Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an important antioxidant for horses. It helps maintain a healthy immune system and supports normal nerve and muscle function. The fatty membrane of every cell is protected by vitamin E.

Horses need vitamin E in their diet because they cannot synthesize it endogenously in their body. It is found in fresh, green grasses and forages. Horses that are mostly on lush pasture will get enough vitamin E by grazing fresh grass.

Cutting grasses and forages to harvest hay causes rapid degradation of vitamin E that continues as the hay is stored. Hay stored for longer periods of time or poor-quality hay will have lower vitamin E content. If your horse is fed mostly hay, they likely have low vitamin E intake.

Vitamin E deficiency in horses can result in increased oxidative stress and muscle pain after exercise. They might be sick with frequent coughs and colds and recover slowly. Insufficient Vitamin E in the diet can make some equine neurological disorders worse and can cause neurological disease in foals, growing horses, and adults.

Mad Barn’s Omneity® Premix is a fully balanced equine mineral and vitamin supplement that provides comprehensive nutritional coverage for your horse’s needs. It provides 1,000 IU of Vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol) per typical serving, sufficient to meet the needs of most horses.

We also carry bulk natural Vitamin E powder for horses that require higher levels.

Vitamin E and selenium are necessary for optimal antioxidant protection because they both have vitals roles in protecting cells against oxidative damage. Mad Barn’s Natural E/ Organic Se pellet provides both of these key nutrients in natural, organic forms with high bioavailablity.

Why Horses Need Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a shared term used to encompass eight compounds – tocopherols (saturated) and tocotrienols (unsaturated). Tocopherols and tocotrienols have four structural variants called alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Alpha-tocopherol is the most common in horse feeds and the most bioactive in the horse.

Antioxidants like vitamin E protect cells from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that steal electrons from other molecules to become stable, causing the other molecules, like DNA and cell membranes, to become unstable.

Free radicals are naturally produced in the mitochondria when horses metabolize carbohydrates, fat, or protein to make energy. Free radicals are also produced in large amounts when immune cells are working to kill invading organisms in the body.

Free radicals are not completely bad. A small amount is needed to send signals to cells in the body. However, too much free radical damage, called oxidative stress, damages cells often to the point of cell death. This will cause organs and tissues like the liver and muscles to not function properly and negatively impact the horse’s health, resulting in premature aging.

Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals before they cause damage. Antioxidants come in many forms. Vitamins (vitamin A, E and C), minerals (zinc, copper, selenium) and enzymes (glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, catalase) all work together to provide optimal antioxidant protection.

Oxidative damage from having low antioxidant status or high free radical burden can present itself in horses as:

  • Muscle soreness after exercise
  • Slow recovery from illness
  • Anemia
  • Frequent illness

Feeding adequate amounts of Vitamin E and other natural antioxidants can ensure your horse has appropriate antioxidant defense. Getting enough of this vitamin in the diet is particularly important for equine athletes.