Susan Cook PhD
When I first began doing hair tests on horses in the Pilot Point/Aubrey area, I expected to find that horses were fairly well I Lanced in their minerals as this is Horse Country.
The first test I did showed that the horse was very low in copper, manganese and iron and had elevated phosphorus with non , levels of zinc and selenium. The next two were very similar.... as were subsequent ones. The high phosphorus reminded me of the water at the ranch I owned in WA state. The mineral pattern was what one would expect from excess phosphorus. I noticed that many of the horses had "big-head" syndrome as they had in WA. The name comes from calcium in the bones of the face being replaced by fibrous tissue. I had the water tested for phosphorus by Mustang water but the content was very low.
I then started researching on the web to determine what was causing this pattern. The answer appeared to be sweat loss. Very little phosphorus, zinc and selenium are lost in sweat. A lot of iron is lost in sweat as are calcium and magnesium. All the horses were low in iron except those which had elevated levels of aluminum. Aluminum which is a toxin causes iron to be mobilized from the liver to remove it. Iron cannot be absorbed by a horse unless copper is present and iodine which is necessary for thyroid function cannot be absorbed unless available iron is present. Thus sufficient copper is crucial to maintaining a normal mineral profile and a healthy horse.
I began by testing horses on the main feeds fed in the area: Cargill (Acco and Nutrena, Evergreen, Martindale, and Purina). When I went to the ranches, I tested both body and fetlock hair. The former is tissue and shows the minerals available to the horse for current use. The latter is cuticle and shows the minerals that are being excreted by the
horse. Note that the mineral levels are expressed in mg% on the hair test results. To convert mg% to parts per million (ppm) multiply by ten. Martindale and Purina turned out to be very alike as the horses tested from both had very similar profiles: low in copper, iron and manganese. The test results for Trash show why this is so. Note that in fetlock hair (cuticle) more copper and manganese are present while in body hair there is much less. Iron is low in fetlock hair but even lower in body hair. The reason is that zinc is interfering with their absorption and they are lost for use and excreted via cuticle hair (e.g.. fetlock, mane and tail). Neither of these feeds contains any organically combined minerals. Cargill and Evergreen feeds have a different mineral pattern due to the use of ZIN-PRO 4 PLEX (zinc, copper, manganese and cobalt). Nasty illustrates their profile. Copper is present in both body and fetlock hair at a reasonable level. Manganese is below normal and even more is lost via fetlock hair due to interference from zinc. Cobalt is very low in both. Iron is low in both and even more is lost due to zinc.
Thus none of the feeds produce a normal mineral profile and iron is extremely low in horses on all of them. I asked one of the local veterinarians if she had noticed any horses with iron deficiency. She replied her clinic had. I asked her what they recommended to bring the iron levels up and she replied that nothing worked. The hair test revealed that the feeds were responsible for low iron due to interference from zinc and because none of them contains a readily available form of iron. Any iron given in the available supplements underwent the same fate. I gave my horses Lixotinic by the gallon while they were in WA state. The hair test done on my mare Sophie (deceased) showed extremely low iron. I wondered why until I did the comparisons of body and fetlock hair. She had been on Purina feed. Little research has been done on iron and the assumption is that horses have adequate levels of iron. Horses lose iron in sweat that is not replaced by
the feeds as is shown by hair test results. I also tested a yearling (Cowboy) on feed that had very low iron. He was on Nutrena Compete feed and the remainder of the profile is similar except that he has very elevated sodium and potassium. Both elevated and low levels of sodium and potassium are indicative of overactive adrenals. That a young horse has very low levels of iron indicates that iron is low primarily from the feeds and then secondarily from sweat loss.
In July my 20 year old mare Madonna stopped sweating. I had never heard that horses did this until I came to Texas. I gave her One AC for three months and she did not start sweating. I was told it works best to give it before the horse stops sweating completely. Wise too late. I reviewed all the hair tests and on November 3"' took her off Purina Equine Senior and put her on oats and Dia Glo (a discontinued supplement that contains iron proteinate and copper). In less than 48 hours I came home late in the afternoon to find her sweating. I was astounded. The One AC must have repaired her dopamine system but she required iron and copper to start sweating again. This has not been reported but it appears that adequate levels of iron and copper are necessary to keep a horse sweating. The other "cure" is Pro Sweat a supplement which has no contents label. I had Pro Sweat tested for mineral content and chloride. 'The results showed that it contains potassium chloride which makes horses sweat. The problem is that it does not provide the horse with the other minerals lost in sweat and thus further depletes its body of essential minerals. Hair tests done at different ranches on several horses that were given Pro Sweat showed that horses eating oats had elevated levels of aluminum, iron and potassium. Testing showed the oats contained significant levels of aluminum as did Pro Sweat. The ranch feeding the oats with the highest level of aluminum had the most nonsweaters. Chloride is known to depress iodine levels and thus cause hypothyroidism in the same way that fluoride does. It may also enhance the absorption of aluminum as does fluoride. Pro Sweat is now being tested for fluoride. There is also a supplement (Equine Multi-Pak) made by Albion Advanced Nutrition that contains chelated minerals that supplies the minerals lost in sweat. This supplement is the logical choice for ranches that do not want to change the type of feed they use as it contains very little phosphorus and no selenium. I recommend that oats and feeds containing significant amounts of aluminum should not be fed to horses especially in areas where anhydrosis is common.
In order to determine whether the chelated minerals produced by Albion could supply horses with the iron and copper and other minerals they needed to keep sweating, I designed a study to compare normal horses (sweaters) with horses that had stopped sweating and had been given Pro Sweat. I had already found that high aluminum in oats was correlated with nonsweating. I was interested to see whether other nonsweaters on different feeds also had elevated levels of aluminum. I chose six "normals" and six "nonsweaters" at six different ranches for the study. Three normals were at ranches which did not have any nonsweaters. Horses were given pre-supplement hair tests. Then most horses were on the chelates for at least sixty days. One horse on oats was tested after thirty days on the supplement as he had very elevated levels of aluminum, manganese, and iron. I was curious to see if and how rapidly the chelated minerals made a difference. When I went to the ranches to do the hair tests, I learned that one of the normals had difficulty getting sufficient air and was being given ventipulmin. I researched the problem and found it too is due to iron deficiency. Later T leamed that one of the nonsweaters also had difficulty getting air. Two of the horses were working cow horses; all the rest were reiners. Both of these disciplines require a lot of exercise at high speed. Thus the horses sweat a great deal and lose more minerals than pleasure horses.
To date results are back on eight horses. I decided to write these up so that results would be available before the hot weather season. The preliminary results show that for the nonsweaters and the horses having difficulty getting sufficient air, in particular, the chelated minerals did help to lower levels of aluminum in body hair and increase its excretion in fetlock hair. The trainers felt that the supplement helped the horses sweat better and enabled them to get more air and want to keep them on it. Thus it corrects damage the use of Pro Sweat does and promotes sweating in horses that did not respond to One AC. I have advised trainers to use both One AC and chelated minerals to ensure that horses do not stop sweating as each one addresses a different component of making horses sweat. It is easier to keep a horse sweating than it is to start it sweating once it has stopped. Pro Sweat did make some horses sweat but at a cost to their overall health. Moreover, it further depleted the horses of minerals lost in sweat so they became dependant on it to make them sweat. That was good for the manufacturer but not the horses.
Test results for four of the horses revealed some interesting information:
Larry is a nonsweater and had been on Pro Sweat. The initial tests showed he had a pattern termed the "four lows" as all four macrominerals have levels below normal. The test following the supplement showed he was actually carrying body burdens of high levels of aluminum and heavy metals. I had seen a similar pattern for a horse that had been on fluoridated surface water in Colorado. Surface water is treated with alum (aluminum sulfate) to remove particles. Fluoride reacts with aluminum so that it is taken into the body more readily. Fluoride also interferes with the uptake of iodine by the thyroid and thus may lower its activity. Larry had been in Kentucky for several years where most of the water is fluoridated. The chelates mobilized aluminum from bone and heavy metals from storage sites in the body so that they were being removed. The trainer said Larry was sweating better than previously. This chelation effect also improves the overall health of the horse. If horses are on or have been on fluoridated water, it is very beneficial for them to be given the chelates to prevent aluminum and heavy metal accumulation or remove it.
Larry's stablemate MCD had been given an all breed (cattle) supplement along with Big V heritage feed which contains Zin-Pro 4 PLEX. He also is a nonsweater that had been given Pro Sweat. Since feeds are formulated to contain minerals at levels appropriate for horses, it can be more harmful than beneficial to also give them all breed minerals which are designed for cattle and do not contain sufficient copper for horses. MCD's test results illustrate that the extra minerals caused problems. The zinc level in body hair was much too high. That level would cause a 20% reduction in performance. The high zinc interfered with copper to the point that copper was mobilized from storage sites in the body and expelled via the fetlock hair. As copper is very important to health in horses, all breed supplements should not be used for horses. The chelates brought zinc and copper levels back to the normal range.
SP another horse at the same ranch as Larry and MCD had been given Stride a supplement which also contains Albion chelates for three years. Body and fetlock hair were tested to compare whether Stride or the Multi-Pak produced better results. As both SP and Larry were not getting the all breed minerals they differ only in Stride vs. the Multi-Pak. SP had never been on Pro Sweat. SP was given thyroid medication which made him sweat. His body hair test result showed very low potassium which is needed to sensitize tissues to thyroxine. It is likely that the elevated zinc in Stride depressed potassium so that thyroid medication was required by SP. SP's CalK ratio (thyroid ratio) is elevated which indicates low thyroxine activity at the cellular level. Larry also had low potassium on the pre-test. The Multi-Pak, in contrast, greatly increased the level of potassium in his body hair in sixty days. His CalK ratio was also lowered to the normal range. Overall, sixty days on the Multi-Pak produced a much more normal pattern in Larry than Stride had in SP over several years.
SSB's trainer referred to him as the "king" of the nonsweaters. He had been on Pro Sweat for more than one season. The pre-test showed aluminum, iron and manganese levels near the top of or off the chart. Sodium and potassium were very low. Note the elevated arsenic and low selenium levels. SSB is a stallion and the breeding manager said his sperm motility was low. An enzyme essential for sperm motility contains selenium. If selenium is low, sperm motility is slow. The post- test shows lower arsenic and increased selenium. The breeding manager said his sperm motility increased with the use of the chelates. In only 30 days the chelates had lowered the levels of aluminum, iron and manganese markedly. At the same time the amounts in fetlock hair increased with the exception of iron. It is useful that the chelates are detoxing the Pro Sweat and horses that had been on fluoridated water so rapidly.
I also had my own unfortunate experience with a feed. In less than a month my horses were all having health problems. Two had gas colic, one ran a temperature of 106 (depressed immune system), and my laminitic mare lost weight. Testing of this feed at Equi-analytical Laboratories in Ithaca, N.Y showed it contained 600 ppm aluminum and over 500 ppm iron (500 ppm is toxic to horses). As beet pulp was the main ingredient I researched its iron and aluminum content. The Equi-analytical library showed beet pulp contains high iron. I also found that aluminum sulfate is used as a press agent to remove sugar from beets. Thus beet pulp is the source of elevated levels of iron and aluminum. Beet pulp is used as an ingredient in some senior and performance feeds because of its high digestibility. In my opinion, the high iron and aluminum content makes it a poor choice for horses. Other horse feeds contain soybean hulls to increase digestibility. Since soybeans are processed by acid washing in tanks that often are made of aluminum, soy products in horse feed may also contribute to the aluminum content. The other minerals were not present at the levels specified in the "Guaranteed Analysis". Moreover, the ratios were all off.
The general balancing ratios for horses are:
Major (Macro) Minerals:
Calcium 1-1 V2 to 2 times phosphorus and magnesium Potassium 3.3 to 10 times sodium (3.3:1 is the ideal target)
Trace (Micro) Minerals:
Iron 4 to 10 times copper (4:1 is the ideal target)
Zinc and manganese 3 times copper, with manganese lower than zinc
Healthy horses can tolerate fairly large deviations from these ratios but circumstances like pregnancy, age and illness lower the tolerance for imbalance. Other factors may affect balancing a ration, including long standing excesses or deficiencies, high levels of toxic minerals (aluminum, lead cadmium, etc.), and area water mineral levels (e.g. iron).
Bottom line: Everything interfered with copper which was present at a level one-third lower than it was guaranteed to be. It is doubtful the horses were getting any copper at all from this feed. I had tried this feed in December. It is almost May and my mares have not been cycling normally. The lesson from this experience is: Test a feed before you give it to your horses.
You are invited to participate in this study. Test your horses' hair and feed and the results will be made available on this site.