What Dose of Vitamin B1 is Right for Your Horse?

I have been using SmartB1 on my rather spooky nervous mare. It has had a calming effect on her — almost to the point of being too calm and relaxed. I have started giving her only half the recommended dosage when she is not being ridden and giving her the full dosage when I am riding her. My question is — is it safe to give my mare the 15g dose every day over an extended length of time or should it be used sparingly — only on days she will be ridden? I appreciate your help with this question. JP, Colorado

Dear JP,

The nice thing about B1 (Thiamin) or any of the B vitamins is that, being water-soluble, any excess is passed in urine and not stored in the body. The NRC Nutrient Requirements of Horses even says:

“Thiamin toxicity in horses does not seem likely and has not been reported.”

The NRC also reminds owners that while the bacteria in horses’ hindgut make most of the B vitamins horses require, additional B1 and B2 (Riboflavin) must be supplied by the diet. That is, the bacteria do not make enough of these two B vitamins to meet the horses’ daily requirements so they have to be provided in the feed.

You’re lucky that your mare responds so well to B1! Some owners have to experiment with several different products to find the one that works best in their horse. You’re already on the “what dose works best” part of the equation!

Since Thiamin is involved in carbohydrate metabolism and in the transmission of impulses along nerves it’s hard to say which of these roles is the mechanism of action for its calming effects. So I can’t tell you if giving your mare a half dose on days she is not ridden and saving the full dose for days she is ridden is a good strategy or not. If I were you, I would look back in my journal (you DO keep a journal on your horse, don’t you?) and see how long it took for the SmartB1 to work. If it had an immediate effect, then your strategy is probably a good money-saving one. But if it took two weeks or more to work, then giving her a full dose the same day you need her to be calm may not give it enough time to work.

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+

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5 comments on “What Dose of Vitamin B1 is Right for Your Horse?
  1. Darlene says:

    I have a very moody mare and have tried several things on the market with no success. I have tried tryptophan types and Raspberry leave types. I’m thrilled to read this and will definitely give it a try. Is there any others I may try if the SmartB1 isn’t my answer.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Darlene,

      If you and your veterinarian have ruled out a physical problem, experimenting for at least one month at a time with various calming and mare supplements seems to be the best approach for moody mares and anxious geldings. What works in one horse (ingredients, dose) may not work in another horse and vice versa (what doesn’t work in one horse may work great in another). There are several products in these two categories (mare and calming) to try, with ingredients ranging from the nutrients magnesium, taurine, inositol and B1 (SmartCalm and SmartCalm Ultra, which also contains tryptophan) to herbs such as valerian, vervain, chamomile, hops and others. Hopefully you find a product that provides the results you’re looking for!

  2. Melinda says:

    If I begin feeding B1 how long is it before I would see a difference?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Melinda,
      Thank you for your question! Typically oral supplements take 1-2 months to see the maximum results. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

    • Sam says:

      My mare… I used an 8th of the dose because even half a dose made her a dead head. Not good when your riding through three cities with a group of horses. But it took no time at all. Gave it to her right before the ride.

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