When people come to try her imported sale horses at Stone Ranch in suburban Los Angeles, whether they buy one or not, German national Carin Bannos always hears the same question: “How do you make your horses look so good?” Their coats gleam, says the trainer, “like they’re plugged into an electric light socket.”
Her secret to a shiny coat? No coat conditioners, cream rinses or other grooming products. She showers them in water, period. Bannos’ FEI dressage and event horses get their luster from the inside out. Feeding them organic nutrients gives their performance the same edge it gives their appearance, she says. Call it the organic advantage.
Like people, horses gain health benefits from organic food. But just as humans and horses speak their own languages, “organic” means different things in the two-footed and four-footed worlds. In human nutrition, organic means food grown without the use of pesticides. With horses, it generally refers to a nutrient’s chemical structure and to minerals derived from live sources.
Why do live sources matter to a horse? Horses in the wild eat live grasses and plants; their systems are designed to digest and absorb them. Because they are more “bioavailable” than inorganic forms, horses retain organic nutrients longer and utilize them more efficiently. A horse owner may “see” more of the nutrient in the horse’s coat, hooves, attitude and performance.
When it comes to selenium, a key equine nutrient, the organic factor is powerful. A potent tool in antioxidant defense, selenium is vital to every cell in the body. Selenium supplemented foals are known to grow better than selenium-deficient foals, and selenium is needed for reproductive function in stallions and broodmares.
“We hear that selenium is important. That is not [saying] enough- it is essential,” Professor Gerhard Schrauzer of the University of California at San Diego told attendees at Alltech’s annual European Selenium conference (“Selenium in Animal and Human Health - Nutrition Inspired by Nature”) in Prague.
He and other experts emphasized the detrimental effects of selenium deficiency on horses. It predisposes young horses to a debilitating condition known as white muscle disease, which has symptoms similar to EPM. Affected foals develop gait abnormalities and cannot swallow normally. Lack of selenium also contributes to a degenerative muscle condition known as rhabdomyolysis (known as “tying-up”), which causes severe muscle cramps that result in stiffness, sweating and an increased pulse rate.
The organic selenium in Sel-Plex is more digestible and much safer for horses than inorganic selenium. The organic selenium compounds that plants and yeast produce are nature’s way of providing a potentially toxic element in a safe form. This is a particular boon for horse owners in geographic regions where the grass tends to be selenium-deficient, such as portions of Europe. Selenium levels are generally lower in Europe than in the United States and have been particularly low in Spain, Greece, Eastern Europe and China.
Horse owners should follow recommended dosages to guard against overfeeding selenium, which is toxic in high amounts. That is a major concern with inorganic selenium, while toxicity is much lower in organic sources such as Sel-Plex.
Organic trace minerals (also called chelated minerals) such as zinc, copper and manganese are required in far smaller amounts than selenium but have crucial functions. Trace mineral deficiencies can disrupt the body’s internal functions and can reduce a horse’s ability to perform at an optimum level. Proper levels enhance skin, coat, bone strength and hoof health.
Alltech’s LIFEFORCE Equine Formula combines its selenium and organic trace minerals to create a complete natural equine supplement. When LIFEFORCE became available in the European Union, horse owners like Bannos — who has sale horses in Germany as well as the US — were quick to incorporate it into their feeding programs. As a result she says, her horses look as good as they feel. (To see them shine online: www.cb-sporthorses.com )