Calcium – Much More than Bone

Appreciation for the importance of nutrition lies in understanding the role of nutrients in body processes.

Calcium is an important structural mineral. Most of the body’s calcium is incorporated into bone and teeth where calcium in a crystalline structure makes these tissues very rigid and strong.

Although it is only a tiny fraction of the total body calcium, free ionized calcium, Ca++, in the blood and tissues also has key functions. Ionized calcium is so important to how the body functions that it is one of very few minerals which has hormonal regulation of high and low levels.

One job you may not realize is coagulation – blood clotting.  Along with vitamin K, calcium is a critical factor for the formation of clots to stop bleeding.

Calcium is also the activator for release of chemicals from nerve endings, for constriction of arteries in regulation of blood pressure and calcium release from storage structures inside muscle cells causes muscular contraction.  The swimming of sperm requires calcium. Calcium is also needed for the release of insulin from storage areas in the pancreatic cells.

Other minerals work with calcium or are needed to balance out its effects. These include phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. All must be present in correct concentrations.


     The average size adult horse at maintenance requires around 20 grams/day of calcium. Growing, pregnant and lactating horses have higher requirements.  The best natural sources of calcium are alfalfa, clover, beet pulp and grass hay.

About Dr. Kellon

Graduate of University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions,, industry and private nutritional consultations, online nutritional courses. Staff Veterinary Expert at Uckele Health and Nutrition.
This entry was posted in Equine Nutrition. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Calcium – Much More than Bone

  1. jgerl says:

    My horse has EMS and I supplement with Magnesium for glucose control. Am I throwing the Calcium/Magnesium ratio out of whack by doing this? If so, what are the ramifications?

    • uckeleequine says:

      The only way to answer that question is to know the calcium and magnesium levels in your horse’s diet. Over time, excessive magnesium intake can change the structure of bone although the ultimate consequences of that have not been well described.

      Dr. Kellon

  2. jgerl says:

    on’t calcium and magnesium have to be balanced? 2:1 ratio?

    • uckeleequine says:

      Yes, that’s the ideal ratio. Some horses with insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome do better at 1.5:1. This may be because they lose more magnesium in their urine like humans with this problem do.

      Dr. Kellon

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