Magnesium – The Mighty Mineral

Magnesium often receives little attention in equine nutrition. For example, you will rarely see it listed in the analysis on  a feed bag. Despite this, it could easily be argued that no other mineral has as many important functions.

The biochemistry is complicated but basically the energy locked into your horse’s food is transformed and stored as high energy bonds between phosphate molecules. The highest energy form is ATP, adenosine triphosphate. Magnesium is required to stabilize and store ATP. Without it, all cells would die.

Magnesium is also required for all genetic  material, DNA and RNA, to function and be transcribed. You can’t get much more basic to survival than that.

Science has so far identified over 300 enzymes that require magnesium to function. Virtually any body function you can think of requires adequate magnesium at some step along the line.

While calcium (last week’s blog) is often a major trigger/facilitator of body reactions, magnesium’s function is more often to moderate and regulate.  This shows up clearly in the signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency.ANGRY HORSE

Low magnesium is a very common cause of behavioral issues such as hypersensitivity to sound or touch and irritability.

In other species, magnesium deficiency has also been clearly identified as both a cause and effect of insulin resistance.

Muscular irritability manifested as twitching in muscles, increased muscle tone, even elevated blood levels of muscle enzymes and signs of tying up can also be caused by magnesium deficiency.  With extreme deficiency, weakness results because of the key function of magnesium in maintaining ATP stores.

Magnesium is present in all equine feeds but levels vary considerably.  Acidic soil conditions often result in much magnesium being washed out of the soil by rain.  Whole grains, brans, germs and alfalfa tend to have the highest levels but this can be offset by high calcium levels which may compete for absorption.

The only way to determine how much magnesium supplementation may be needed in your horse’s current diet is by diet analysis, especially hay analysis. In general terms, if you suspect a muscular, insulin resistance or behavioral issue with your horse may have a component of inadequate magnesium intake try supplementing with 5 to 10 grams of elemental magnesium per day.

Eleanor M Kellon, VMD

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.
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9 Responses to Magnesium – The Mighty Mineral

  1. Does magnesium have an anti-inflammatory action in horses?

    • Dr. Kellon says:

      There is no equine specific information. In other species, magnesium deficiency increases markers of inflammation. This does not mean excess magnesium decreases inflammation, only that adequate magnesium appears to participate in the body’s own antiinflammatory regulatory pathways.

  2. arthenning says:

    Reblogged this on modernartandphotographyhenning and commented:
    Well, exactly the same and more applies to humans. However, because of the nice picture, I picked this one for reblogging. Very interesting blog by Eleanor M Kellon!

  3. Did you mean “whole grains”?
    Thank you for posting this article!

  4. Sheldon says:

    Keno, Who are you getting the dimagnesium malate supplementation through?

  5. Keno Miller says:

    Thank you Dr. Kellon for this great article! I own two horses that are now finally improving and responding well to dimagnesium malate supplementation following them showing no improvements for months and years on magnesium oxide. During my search for what would work and be affordable, I have also tried another chelated form of magnesium but the bitter taste was not accepted by my horse. I look forward to more discussions and market options on the most absorbable forms of magnesium to help us all help our “special” horses and spend our money wisely.

  6. Billy Blackman says:

    “hypersensitivity to sound or touch and irritability.” Does this apply to both sexes? Thanks.

    Sent from my iPhone

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