Top 10 minerals for horses

This list of minerals and their benefits will help you gain a better understanding of your horse’s nutritional needs.

Macro? Trace? What’s the difference when it comes to minerals for our horses? Simply put, macro minerals are needed in large amounts, while trace minerals are needed in small amounts. Macro minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulphur. Meanwhile iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium round out the list of trace minerals. Let’s turn a spotlight on a few of the minerals our horses need to be healthy and happy.


Most of a horse’s calcium is found in the bones and teeth. This mineral plays a critical role in the integrity of the skeleton and is also essential to neuromuscular function, including muscle contraction, along with enzyme regulation and blood clotting. Calcium is found in alfalfa, clover, Timothy grass, orchard grass, and Lucerne.


Partnered with calcium, phosphorus is integral to bone growth and skeletal health. It aids in the process of energy transfer, and DNA and RNA synthesis.  Simply put, it turns chemical energy into mechanical energy for our horses. Phosphorus is found in oats, corn, and soybean meal.


Nerve and muscle function top the list when it comes to the benefits of magnesium. It activates enzymes, plays a role in muscle contractions, helps maintain electrolyte balance, and has a calming effect. If your horse is deficient in magnesium, she may be nervous or more wary, and may even experience muscle tremors. Magnesium is beneficial to obese horses and those that are predisposed to grass induced laminitis. Many soils are acidic and clay-based, and therefore low in magnesium, so magnesium oxide is a supplement to consider for your horse. It’s also nice to know that your horse will not absorb magnesium if there is no deficiency. Try chia seeds, shelled pumpkin seeds, almonds, and quinoa.

Sodium and chloride

Sodium and chloride go “hoof in hoof.” No one can survive without salt. According to Dr. Carol Shwetz, DVM, a horse’s behavior issues is the best sign of a salt deficiency! All horses need a salt supplement. If your horse is not getting enough, you may notice him becoming fatigued; muscle weakness may become apparent, and overall, your horse’s performance will be impacted. Sodium influences the degree of hydration. It also supports a horse’s central nervous system and helps transport glucose across cell membranes. It is important for muscle contractions and even protein digestion. Chloride is crucial to the digestive system and produces hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Like sodium, chloride influences the nervous system and the muscles.  Sodium can be found in Lucerne and clover.


When it comes to oxygen use through a horse’s body, iron is the critical mineral. Iron is needed for the synthesis of hemoglobin, and also has an impact on the immune system and metabolism. Most pastures contain iron in the forage, soil, or both. Lucerne, teff hay and Rhodes grass hay also contain this mineral.


Copper is considered an important co-factor for essential metabolic pathways in the horse’s body. Without copper, horses cannot utilize iron efficiently. Copper plays an important role in the development of connective tissue and supports a healthy immune system. You may be surprised to learn that copper also helps lower the amount of histamine in a horse’s body, thereby reducing allergy symptoms. Forages contain quite low levels of copper, so consider a visit with your nutritionist to discuss whether a copper supplement is needed.


When it comes to supporting the immune system, zinc plays an important role. It also helps wounds heal and is known to offset infections and even bolster stress tolerance. Like copper, zinc also helps lower the amount of histamine in a horse’s body. Most commercial horse feeds are formulated with sufficient zinc to meet a horse’s needs.


A critical trace mineral, iodine is essential when it comes to the production of hormones related to the thyroid – which are important to bone and brain development, and metabolism. Foods that contain iodine include alfalfa, algae, and kelp.


Sulphur is a part of collagen. Together, they support our horses’ joint health and help maintain healthy hooves, skin, and coat. Forage is the primary source of this important mineral.