Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is recognised as an anti-oxidant capable of eliminating free radicals in the body that damage membranes, fats, and proteins (Briggs, 1998; National Research Council, 2007).
Vitamin C is important for the synthesis of collagen and of several amino acids (Briggs, 1998; National Research Council, 2007). Other functions of ascorbic acid include formation of bones and teeth, aiding in the utilisation of several B vitamins, improving the absorption of iron in the small intestine, and aiding in some enzyme reactions (Briggs, 1998; Cunha, 1991).
Deficiency of vitamin C is uncommon in healthy horses because sufficient amounts are synthesised in the liver (Cunha, 1991). Some reports of low vitamin C concentration in the blood plasma have appeared, but they are thought to be related to bleeding from the nose, wound infections, and/ or increased susceptibility to disease (Briggs, 1998).
Horses that are susceptible to low blood levels of ascorbic acid include those over the age of 20 years and horses that have been ill and/or are stressed (Briggs, 1998). Supplementation is commonly believed to increase reproductive performance in mares and stallions, but there is little experimental evidence to reinforce this belief (Cunha, 1991).
Excess vitamin C levels have not appeared to cause any observable negative effects (National Research Council, 2007).« Back to Glossary Index