The recent media coverage concerning cobalt misuse in racing has raised concerns surrounding the presence of this element in equine feedstuffs and supplements. There is no doubting the fact that the element is absolutely essential for life and for many of the body’s functions, but the amounts required for these functions are small and are more than met by the average equine diet.
However, cobalt has been reportedly misused as a blood doper in the racing industry. The reason why it is seen as an attractive blood doper is because the micro-mineral is endogenous and when given at high levels it induces Hypoxia-like responses. These responses stimulate the production of red blood cells and in turn increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood to cells and muscles. These hematocrit stimulating actions have apparently been used in attempts to improperly influence equine racing performance and have led to the introduction of regulatory thresholds in a number of racing jurisdictions.
In March of 2014 the California Horse Racing Board [CHRB] issued a notification that they were about to commence monitoring cobalt levels. The communication indicated that levels in excess of 5 ppm in blood or 25 ppb in urine would be a cause for an investigation. Additionally, they noted that the top 10% obtained at necropsy would be a source for an investigation, and that the CHRB would consider administration of the element as a potential equine health and safety issue.
While the issue of cobalt misuse is relatively new to the thoroughbred horseracing industry, harness racing in North America was the focus of a controversy in recent years when two New Jersey trainers were banned from the track for having horses with excess levels in their system.
This week sparked fresh controversy from Australia, where two very prominent racehorse trainers are currently being investigated over urine samples taken from horses that exceeded the permitted levels. The Australian Racing Board has only recently set a threshold for cobalt levels in horses, which will make trainers scrutinise more closely the levels provided to the horse from all sources.
Cobalt has been included in equine vitamin and mineral supplements for decades and the amounts in them are usually low and at recommended dosages should not lead to exceeding new thresholds. However, in early 2014, Plusvital took the decision to eliminate the micro-mineral from its new range of products. This decision was based on the fact that the amounts required in the horses body at any given time are very small and therefore supplementation may not be advisable given the controversy. The NRC recommended daily dietary requirement is about 0.1m g/day, For the most part, a horse’s cobalt needs are readily met by its basic food intake and there is no need for further supplementation.
Learn more about Plusvital’s full range of supplements here.