Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin essential for horse health. Vital for lung, immune system support and skin health, this horse vitamin functions as an important antioxidant within the body. Vitamin C is needed for the synthesis of L-carnitine, and hormones like epinephrine and dopamine. Vitamin C is vital for collagen strength. Collagen is the major protein in all connective tissues, including tendons and ligaments and even blood vessels.
A under normal conditions a horse can synthesize enough vitamin C in its body to prevent the development of a full blown deficiency state. However, the ability of this synthesis to maintain normal vitamin C levels in times of stress is questioned.
A diet of mainly hay or haylage, heavy exercise and poor health resiliency, especially in the lungs, has been shown to lead to decreased vitamin C blood levels in unsupplemented horses. These situations may create a higher demand for vitamin c than can be supplied by a high hay and haylage diet and may exceed the body’s ability to make this essential vitamin.
For comparison a stabled horse on a hay or haylage based diet would be taking in less than 1 gram of C from its daily diet while an average horse on good green and growing spring grass would get a minimum of 20 grams/day.
Vitamin C horse supplementation is of potential benefit in the following scenarios:
- Horses on high cereal, low forage diets, or those on very poor quality forage.
- Horses eating a mainly or solely hay or haylage diet
- Horses which need lung support
- Horses which need skin support
- Older horses, where there are weight maintenance issues connected with digestive issues.
- Horses with failure to thrive due to illness or stress.
- Horses in hard work, high stress situations or competing (endurance, travelling, racing, eventing, hunting).
- Horses with poor gut micro-flora populations
- Young horses with incomplete gut micro-flora populations.
Care should be taken when supplementing vitamin C to horses known or suspected to be iron overloaded. Vitamin C increases iron absorption in the intestine. It also can act as a pro-oxidant rather than anti-oxidant in the presence of excess iron in the circulation or tissues. Read more on what vitamins your horse needs here. Feeding at the lowest rate is recommended in these situations or contact us for further advice.