When it comes to Vitamin C, many of us are aware of its role in immunity and we often reach for it when we feel a cold or flu coming along. This is because we, as humans, need to consume the vitamin in our diet, as we are not able to produce it ourselves. This is not the case in the horse who, unlike humans, actually possess the enzyme required to produce Vitamin C. Due to the nature of equestrianism the horse may not always be able to produce enough Vitamin C to meet the demands placed upon the body during intense training and exercise.
The enzyme required to convert glucose to the vitamin is called L-gulonolactone oxidase, and the horse can produce this in its liver. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid has many functions in the body.
The most important function of Vitamin C is its involvement in Collagen formation. The vitamin is essential for the formation and maintenance of Collagen, which is a protein, and it is the main component of connective tissue, which is essentially what, holds us together! Collagen is vital for healthy skin, joints and tissues, all of which are put under a lot of stress in the performance horse.
As a water-soluble antioxidant, Vitamin C can help keep the horse healthy in times of stress. As an antioxidant the vitamin works to fight against free radicals by neutralising them and therefore rendering them non-harmful. If antioxidants are unavailable free radicals can build up in the body leading to damage of cells and tissues.
Vitamin C also plays a role in the immune system of the horse. This vitamin helps to enhance how the immune system works by stimulating the formation of antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that are needed for fighting off invading pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The vitamin also aids in the absorption of iron and copper and can regulate the metabolism of calcium, some amino acids and certain fats, highlighting the need for adequate levels of this vitamin in the horses body.
Even though the horse is capable of making Vitamin C in its body, there are many factors that can lead to its depletion. Healthy horses grazing on fresh forage should get sufficient Vitamin C through their diet. Many horses however do not have the opportunity to graze continuously and are involved in rigorous training programmes, which can be stressful to the immune system.
Factors that influence vitamin status in the horse can include stresses that happen on a regular basis such as stress of competition and performance, stress of transportation and changes in environment. Surgical interventions such as castration and vaccination can reduce tissue levels of Vitamin C and also the disease status of the horse such as infections, viruses and parasitism.
Therefore when it comes to supplementation, although horses are capable of synthesising this vitamin within their body, in times of stress from training or performance, Vitamin C levels may be depleted and supplementation is required to support immune function and to support healthy connective tissue.
Learn more about Plusvital’s 100% source of this vitamin, Vitamin C 100, here.