Does your horse suffer from chronic stomach issues or ulcers? Does your horse struggle to recoup after a show or workout? These are just two of many signs of a mineral imbalance. What is the best way to check for imbalances? Your Vet will do blood work and they will say everything is normal. In a way, they would be correct. Blood touches every cell so it has to be balanced or correct in order to function. Large variations in mineral levels in the blood would be fatal.  Not the case with the hair.  Blood or urine provide short-term or even instantaneous readings, whereas a hair test provides a 3-month average or a longer-term reading. The average level of minerals is about ten times as high in the hair as in the blood; this makes minerals easier to measure accurately in the hair.

What will the mineral analysis show? Fifteen nutritional elements and seven significant mineral ratios. To start, you will get precise numbers in milligram percent of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and nine other minerals and micronutrients as well as mineral ratios. If mineral rations are a new concept, in short, minerals have interrelationships with other minerals. For example, calcium and magnesium, zinc and copper, calcium, and phosphorous are all interrelated. If their ratios are not balanced prevents other minerals from being absorbed and could be causing additional issues. That translates to the $200.00 joint supplement your giving your horse is in your manure pile, not where it needs to be.

A word of caution about hair analysis. Only use a lab that is certified to do equine work. This will assure the most accurate analysis. Secondly, look at the submittal form they want you to complete. Besides the basic information, they should ask for detailed information on diet, training, how your horse moves, hoof condition, or any joint issues. The more information they ask for, the better the final summary. Third – Who else besides the lab will review the information; some companies simply send you the lab results and leave it to you to decipher the x’s and o’s. Others will include a second summary from an in-house equine nutritionist that will link the information from the submittal form and analysis into a final summary. The summary will explain in horseman terms any mineral imbalance and offer recommendations on how to correct it through diet or custom mineral supplements.

You decided to do an Equine Hair & Mineral Analysis and the report may show that your horse needs magnesium, zinc, and copper but is high in iron (which can cause ulcers). So armed with your analysis in hand, you can go to the feed store and get what you need. Not exactly, remember “mineral ratios,” they are the critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to the success or failure of your feeding and supplement program. Nutrient interrelationships are complex, especially among trace elements. A mineral cannot be affected without affecting at least two other minerals.  Mineral relationships can be compared to a series of intermeshing gears, which are all connected, some directly and some indirectly, any movement of one gear or mineral will result in the movement of other gears or minerals. The extent or effect of each gear or mineral will depend upon the gear size, mineral quantity and the number of cogs in the gear, the number of enzymes, or biochemical reactions. The high iron, in our example, hampers the absorption of copper and zinc.  Why is that a problem?  Copper plays a major role in connective tissue, including collagen and elastin, as well as cartilage. Zinc is active in more than 200 enzyme systems, predominantly those involved in carbohydrate metabolism. To correct the imbalance, you would require additional zinc and copper, as well as Vitamin E antioxidants.

When selecting supplements, it is important to read all the ingredients, not just the top three or four.  Feed and supplement manufacturers list ingredients in several ways.  For example, what do ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous fumarate have in common? They are iron and will be listed separately on an ingredients list. Knowing all the ingredients is extremely important when calculating the total daily requirement for a mineral. You need to account for not only what is on the feed tag but all supplements.  I have seen clients that were feeding three times the daily requirement for iron.

All these calculations may seem complicated and time-consuming; Is there an easier way? Yes,  Balanced Eco Solutions ( offers a unique service that takes all the guesswork out of balancing minerals. Through Balanced Eco Solutions, you can receive a Hair & Mineral Analysis from the only certified lab in the US. As part of the service, the analysis is reviewed by their in-house nutritionist. They review both the report, training and your feeding programs and provide a final summary with diet and supplement recommendations. If necessary, they can blend a custom supplement specifically to meet the needs of your horse.

The cost of a custom mineral blend is surprisingly economical, averaging $70-$95 a month, depending on what is needed. If you are feeding a joint or other supplements, those can be included in the blend as well. So instead of feeding 2-3 supplements, you are only feeding one. It is economical because being more bioavailable means smaller dosages, and no “loading” dose is needed.

Does all this work really make a difference? Yes, I thought it fitting to conclude with a success story. A competitive rider contacted us regarding her gelding – Jack. At home, Jack was perfect, calm, focused ran the course without issue. Take Jack to the show, and he was completely different, anxious, would not stand, was not focused, and just wanted to blast through the course. We completed an EHMA and found a low tissue calcium level, and imbalanced ratios relating to calcium and phosphorus as well as vitamin D deficiency. A custom supplement was blended with calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iodine, and cobalt to correct the imbalances. Within two months, Jack made huge changes.  At the show, he was calm, focused, and ready to compete; this enabled our client to win more of her events. She also noticed that Jack was able to recover faster between events. Now almost 12 months later, Jack loves competing and our client is one of the top riders in her discipline in Oregon.