Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What is Thiamine -B1 to a Horse?

Thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin and one of the group of B complex vitamins, it is also called vitamin B1. The horse can synthesise some B1 in the hindgut, it also needs to source mainly from fresh green pasture and rice bran. In many instances this fresh pasture is not available to the horse and so supplementation is required. Since it is water soluble, it is a very safe supplement as a horse will excrete out any excess with no complications of any overdose.

Why Does the Horse need Thiamine -B1?

Thiamine is necessary for the conversion of carbohydrates to the units of energy – ATP, plus it is necessary for the processing of Pyruvic acid (this is a waste product from muscle exertion), to prevent it becoming lactic acid, which is a cause of muscle fatigue and stiffness. In other words, it is needed to create the digestive process of carbohydrates, not just grains like oats, barley and maize, but also those carbohydates that are in grass and hay, ie sugars and starches. Science, (Studies by Topliff et Al), show that an exercising horse may need twice the Thiamine than that of a horse turned out to pasture.

It is also vital for the transmission of nerve impulses, and it has been shown, that when at low levels the horse may act in a  distracted, spooky and nervous manner.

There are very basically two types of working horses: high performing, such as race horses, eventers and endurance horses etc, or sport and leisure horses in light work. Both types need thiamine B1 but for different reasons.

The Need for Thiamine B1 for Sport and Leisure Horses

Generally, sport and leisure horses are kept on low carbohydrate and reduced pasture diets in the belief that this will stop a horse from becoming “hot”, spooky, tricky to handle. However, because of this trend of feeding low GI, low carbohydrate, grain free mixes etc and keeping them off fresh pasture, the source of Thiamine is greatly reduced. As Thiamine is important for the transmission of nerve impulses, a reduction of intake results in a nervous, edgy and spooky animal.  So the removal of good grass and cereals in effect can create the behavioural reactions that were the reason for feeding a low grain, low grass diet! The very problem that some riders are concerned about, can in fact be created by misguided imbalanced diets that are not natural to the horse.

Often this type of behaviour is attributed to low magnesium levels , even though a natural diet with a small feed usually provides sufficient magnesium. Many feeds and additives contain Organic or chelated Magnesium, which is not water soluble, and so it can be overdosed to a toxic level with negative effects to the horse. Magnesium oxide is water soluble but is inorganic but less popular (there is a trend for organic), and so safer for the horse. Read our article on Supplements here.

The mythical mycotoxins that are claimed to be in grass are also often blamed, even though a horse taking in any toxins would be sickly and low in energy. Read our article on mycotoxins and binders here.

Low thiamine levels are often overlooked as a cause. So, if your horse is on a low carbohydrate diet and away from good fresh green fodder, being a bit spooky and distracted, it is more likely to be low on Thiamine B1.

The Need for Thiamine B1 for Performance Horses – Racing , Eventing, Endurance

Performance horses are generally fed grain as their main energy source and are often on reduced pasture intake. They are often in higher stress situations with hard training, travelling, venue excitement etc. Stress has the effect of reducing the horses ability to create B Vitamins in the gut.

Also with a high grain intake there is a proportionally a higher demand on the need for Thiamine to help convert the grain to energy, in other words a need for a higher amount of Thiamine than the horse can produce himself. These horses generally do not have full access to fresh green pasture so the source of Thiamine B1 needs to be in the form of a daily supplement with the feed.

How to provide the horse with Thiamine Vitamin B1

The answer is to supplement with the feed. The recommended amount to supplement an average size horse (500Kg), is 1000mg per day. Vetpro Vitamin B1- Thiamine is supplied in a maltodextrin base to assist palatability and also make the dose level easy to measure. Available in 500gm, 1Kg and 2.5Kg sizes and the dose of  1000mg is one level scoop (provided with the product).

Special Note: The need for Thiamine for Horses Eating Bracken

Bracken produces a substance called thiaminase which breaks down Thiamine and causes a serious clinical deficiency. This can result in muscle weakness progressing to incoordination like staggers, degeneration of motor nerves and serious degeneration of the horse. Veterinary intervention is required, as a high dose of injectable thiamine may need to be given.