavy. However, the horse may not suffer any effect if he will have two intakes of selenium. Where in fact, the NRC requirement of horses to have selenium is still unknown.

According to research, the suggested intake of selenium per kilogram is 0.1 milligram for consuming dry matters will prevent deficiency. However, 3 milligrams of selenium per day compared to 1 shows a greater foals equine influenza antibody. This only shows that to obtain high immune function, there is a need to have higher intake of selenium. Also, this will lead to avoidance of classical deficiency syndrome. Moreover, 0.5 milligram per kilogram of dry matter being consumed is the estimated tolerance of horses in selenium. 

In the U.S, the food and drug Administration usually recommends that the maximum concentration of selenium should not be more than 0.3 milligram per kilogram in dry matters. The guidelines for selenium intake vary. The more you feed your horses, the consumed number of selenium is rising. Therefore, you need to calculate the amount for you to know how much selenium the body of your horse can handle. 

Since the assimilation may vary, you should test the selenium level of your horse to know the corresponding selenium level you can give. With that, you can ask for a veterinarian’s help for any adjustments. 

Be Cautious in Supplementing Vitamin E

To carefully analyze, it is important to weigh things before deciding to on what form of vitamin E you will give to your horses. In supplementing vitamin E to your horses, you need to know what type of vitamin E it is. There are two main types of vitamin E – natural and synthetic. There is a big difference in both natural and synthetic vitamins.

The RRR form is the natural form of vitamin E. Also, natural form of vitamin E comes with a name of d-alpha-tocopherol, d-alpha tocopheryl succinate or d-alpha tocopheryl acetate. This names usually have a prefix of “d” to better distinguish that it is natural. Why should you choose natural vitamin E? It is because the natural form can be readily use by the tissues of the horses.

On the other hand, the synthetic vitamins will have a prefix “dl”, such as dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate. It is shown in the test that it is not well-absorbed by the body of the horses. The ability of the tissues to use synthetic vitamin E is lesser compared to natural form of vitamin E. If you decide to have synthetic form of vitamins, it is better to know the content and ask help from an expert. You may take into consideration the following in using synthetic form of vitamin E for horses:

  • Even if you give horses appropriate amount of supplement, they have lesser response. 
  •  About 40 percent of horses who developed diseases related to vitamin E deficiency would not respond to the vitamin E supplements.
  • An injectable form of vitamin E that the horses can have may contain selenium. Apparently, this injectable form does not contain enough bioavailable. It does not have an effect in the rise of vitamin E serum levels.
  • There should be a greater reason to have vitamin E supplementation. Also, series of test should be taken to see if the supplementation is effective.
  • It is dangerous to have vitamin E level greater than 4 μg/ml.
  •  It also does not make any sense that you are giving extra vitamin E to horses when their serum level is in normal state.

To better understand Vitamin E for horses, watch this video:


The vitamin E plays a significant role in the body of horses, along with different minerals. Vitamin E gives warriors to fight any diseases that their body has. However, not all vitamin E are good for the body of the horses. It would be better to approach people who are experts in the field of taking good care of horses. Also, these mammals need a genuine care from humans. Giving them appropriate source of vitamins will give them a long-lasting life. Although it is hard to maintain their needs, keep in mind that if you will never take good care of them, they will die. Assurance is better than frustration.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!