Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium is the talk of the yard. Ask yourself is your horse getting enough?

A key catalyst for all cellular reactions in the body, magnesium deficiency will affect multiple areas of horse health including energy production, muscle tension, immunity, bone health, fertility and temperament to name a few. Most of us who work with horses will immediately look for low energy and irritability as potential signs of magnesium deficiency but why is this on the rise? The answer is relatively straight forward - an extensive UK farming scene has resulted in significant soil depletion, leading to low levels of minerals in forage and natural feeds. Grass preserved forage in particular is likely to contribute to marginal deficiency, providing (for the sake of conversation) 10g rather than 12g magnesium on a daily basis. Critically, however, It’s not just the immediate symptoms of acute deficiency that we have to concern ourselves with. If left unchecked, chronic deficiency can lead to long term illness and tremendous expense where veterinary bills are concerned; but what can be done to avert this?  

Good quality nutritional supplementation is key. Equine America nutritionists recommend supplementing feed with 6-10 grams magnesium (each 5g serving of Magnitude provides approximately 3g of elemental magnesium) on a daily basis depending on bowel tolerance. Severe deficiency will require advice from the vet for a more tailored approach for your horse.    

Magnesium in detail – read on to understand why this mineral is pivotal to the health of your horse. All metabolic function in the body is regulated by a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate); the currency of cellular energy. Without magnesium, ATP is far less able to generate energy for cells to work properly. A strong beating heart relies on adequate intake of this mineral, playing a key role in electrical conductivity throughout the chambers of heart. Magnesium also plays a lead role in the synthesis of hormones and ensures their receptors operate efficiently. This is especially relevant where regulation of insulin and blood sugar levels are concerned. Consequently, lameness could be in part a consequence of magnesium deficiency, especially where general sluggishness, premature fatigue, sub-optimal performance and poor recovery times are concerned for working and competing horses.

Bone and soft tissue structures rely heavily on magnesium for strength. Bones also act as the main storage site for magnesium (0.8% weight of bone). Importantly, calcitonin, the hormone which enables the deposition of calcium on the bone is dictated by magnesium availability. Furthermore, conversion of vitamin D2 to active D3 requires magnesium as a cofactor. We can therefore deduce, backed up by clinical research that magnesium indirectly affects calcium absorption and directly impacts on the ability of vitamin D to reduce inflammation in the body – particularly relevant for an animal producing tremendous quantities of inflammatory prostaglandins at hard working joints.

Another factor to consider is the balance of calcium and magnesium in muscle. Calcium is required for muscular contraction, whereas magnesium works antagonistically helping muscle to relax. The balance between the two is critical, not only in achieving optimal muscle tone but also to help alleviate restlessness. In conjunction, magnesium contributes to the synthesis various neurotransmitters directly related to calming and restoring psychological balance. Stroppy mares are often subject to marginal deficiencies, especially where magnesium’s role in supporting hormonal regulation in the monthly cycle is concerned.  

For further information on how magnesium and other minerals affect your horses health, speak with our nutrition team today at Equine America on 01403 255809.

By Deborah Lucas MSc.Eq.S.,CBiol., R.Nutr.