Calcium and Your Horse

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

Release of calcium ions inside cells is what triggers muscular activity

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. Calcium also has multiple other roles. All complete horse vitamin and mineral supplements include calcium. You can also supplement your horse through food high in calcium or calcium supplements.

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. It’s the only mineral where both upper and lower possible concentrations must appear on feeds by law.

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 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 much higher requirements.  The best natural sources of calcium are alfalfa, clover, and beet pulp. Uckele calcium, Equi-Cal, incorporates three high available calcium sources with alfalfa in a palatable base for easy supplementation. Always consult your veterinarian or nutritionist for advice on how much to add.

Eleanor 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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1 Response to Calcium and Your Horse

  1. Karla Stanley says:

    Hi, Is it true that too much calcium makes it impossible for magnesium to do its’ job & can cause laminitis? I remember your recently said that the reason that alfalfa contributes to laminitis is not well understood. I recently came upon this info. “Most prepackaged feeds add the calcium/magnesium ratio in a way that creates the wrong balance: too much calcium to not enough magnesium, (especially if the are getting any legumes, such as alfalfa), which causes the soft tissues to build up with too much calcium, (causing stiffness), and not enough calcium being transferred to the bones, (which is what magnesium does in the body, causing arthritis and osteoporosis). Magnesium is also paramount in metabolizing sugar, so put together a richer alfalfa mixed hay, and not enough magnesium, and you get laminitis.” I believe this info came from the Thank you for your help in understanding all this!


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