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Do Performance Horses Need B-Vitamin Supplementation?By Kentucky Equine Research · October 24, 2017

Performance horses are often administered large quantities of B-vitamins before exercise in an attempt to improve performance. B-vitamins play an important role in the conversion of pyruvate into acetyl Co-A for use in aerobic energy generation. A reduction in the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl Co-A will result in lactate production which may contribute to fatigue during exercise.

To evaluate whether B-vitamin supplementation before exercise can affect performance, a 2 X 2 Latin square experiment was conducted. During the first of two periods, four trained three-year-old Thoroughbreds (three geldings and one filly) were divided into two groups and fed either a sweet feed and hay diet (CONTROL) or the control diet plus extra B-vitamins the evening before and morning of a standardized exercise test (SET) on a high-speed treadmill. The B-vitamin supplement provided 500 mg thiamine, 35 mg riboflavin, 35 mg niacinamide, and 450 mg of d-pantothenic acid per dose. This was added to the evening feed the night before the SET and in the morning feed, which was fed 3 hours before the SET. The sweet feed used in this experiment was also fortified with B vitamins so that both groups received daily B-vitamin supplementation throughout the experimental period.

The SET consisted of a 2-min warm-up walk followed by an 800-m trot (about 4 m/s), then 800-m gallops of 8 m/s, 9 m/s, 10 m/s, and 11 m/s. These gallops were followed by an 800-m warm-down trot and 2-min walk. At the end of each speed, heart rate was measured and a blood sample was taken. Blood samples were also taken at 15 and 30 minutes after exercise. After period 1, the diets were switched and protocol repeated. The lactate-velocity and heart rate-velocity relationships were determined.

There was no statistical difference (p<.10) for either lactate level or oxygen use between control and B-vitamin treatment. There was also no difference in plasma glucose either during or after the SET. Additional B-vitamin supplementation before exercise did not appear to affect metabolic response in horses already receiving daily B-vitamin supplementation.

This report of KER's 1995 research was published in Advances in Equine Nutrition.

Read the entire research report, titled: The Effect of Pre-Exercise B-Vitamin Supplementation on Metabolic Response to Exercise in Thoroughbred Horses.