Magnesium for horses with ulcers

Magnesium for Horses with Ulcers

Magnesium for Horses with Ulcers

One of the leading causes of ulcers in horses is stress.  Many many of the horses that get ulcers are in the performance category and because of their extreme exposure to competition, unnatural travelling regiments and diets they are significantly more at risk.  Magnesium as a supplement can help calm stressful horses, and also provide them with necessary minerals and electrolytes to combat colic, colitis, ulcers and cribbing. 

When I started out with horses I wasn’t aware of the nutritional requirements that they had.  Honestly back in the 90’s, I was taught they just need grass or hay and water and that’s it.  However my education on this subject has come a long long way, and now I understand that behaviour can be directly related to diet…which of course shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

Horses with Ulcers

I have written a previous article on natural ulcer treatment in horses and you can definitely check that out.  One of the things that you might want to try as more of a behaviour test is to see if the magnesium levels in your horse are proper.  Sometimes the behavioural things that we notice are exactly the same for both things…so it is definitely worth checking. You can also ask your vet about Omeprazole.

If you’re reading this article then you are already aware of the importance of nutrition for your horse.   You are probably here because someone mentioned magnesium to you and you’re wondering if it could be beneficial to your horse.  In this post, we are going to look at the research and information about magnesium and try to see if it would be a fit for your horse.

Magnesium the Mineral

Magnesium is by far the most important mineral, regulating over 300 enzymes in the body.  Supplementation has been shown to improve performance, It increases oxygen delivery to muscle tissue; it promotes muscle strength, endurance and relaxation. Magnesium also activates enzymes necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids which lead to protein synthesis.  In horses, the impact most sought after is a calming effect through nerve and muscle relaxation.  Suboptimal magnesium levels may be the cause of erratic and aggressive horse behaviour and therefore supplementation may assist in regulating performance. 

note:  I’m not a vet and I am definitely not trying to play one on the internet.  So you will need to take everything you read here and filter it through that.  I would strongly recommend getting the information that you need and then consulting your vet and working through what your horse needs.  Having said that, however, I feel that as a trained biologist and current stable owner I can at least give you some information and start you down the path. 

Why Magnesium for Horses is important

Horse nutrition certainly isn’t a new thing, but more and more horse owners are searching for ways to give the best nutrition to their horses.  At blazing hearts ranch we are continually trying to research and then provide the best nutrition for all of our horses and clients.  Honestly, it can be a bit of work though, trying to figure out what is best for your own horse, I know for me it has been a lot of research and then trying to see if the results match the claims.  Magnesium including other vitamins and minerals are certainly a big part of the conversation. 

Magnesium is a mineral…and an electrolyte, one of the important ones.  In humans, it’s the 4th most abundant mineral in our bodies.  In horses, it is just as important.  This mineral plays an important part in nerve and muscle function.  Horses deficient in this important element can show signs of nervousness, wariness, excitability, and muscle tremors. 

Magnesium is by far the most important mineral, regulating over 325 enzymes in the body.  Supplementation has been shown to improve performance, allowing human athletes to reach exhaustion later in their exercise routine. It increases oxygen delivery to muscle tissue; it promotes muscle strength, endurance and relaxation.  Magnesium also activates enzymes necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids which lead to protein synthesis.


The application of magnesium for horses is often incorrect.  One reason is this: Calcium needs magnesium in order to integrate into the body. In order to use the calcium, the body will steal magnesium from bones and soft tissue.   Over time, this creates an accumulative negative reaction in the body.  This effect actually triggers the body to release adrenaline adding to the excitatory behaviour we see in deficient horses.    

The body stores most of its magnesium in bones and soft tissue.  Because of this blood tests really don’t give an accurate picture of what is going on.  The body regulates the electrolyte level in the blood in various ways.  Due to this, a snapshot is not going to give you the best idea of what is going on in your horse. 

Magnesium in a horse’s toxicity is extremely rare…so how do you know how much magnesium your horse is getting?  You need to check the supplements to see and you can get a hay analysis but they would need to be done regularly.  You will need to watch behaviour and work with your vet to decide how much and if you should supplement it.   If you think you may have a shortfall, it’s a very safe mineral to give in any case.  Horses with reduced kidney function should not be supplemented with magnesium without vet supervision.   Make sure your horse has access to water.

Signs your horse may need supplementation

They may be borderline and only exhibit signs during competition or stress.  Despite proper fit of saddle and pad horses with deficiencies may have sore backs.  if your horse doesn’t respond well to chiropractic adjustments or massages.  If these treatments don’t last more than a couple days and the tension and soreness return.  Their response to outside stimuli is over-reactive and they tend to become fractious, worried, fearful or resistant to training.

Unable to relax physically or mentally, muscle tremors, twitches, flinching, or all over body trembling especially after exertion (not related to outside temp).  They can often not tolerate long periods of work.   They can spook randomly, running through the bridle, and be inconsistent from one ride to the next.  If their aggression changes and you notice signs of pain that are generally not there.  Training days can also lead to frustration because the horse may be resistant to learning because of pain or stress.  

Local tack shops may be able to help you find some magnesium. You can also check your worming program to make sure your horses worming is up to date.

For more information about ulcers and what to do visit our main ulcer page and check out these other articles.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional.  The information contained here is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information, not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions for your horse based upon your own research and in partnership with a qualified veterinarian.  Magnesium for horses should definitely be a conversation that you have with your vet.