Copper Chromium & Selenium
Trace elements are essential for normal body function. They are involved in the enzyme systems that control the many biochemical reactions that take place within the cells.
Three trace elements that are particularly important to the performance horse are Copper, Chromium and Selenium.
Copper has many functions. It is essential for bone, cartilage and tendon formulation, the utilization of iron in the formation of haemoglobin and in the formation of melanin, the black pigment in hair.
Copper deficiency can cause bones to become weak and brittle, hair colour to fade and anaemia to develop.
In fact, lack of dietary copper has been associated with the development of O.C.D.
The daily dietary requirement for an adult horse is between 80-115mg. High levels of other trace minerals can interfere with the uptake of copper, for this reason some mineral supplements have more copper than the recommended daily requirement.
Chromium exists in two forms, the inorganic metallic form (Cr6) which is toxic to animals, and the organic form (Cr6) which is non toxic and therefore is able to be fed as a supplement.
Chromium is a constituent of a biochemical involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.
The benefits of chromium as an essential nutrient have been recognized by human athletes for years. Studies have shown how daily supplementation increases muscle gain and reduces body fat when combined with a physical training programme.
It is only since 1992 that equine researchers have clearly defined chromiums' role in improving health and performance in horses. Studies showed that horses on diets supplemented with 5mg of organic chromium per day had significant lower blood lactic acid levels after exercise when compared with control horses. Lactic acid is a by-product of energy metabolism. During intense exercise it accumulates in muscles and causes muscle fatigue. By supplementing with organic chromium, the length of time a horse can sustain a maximum effort during exercise is increased. Another benefit of chromium supplementation is the reduction in blood cortisol levels. Cortisol is commonly termed the “stress hormone” –
Levels increase during stressful periods. Increased cortisol levels lead to a reduction in energy utilization and protein synthesis, important factors in the athletic horse.
Seleniums’ most important function in the body is as a component of an enzyme called Glutathione Peroxidase – a powerful antioxidant.
As part of normal metabolism, cells produce waste products called peroxides. These substances are potentially dangerous to the integrity of the cell wall and must be neutralized quickly and efficiently. Glutathione Peroxidase is able to do this and hence protects the cell from the destructive effects of peroxides.
Because muscle cells metabolise large amounts of energy, they produce large amounts of peroxides. Selenium deficiencies are usually manifest as muscle problems.
Large areas of New Zealand soils are deficient in selenium. Farmers often add Selenium in the form of prills. With horses, supplementation is a good idea, particularly horses in full training. Breeding horses have also been shown to benefit from regular selenium supplementation.