Most horse owners like biotin, also called vitamin B7 or vitamin H, especially for its positive effects on the horse’s hooves, skin and hair. The commonly known “hoof vitamin” supports hoof growth in particular. It´s therefore an important component in the horse’s diet. In this article we will discuss where to find natural biotin for horses, how to identify a biotin deficiency and when to feed biotin.
What is biotin?
Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin and is produced in horses by bacteria in the large intestine. It maintains healthy skin, hair and hooves by stimulating the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This happens because biotin is an enzyme building block that provides chemical reactions in the horse’s organism by converting pyruvate to fructose and finally to glucose, and boosting fatty acid synthesis. In addition, it supports the formation of keratin. Keratins are fibrous proteins that provide hair with shine and structure.
Furthermore, biotin has the following effects:
- supports blood formation
- ensures skin, horn, coat and blood sugar metabolism
- strengthens the immune system and boosts the body’s natural defences
- reduces pain sensitivity
Signs of biotin deficiency in horses
Since water-soluble vitamins like biotin are not as storable as fat-soluble vitamins, a continuous supply is necessary. This usually takes place in the form of self-synthesis or with the support of the horse’s regular diet. If, however, your horse develops a deficiency due to an intestinal disease or feeding of silage for example, a disturbance in the metabolism can show through a range of symptoms.
General signs such as tiredness, loss of appetite, paralysis or depression can occur. Typical symptoms, however, are skin changes, hair loss and discolouration of the hair. Muscle pain or fertility and lactation problems may also occur. The most obvious deficiency symptom is poor hoof consistency, that mens hoof problems.
How do I stimulate the horse’s natural biosynthesis?
Basically, a horse produces biotin itself through microbial processes. However, this takes place in the rear end of the large intestine and therefore hardly ever enters the animal’s circulation. To stimulate the horse’s own biosynthesis, the pH value of the intestine should not become too acidic. This ultimately supports the process of biotin production. Therefore it is advisable to ensure a sufficient supply of high-quality hay and to make sure that the daily nutrient requirement is covered by the rest of the feed. The recommended amount of hay per 100kg body weight is about 1 to 1.5kg.
In addition, it is important to ensure a balanced supply of minerals. This can be achieved by a good mixture of roughage and concentrated feed. But avoid overfeeding of pasture grass, oils and cereals, as this can unbalance the flora of the large intestine and hinder the synthesis of biotin.
When do I have to give my horse biotin supplements?
Especially horses with brittle or soft hoof horn should be fed biotin in a higher dosage. This applies especially to horses of the northern type, as due to their wide hooves they tend to have soft hoof horn. In addition, the intestinal flora of older horses often no longer works properly, which is why additional feeding of the coenzyme is also useful here. If a horse suffers from an intestinal disease or if the intestinal flora is disturbed by antibiotic treatment, it can also hinder the body’s own biosynthesis. Therefore, affected horses should be fed biotin in larger quantities.
Types of feed supplements with biotin (capsules, liquid, powder, pellets)
Before feeding biotin products to a horse, first obtain approval by a veterinarian. This is because the deficiency symptoms could also be caused by a disease. Then the vitamin can be given to the horse through supplementary feed. Natural sources of biotin are brewer’s yeast, sunflower (seeds), soybeans and oats. Bananas and apples also contain biotin — only in a very small quantity however, which is why horses would have to eat kilos of fruit to cover their needs.
Biotin in the form of supplementary feed, on the other hand, is available in different types. One of these are high-dose capsules or tablets. Taking these can be difficult though as horses often refuse them. Other options include biotin in liquid or powder form. This can be given with the daily feed and is easily absorbed by the horse. Pellets are a more palatable alternative to provide horses with the valuable vitamin. They can also be fed to the horse as a treat. In addition, there is special biotin horse feed. This can be purchased from a specialist dealer, for example, and has the advantage of a higher biotin content.
Biotin for horses — dosage and duration of use of the supplementary feed
The recommended daily dose for an adult horse (600 kg) is 20 mg biotin. Commercially available products with 2,000mg/kg biotin already cover the daily requirement in a daily dose of 10 g. This amount does not accelerate the growth of the hoof horn, but improves its quality. However, a larger amount is not advisable, as the body cannot process it. In order to visibly strengthen the hoof horn, biotin should be fed for at least seven to nine months. This is due to the slow growth of the hoof horn. In adult horses, the hoof horn grows only 4.2 to 9 millimetres per month. Basically, biotin cannot be overdosed and has no negative side effects for horses.