Selenium Supplementation: Part 1

Selenium Supplementation: Part 1

Signs That Your Horse May Lack Selenium

Signs of selenium deficiency in the adult horse often relate to performance and muscle function. Horses that lack selenium become stiff and prone to soreness associated with exercise, which can lead to reactive behavior and poor performance. Cardiac and respiratory function are affected as well. They may have a poor hair coat with a scant mane and tail. Hoof quality can also be affected, as can joint health. In addition, low selenium levels can suppress the immune system, leaving horses susceptible to infection. Mare and stallion fertility can be compromised in horses used for breeding. Finally, foals born with selenium deficiency can develop white muscle disease, which compromises their heart. These foals often fail to stand and nurse. 

The need for selenium supplementation is based on geography, as some areas produce forage that contains significant amounts of selenium, while other regions have selenium-deficient soil. Parts of the east and west coasts are selenium deficient, as well as the Great Lakes region. There are variations throughout the United States, so it is important to consult your veterinarian and know your area. 

Horses in deficient areas can be managed with a daily oral supplement. Most products contain 1-3mg of selenium per dose. Individual horses seem to vary in what they require. A simple blood test can accurately measure selenium levels. This provides an excellent tool for evaluating supplementation. It is important to be aware that selenium toxicity can be just as problematic as deficiency, so over-supplementation needs to be avoided as well.


Skin, Coat, and Hoof Maintenance

Skin, Coat, and Hoof Maintenance

Supplements play an important role in taking the best natural care of your equine’s skin, coat, and hoof. Read below to identify the symptoms of poor health in each of these areas:


The skin is the largest organ of a horse’s body. It provides a barrier against the environment, regulates temperature, gives the horse a sense of touch, and maintains the coat. If the skin is compromised, there is less ability to defend against bacterial and fungal infections. Basic sores can develop more easily, as resilience is lost. Sometimes the skin becomes dry and flaky, causing the horse to itch and be uncomfortable. Quality of life and performance can be affected, especially if lesions occur on the legs or under the tack. A horse’s appearance greatly depends on the nature of the hair coat. 


A rough coat is a definite sign of poor health and can be due to poor nutrition or factors such as parasites, illness, or Cushing’s disease. A shiny, functional coat properly protects the horse from environmental factors and allows them to look their best. I like to see dapples throughout the seasons, even in horses that are not stalled or blanketed. That is a sign of great health.


The hoof is one of the most important structures of the horse’s body. No hoof, no horse — no joke! Poor hoof quality remains a leading cause of lameness. Shod or unshod, the horse must maintain a certain amount of mass and resilience within the hoof to remain comfortable, absorb concussion, and protect the delicate inner structures of the foot. Much of this depends upon the quality of the hoof wall. It must maintain durability and elasticity as it grows; otherwise, it will become brittle and prone to cracks and infection. In addition, a healthy wall is needed to maintain proper shape and hoof balance and to hold a shoe if needed. 

Horses with poor hoof quality become foot sore. They are predisposed to abscesses and other forms of infection. They may throw shoes often, as the wall is not strong enough to hold nails. Some horses grow very little foot for the farrier or trimmer to work with. Nutrition is a key factor to hoof quality and is always part of the solution when there are problems. 

Luckily, the nutritional needs of the skin, coat, and hooves are all the same, so the benefits of a single supplement are multiplied. Owners often start their horse on a hoof supplement and are delighted by the added benefits of metallic dapples and a longer mane and tail. Sometimes when treating the skin, we realize that a horse who seemed to have good feet now has better feet or can go without shoes for the first time. 

Biotin is one of the most important nutrients for hoof quality and is the key ingredient in supplements made for the hoof, skin, and coat. Biotin is best absorbed in a liquid form. Other ingredients, including zinc, sulfur, amino acids, B complex, and manganese, play an important role. The average hoof grows ¼-3/8 of an inch per month, so it may take 90 days to see the difference in the feet once the horse is provided with a supplement. The benefits for the skin and coat are often observed sooner.

Muscle Support For Horses In Training

Muscle Support For Horses In Training

Horses in all types of training programs undergo a significant amount of physical stress, as they are asked to deal with tack, riders, and new activities on a daily basis. This is not necessarily a negative — it ultimately leads to a stronger, more capable horse. Part of training success is dependent on keeping the individual horse comfortable, giving them what they need to meet physical challenges, and helping them  recover from training sessions. 

What Should I Be Proactive About? 

All the body systems must be considered for horses in training. For example, some are predisposed to ulcers, which must be addressed while the horse is at work. Others may have joint issues that need to be maintained while in training. However, across the board, all horses in training are taxing their muscles to some degree as they are asked to progress through the levels of their discipline. 

Training involves repetitive movements that require the horses to use muscles differently than they do in daily life. They are subject to the possibility of intermittent or chronic soreness. They may experience fatigue. Tension can develop in some cases. Yet, they are expected to go to work most days and progress mentally and physically. It makes sense to support the muscular system during these times in order to make the most of the effort and expense put into the horse and to optimize the outcome. 

What Problems Should I Look Out For? 

Signs of muscle dysfunction include poor overall performance, lack of progress/being behind in training, lack of fitness and stamina, tightness or soreness, lack of suppleness, resenting the saddle or rider, behavior issues, excessive sweating, tie up, inability to hold a chiropractic adjustment and respond to body work, spooking, intermittent/elusive lameness issues, poor range of motion, lack of power/inability to engage, decreased rideability, and poor topline/lack of ability to build visible muscle.

What Kind of Nutrients Do They Need?

Important nutrients to consider for muscle support include the antioxidants that protect cells from damage secondary to the stress of exercise. These include vitamins E and C, as well as selenium. This helps normal muscle deal with the abnormal stress of athletic activity in a timely and healthy manner so the horse’s body can recover and be ready for the next work session. 

Amino acids are also important, as they are essential for muscle formation, and specific ones are needed to allow muscle to build. Horses in training need to build new muscle quickly to keep up with demands and fully benefit from exercises. Magnesium helps muscle relaxation, and a relaxed muscle is a functional and fast muscle. Horses that feel physically relaxed tend to perform better mentally. B vitamins are helpful for energy metabolism — nicotinic acid is a specific B vitamin that is particularly helpful for muscular energy. Carnitin can aid metabolism and optimize muscular activity. 

Prevent problems and address training issues to give your horse the best chance for success.