null
  Loading... Please wait...

Blog

Studies looking at magnesium in horses

Posted

Study conducted by Jess Dodd

Magnesium is a sedative. It has been used in anaesthesia in both horses and humans for decades. The mechanisms by which it has this effect are pretty well understood (blocking NMDA channels and calcium receptors). In effect it prevents the normal switching on of cellular processes inside cells all over the body. When this happens in the brain, the horse is sedated; think of it as a chemical brain impairment. It is because of these issues, injectable magnesium is on the FEI’s prohibited substances list.There is a very reasonable question to ask. Can we achieve a similar sedative effect with oral magnesium? Jess Dodd in Australia has gone a long way to suggesting we can. She measured how fast horses ran away from an acute scare and compared the effect of magnesium supplementation with the veterinary sedative Acepromazine (ACE, ACP, Sedalin). She then found similar results when using both 2.5 grams and 10 grams of magnesium.

A test developed in Australia measured the speed at which a horse flees from a scare, for just the first two metres (about half a second). This is measuring the immediate reaction to something it doesn’t understand. Most of us would expect our horse to flee from something scary, but then very quickly assess the risk and stop.

The researcher (Jess Dodd) found that when horses are not sedated, they cantered away for those first few meters. Whereas if sedated with Acepromazine (a veterinary sedative also known as ACP or Sedalin) they trotted away; their natural spook response was dulled down by the drug.

Small amounts of magnesium added to a diet had the same effect. Magnesium-fed (sedated) horses also trotted away from the scare please see graph.

The problems come with the longer term response to this sort of drug induced sedation. These horses may be slower to react, but they are then so poor at risk assessing they will often spook at all sorts of things! Sometimes they are looking for threats everywhere, from behind hedges to underneath the dressage white boards. Anxiety levels increase and as a result, all sorts of behavior may occur like: box or fence walking, separation anxiety, stopping at jumps and dragging riders around courses. You name it the list of different behaviors is very long.

Horses should be good at assessing the risks in their environment and far too often that is simply not happening. In our experience and opinion, sedating them with nutrients that impair brain function, means they’re highly unlikely to assess the risk difference between a butterfly and a lion.

Furthermore – if we impair brain function, can we then expect horses to make good decisions when jumping? To us, this makes sedation a dangerous way to “calm” our horses.

Magnesium Absorption in horses - Hintz & Schryver

  1. If diets are high in calcium, magnesium absorption is impaired leading to a risk of deficiency.

    Experiments carried out by the Americans Hintz & Schryver way back in 1972 and 1973 make it very clear that the balance between calcium and magnesium in the diet of horses does not affect the absorption of magnesium. In fact the diet they tested that had the most calcium actually resulted in the highest amount of magnesium retained in the horse. In this work the ponies were fed the different magnesium diets for a month each. Other researchers have done similar work over different periods. Some Dutchmen working with foals had a 16 week time frame, an Australian, Jess Dodd, looked at a few hours or days and in our own work we have horses entering our trials having been on high magnesium diets for months or years.
  2. Excess magnesium ingested is simply excreted in the droppings or the urine.

    Hintz & Schryver looked at this too and it is clear from their work that whilst excretion increases as the diet level increases, it doesn’t do so enough. The more magnesium you feed, the more is retained in the body and specifically in the blood. Ponies fed not much more than double the RDA of magnesium had blood magnesium levels that we would these days regard as “above the normal range”.

The Missing Link In Hoof Support

Do they all link? And are we missing one? Until now most hoof support supplements have been based around biotin, methionine, MSM, Zinc and Copper. As discussed in the previous article each do play their role in healthy hooves. Looking at the ingredients label, most supplements will add a few extras; however have we been missing out on a [...]

Read More »


21st century Hoof support

Horses evolved to run barefoot over rough ground and eat poor quality forage. A horse with poor feet would have been one of the first to be predated. Our modern horses are fed rich diets and often kept on the extremes of soft pasture and/or on concrete. Hoof problems are one of the biggest issues [...]

Read More »


Give your horse’s immune system a helping hand this winter

What can be done in order to keep your horse’s immune system as healthy as possible?Firstly, have a good base diet:Something high in fiber which allows your horse to have a continuous flow of food through their digestive tract is the best starting point. Horses that do not have a consistent flow of feed through their gut are [...]

Read More »


Go Shod or Bare Foot No Problem

The importance of good hoof quality is known by all horse owners, like the saying “No Hoof, No Horse!” Hoof problems are a regular occurrence for many owners and good hoof trimming is essential however it is only half the battle. The nutritional side of maintaining a perfect pedicure for your bare foot or shod [...]

Read More »


A guide to hoof support Winter edition

The coldest season will be soon upon us! So it is that time of year, getting ready for the WINTER! As the cold, wet months set in we all notice changes; the nights draw in the trees lose their leaves but what is going on with our horses knee downwards may not be on the [...]

Read More »


Three reasons why your horses immune system may be struggling!

For the majority of individuals is a system which will work very effectively for most of the duration of their life. However there are numerous factors which can hinder the effectiveness of the immune system, such as:Prior infection – as you will probably know from your own experience, if you're unwell and then you ‘catch’ [...]

Read More »


HOW TO KEEP THE SPOOKS TO HALLOWEEN AND NOT YOUR HORSE

   The nights are officially getting darker…we know, it sucks! With the change in seasons and the prospect of bringing your horse in overnight, we need to start thinking about what to feed our horses for the winter.It’s pretty much a given now that we all look at avoiding high sugar and high starch diets [...]

Read More »


​Is your horse’s joint supplement offering the whole mobility package?

Yes we know joints and mobility isn’t always the most interesting subject however the emerging science of biomechanics (How our horses move) directly relates to performance and welfare. This science highlights that it isn’t only the joints that need a helping hand, muscle, ligaments and tendons also need support to.Nutrition for the jointsEquine nutrition as [...]

Read More »


Five signs that your horse’s digestive tract could probably do with a little bit of TLC

1. Sloppy Poo – To be honest, any change in the consistency or the frequency of your horse’s droppings can be indicative of a change going on in their digestive system. Obviously any large differences would be best discussed with your vet, but subtle changes may be rectified just by introducing a pre and pro-biotic [...]

Read More »



Sign up to our newsletter

Share with us

Facebook Twitter YouTube

Popular Brands

Recent Updates