Dr. Gray's Featured Article: Silica Supplementation in Horses Shown to be Safe and Effective

This article was originally published at www.TheHorse.com

While beer may be an excellent source of bioavailable silica for humans, a new round of dietary supplements may be a better way to provide horses with this essential trace mineral.

According to the sixth edition of the NRC Nutrient Requirement for Horses, a need for silica in the ration likely exists for the equine but determining a minimum requirement is difficult. That’s because silica is present in high levels in many of the things horses eat–such as cereal grains, alfalfa and beet pulp—but these environmental sources of silica are not as easily absorbed by the body as some others, such as orthosilicic acid.

The country’s leading research institution on silica supplementation in horses, the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University, has recently published the paper “Mineral balance in horses fed two supplemental silicon sources.” While both sodium aluminium silicate (SA) and orthosilicic acid (OSA) were able to alter calcium retention and bone metabolism, only OSA was able to alter silica retention, digestibility and plasma concentration.

The bottom line: scientific studies have shown that certain types of silica are more bioavailable in the horse than others and that concerns over potential mineral imbalances are unfounded. Research in horses has proven the benefits of silica on bone growth and development while research in other species has shown that dietary deficiencies of silica can lead to deterioration of connective tissue strength and integrity.

O’Connor CI, Nielsen BD, Woodward AD, et al. Mineral balance in horses fed two supplemental silicon sources. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2008 Apr;92(2):173-81.

Spooner HA, Nielsen BD, Turner KK, et al. Mineral balance in horses fed sodium zeolite. 7th International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology, 26-31 August 2006, Fontainebleau, France.

Nielsen BD, et al. Training distance to failure in young racing quarter horses fed sodium zeolite A. J. Equine Vet. Sci. 1993. 13(10):562-567. AND Proc. 13th ENPS p.5

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Ask the Vet, Nutrition

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3 comments on “Dr. Gray's Featured Article: Silica Supplementation in Horses Shown to be Safe and Effective
  1. Lisa Schroeder says:

    You keep speaking about silica when you must mean silicon! Silica is Silicon dioxide, or commonly known as sand (ground up quartz). Horses cannot absorb silica, and one would not want to feed sand to a horse anyway! Please get your chemistry straight.
    Lisa L. Schroeder, Ph.D.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing your concerns. We agree that feeding sand to a horse is not a good idea! We want to clarify that the silica used in our supplements comes from orthosilicic acid (a liquid source) and magnesium silicate. Both forms are widely used in both horse and human supplements to support connective tissue health.

  2. Shireen says:

    Can you provide a reliable source of obtaining orthosilicic acid and magnesium acid for a horse? Would feeding it have any benefits to hoof growth as well as bone and tendon/ligament strength?

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