Supplementing Your Horse with Thiamine

Healthy horses with vim and vigor.
Healthy horses with vim and vigor. Shutterstock

Newsdate: Thursday June 21, 2018, 2:30pam
Location: TEMPE, Arizona

Thiamine (B1) is a member of the water-soluble group of B vitamins. Following absorption, it is metabolized to its active form, TPP – thiamine pyrophosphate. TPP is an essential cofactor in multiple reactions involving energy generation from carbohydrate (glucose) and branched chain amino acids.

Supplements for horses.

Supplements for horses

Horses at maintenance or in light work may not need any supplemental thiamine, but horses in heavier work schedules or under stress could benefit from supplementation.
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Specifically, TPP is involved in steps needed to get energy sources burned by aerobic metabolism.  For example, TPP is required for the pivotal enzymatic reaction that sends pyruvate from glucose into aerobic metabolism instead of conversion to lactate. In fact, elevated lactate is one sign of thiamine deficiency, as is impaired muscular function.

Since the primary and preferred fuel of the brain and nervous system is glucose, thiamine also is critical to their normal functioning.  Thiamine deficiency has been linked to a host of neurological conditions – confusion, weakness, gait abnormalities, impaired thinking are among the signs of severe deficiency.

Thiamine status has also been linked to depression or anxiety in times of stress.
Other signs of deficiency noted specifically in horses include loss of appetite, poor growth, low heart rate, even death.

Should you supplement? How much?

Full blown, potentially life threatening, thiamine deficiency has never been reported in horses eating typical diets. This minimum requirement has been set at 3 mg/kg of dry matter in the diet – about 30 mg per day for the average horse not in significant work. Exercising horses need about 50 mg per day. There is also evidence that growing horses have more efficient growth and weight gain when fed diets that have twice the density of thiamine as the adult minimum requirement.

These are the bare minimum requirements. Do they differ from optimal intake? The answer is most likely yes. A 2017 paper in the Israel Journal of Veterinary Medicine (Laus et al) found that horses given intravenous supplementation in the form of TPP (the active form of thiamine) produced significantly less lactate on a standardized exercise test compared to horses of identical fitness.

This is similar to findings in human athletes where oral thiamine supplementation in higher than typically recommended minimums reduces lactate, ammonia and fatigue to an even greater extent than formal endurance training. Supplementary thiamine has also been found to support performance and mood under stressful conditions.

Thiamine is virtually nontoxic, with the only noted side effect of even massive doses being nausea. Horses at maintenance or in light work may not need any supplemental thiamine.  Horses in heavier work schedules and/or under stress could benefit from supplementation of between 300 and 1000 mg/day for the average size horse for maximal support of metabolism and the brain.

Thiamine B1 Pellets have a long history of use as an aid to maintaining calm for the horse exhibiting nervousness, hyperactivity, discontentment or responding to environmentally-induced stress.  Provides 1,000 mg of vitamin B1 (Thiamine) to help your horse feel focused and at ease.  Also important in carbohydrate metabolism and the healthy transmission of nerve impulses.  It can be used alone or in combination with Magnesium or Calcium.

About Dr. Kellon

Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience.  Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.

Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, is an innovation-driven health company committed to making people and their animals healthier.  On the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years, Uckele formulates and manufactures a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances.

About the Author

EquiMed Staff

EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.