Seaweed is a marine plant that can be found in oceans all around the world. There are approximately 1700 different varieties of seaweed and they come in three different colours; green, brown and red.
Seaweed is a marine plant that can be found in oceans all around the world. There are approximately 1700 different varieties of seaweed and they come in three different colours; green, brown and red. The green seaweeds generally grow close to the water surface and are smaller than the brown and red varieties. Brown seaweed grows in slightly deeper and often cold waters, while the red seaweeds grow in very deep waters. It is the brown seaweed (also called Kelp) that is commonly fed to horses.
Horse feed supplements derived from seaweed supply trace minerals, especially iodine, that may be missing in a horse’s basic feed ration. Another seaweed benefit is in the content of Algin. Algin is a fibre molecule that has a number of positive effects, namely the attraction of heavy metals and their removal from the body, and also its antioxidant activities. Moreover, Brown seaweed has an incomparable wealth of not only mineral, vitamin and trace elements which can account for up to 36% of dry matter, notably present are calcium and magnesium, both vital components for the joint structure but also algal phytonutrients (phlorotannins), which provide a wide range of potential biological activity (antioxidants). Lipids represent 1-5 % of algal dry matter and show an interesting polyunsaturated fatty acid composition particularly with regard to omega 3 fatty acids which contribute to joint health. Claimed benefits of feeding seaweed supplements to horses include anthelmintic properties, antacid effects, improved skin and nail condition, increased immunity, increased digestibility of feed, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancerous, anti-ulcerous, antibacterial, increased fertility, reduced nervousness, reduced healing time following injury and thyroid gland stabilisation.
Given the high iodine concentration in seaweed, it can be useful to feed as an iodine supplement when there is a demonstrated iodine deficiency. If an iodine deficiency is diagnosed and you decide to feed seaweed, carefully calculate the amount required by your horse using the iodine concentration specified on the particular product you are using. There is a delicate balance to be maintained when feeding equine feed supplements containing iodine. While deficiencies of iodine in a horse’s diet can cause goiter in foals, excessive levels of iodine have also been known to cause this condition. Regarding to the numerous properties claimed, seaweed extract could be used or incorporated in complementary feeding stuffs for a wild range of cases: athletic horses for which an optimal joint function and comfort is desired; support of the general metabolism and fertility.