TRACE MINERALS: The Key to Breeder Success
by Dane Hobbs

Man's preoccupation with NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, & Potassium) fertilizers have resulted in the neglect of trace minerals which are vital and necessary components of a healthy and fertile soil. Trace minerals serve as catalysts which activate enzymes and are an important part of the plant nutrients regulating growth and development. Time and man has robbed our soils of their lifeblood: Micronutrients (i.e. trace minerals)! Research has shown that trace mineral deficient soils will produce trace mineral deficient plants (i.e. grains). When man and animals consume these plants they will also be trace mineral deficient. Therefore, when your horses consume these micronutrient deficient plants they will also be trace mineral deficient. Many diseases, both animal and human, are now linked to trace mineral deficiencies.

In addition, the digestive processes of all animals result from the breakdown of the feed by enzymes secreted from the organs of the body, from enzymes within the feed, and from the enzymatic activity of the microflora present in the animal's digestive tract. All feed must be broken down into its simplest components before the nutrients can be absorbed and utilized by the body. All three enzyme sources are necessary for complete metabolic digestive processes to occur. The problem is that modern food processing has destroyed the enzymes found in all horses feed. It is important that these missing enzymes be added to the horses's diet in order to compensate for those that are now missing. The heat employed in processing can also tie up trace minerals making them unavailable to your horse.

Trace mineral deficiencies seem to be further exaggerated by today's modern genetically-engineered grain hybrids, especially corn. Hybrid corn apparently fails to uptake seven to nine trace minerals. In the laboratory of Armour's Institute of Research in Chicago, Ernest Halbleib compared Krug open pollinated corn with a hybrid corn. Open pollinated corn is an heirloom variety used by early pioneers. Spectrographic analysis revealed that the hybrid corn was deficient in nine minerals. Halbleib stated that the hybrid variety did not pick up cobalt or any other trace mineral. Both varieties were grown in nutrient enriched soil. "The reason I mentioned cobalt" said Halbleib, "is that we found (on the 16 farms in the test) that no hybrid picked up cobalt, and in all tests, the hybrids were short seven to nine trace minerals." Cobalt is an integral component of vitamin B-12. According to the book, An Acres, U.S.A. Primer, Adolph Steinbronn's open pollinated corn, when compared to 4,000 samples of corn tested in ten Midwest states, in a single year, contained 75% more protein, 875% more copper, 345% more iron, and 205% more manganese. A similar trend was also observed with calcium, sodium, magnesium, and zinc. Now, you can understand why it took so little grain for our forefathers to fatten livestock. It seems highly probable that this trend is also occurring in other hybrid grains. What this means to horse owners is that feed companies must add more inorganic mineral supplements to their feeds in order to compensate for the lower level of natural trace minerals in the grains.

Average inorganic mineral supplements contain only 10-12 minerals and vitamins A, D, & E. With these synthetic minerals, you must rely on the manufacturer's ability to formulate a properly balanced supplement. An excess, deficiency, or imbalance of one or more minerals can have devastating results on your horse's health. With all natural nutritional supplements Mother Nature has already balanced the nutrients and enhanced their bioavailability. Bioavailability means that a mineral can be more effectively utilized by an animal to meet its nutritional needs. Not all forms of minerals have the same nutritional value to animals.

The problem with simply adding inorganic trace minerals to your horse's feed is that they are not effectively utilized. Inorganic minerals have a low availability, ranging from 4-22%. Many of the inorganic products have molecular weights which are too large to be absorbed and used by the intestinal tract. Therefore, the body must expend energy to breakdown and restructure these minerals so that they can be transported across the intestinal wall, into the bloodstream where they are used by the horse. Unfortunately, up to 80% of these inorganic minerals, when broken apart, will combine with other substances that will render them unavailable to the animal. They then are excreted out of the body and never make a nutritional contribution to the animal. Adding more inorganic trace minerals is not the answer because toxicity can occur.

The answer to increasing the body's mineral uptake is through chelation. Chelation is the process which is responsible for the increased bioavailability of the nutrients in natural nutritional products. Chelates are organic molecules whose ring structures encapsulate and protect minerals from degradation. Because of their neutral electrical charges, chelated minerals are absorbed more efficiently through the intestinal wall, resulting in the increased metabolism of these minerals. Research conducted on man-made chelates has shown that they can be absorbed and utilized 300-500% more efficiently than inorganic minerals.

The complex interrelationships and interdependencies of trace minerals make it exceedingly difficult for man to precisely determine trace mineral requirements. Man has not yet found the key that will unlock the secrets of Nature. Although not scientifically proven, it is widely believed that naturally chelated minerals are more available than man-made chelates. After all, who knows more than Mother Nature!

"University personnel" insist that the mineral analyses of natural products are too low to be considered useful. Their conclusions are based on NRC (National Research Council) requirements which were established by testing with inorganic minerals. As we have shown earlier, the low availability of inorganic minerals proves that minerals that are more bioavailable would be needed in smaller amounts. Quality is the important issue in trace mineral nutrition, not quantity.

Without sufficient body levels of minerals; proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates can not be efficiently utilized by the body. Minerals are involved directly and indirectly in supplying energy, regulating body processes, and in the growth and maintenance of the body. In the same token, vitamins help in the appropriation of minerals in the body. Without vitamins, the body can use some of the minerals, but without minerals, vitamins are unusable. Also, vitamins and minerals are necessary if the various enzymes found in the body are going to function properly. Although the body can synthesize all needed enzymes (that is if it has the necessary trace minerals & vitamins) the body is not nearly as efficient as when enzymes are included in the horse's diet. Since natural nutritional supplements fulfill the basic needs or requirements in regard to trace mineral nutrition, it can be reasonably expected that multiple benefits from its use would be observed. Nothing magical, just simple down-to-earth Mother Nature approved logic!!

Many of the vitamins found in natural products are classified as antioxidants. Oxygen's (O2) chemical structure consists of two orbiting electrons which, when subjected to stress, result in free radicals of oxygen. Simply put, oxygen has lost one of its electrons and is now a free radical seeking another electron. An agent responsible for the removal of an electron is termed an oxidant. In its search for an electron, it will attack cells, causing damage and disease. Research has suggested that these vitamins simply stimulate cells. These vitamins function as catalysts, making the animal think it has a more stressful environment than it actually has. The animal reacts by increasing its defense mechanism, the immune response system.

In addition to the antioxidant vitamin E, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, molybdenum, manganese, selenium, and zinc are important in the proper functioning of the immune response system. Without proper trace mineralization, the horse's immune system will be compromised and incapable of fending off bacterial and viral assaults. The key to improving your horse's health is to employ preventative measures instead of merely treating the resulting symptoms of ill health. Since trace minerals govern the immune and reproductive systems, many of the problems encountered by horse breeders stem from trace mineral deficiencies.

According to veterinarians, the majority of health problems are stress related. Research has demonstrated that under stress (hunting, field trials, shipping, heat, cold, sickness, and disease) nutritional deficiencies can be produced or aggravated. Stress results in the accelerated depletion of trace minerals. This translates into increased animal demand for available trace minerals. If these nutritional needs are not met, sickness, death, or reduced animal performance can be expected. Enhancing the immune response system by daily application of biologically available trace minerals significantly lessens the severity of stress and subsequently opportunistic diseases. Inadequate or improper trace mineral nutrition is one of the primary factors involved in the culling of so-called "problem breeders." Rather than exhibit specific health problems, many trace mineral deficiency symptoms are subclinical. Gradually, over time, you will have lower fertility, smaller litter sizes, decreased endurance, reduced performance, escalating health problems, and generally failure to thrive. Many of the "problem breeders" that you cull each and every year are not genetically inferior, but trace mineral deficient!!!

This article was kindly provided by Dane Hobbs

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Updated: October 2005.