What Does It Do?
B6 is essential for energy production, nervous system activity and for blood production.
B6 is actually three compounds, phosphorylation, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine (PALP) which are found in various enzyme systems for their functions in the equine body.
Although research has been very extensive, the multiple functions of vitamin B6 through PALP are still not yet fully understood; but over fifty enzymes are known which depend on it.
Many factors such as age, performance, and protein uptake effects a horses’ need for vitamin B6. Although deficiency symptoms have not been identified, all the evidence suggests that the amount of vitamin B6 in feeds may not be sufficient for optimum performance at any age.
Active horses appear to require a minimum dietary level of B6 greater than 2.5 mg/kg. The aim should be a supplement of about 3 mg per kg of feed which therefore supplies an active, performance horse with 30 mg/day, a resting adult with 18 mg/day, mares and stallions with 12 mg/day and foals and yearlings with 3 to10 mg/day.
Where Does My Horse Get It?
As with all of the B-complex vitamins they are synthesized by bacteria in the cecum and colon but additional sources from ingested feed and good quality forage are needed to provide adequate amounts for synthesis. If feeding poor quality hay and/or a diet high in concentrate, additional supplementation may be necessary.
Most commercial feeds contain B6 but minor losses are found in feed processed by pelleting or extrusion so usually the supplementation recommendations include an allowance of about 10% for losses during processing and storage.
What About B6 Toxicity?
Vitamin B6 is a water soluble vitamin and any excess is normally excreted in the urine.
What About B6 Deficiency?
B vitamins are needed in such a small amount by the horse that the diet and microbial synthesis provide adequate amounts. There has been some research in nitrogen retention with regard to B6. Optimum nitrogen retention is only possible in the presence of adequate vitamin B6 it is worth noting from this that increased dietary protein intake leads to increased vitamin B6 requirement.
~Peace and Good Feed,