Building the Foundation of Bone Health from Birth to Sales Prep

Nichola Reynolds BSc, MSc,
Connolly’s RED MILLS – Nutritionist (UK North)

The quality and condition of your yearling’s bone health starts in-utero; at birth, foals have 17% of mature bone mineral content.  By 6 months, a horse can have reached 84% of its mature height, gaining another 10% by the time you are showing at the yearling sales.  Playing catch up with any aspect of your yearling’s development is undesirable; therefore, the nutritional management of the mare and foal play a key role in determining skeletal health later in life.

Growth plates (physis) are something we hear lots about, they are an area of proliferating cells and an expanding cartilage matrix, which is eventually mineralised becoming bone at different stages as the skeleton matures.

“A balanced approach to a yearling’s diet is best, aiming for consistent and steady growth rates from birth, paying particular attention to the weaning and sales preparation period.”


Quality Forage Should Form the Basis of the Young Horse's Diet

As always, providing an excellent quality forage will help to maintain gut health and should form the base of your yearling’s diets. Providing a concentrate feed with high quality protein is essential, as protein is responsible for the collagen matrix upon which minerals are deposited. Adequate energy supply from your forage and hard feed is required for bone growth in horses, but excessive levels of energy should be avoided. Minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and magnesium are vital for bone and cartilage development in horses. Vitamins A, D and K are equally fundamental to bone health in horses.


Connolly's RED MILLS Stud Feeds for Bone Health in Horses

All Connolly’s RED MILLS stud feeds contain high-quality protein, with excellent levels of lysine and the unique RED MILLS Pro Balance vitamin and mineral package.  Traditional cereal-based prepping diets such as Connolly’s RED MILLS Stud Cubes & Mix or Prep Mix are ideal feeds for yearlings during this phase.  If a low starch diet is required, particularly for youngstock with a genetic predisposition for developmental orthopaedic disorders (DOD), the Connolly’s RED MILLS Horse Care Range is recommended.

Additional Vitamin and Mineral Supplements for Bone Growth in Youngstock

Additional equine supplements can also help support healthy skeletal development, particularly during sales prep. Foran Equine Osteo-Glycan is a bone health supplement for horses expertly formulated to provide optimal nutrients to support skeletal development, including silica which has proven to be beneficial for bone re-modelling. Choosing to good quality copper supplement for horses is also something to consider as copper plays a crucial role in collagen formation/ turnover.


Support of Immune System, Joints, Coats & Hooves in Youngstock is key

Foran Equine Coppervit, our equine copper & vitamin supplement is designed to supply a fully chelated source of highly available copper, it also contains antioxidants to support a challenged immune system and key vitamins and chelated minerals to support healthy joints, coat, and hooves in horses. Without strong, healthy skeletal development to support the ever-growing musculature of your yearling, their future potential athletic performance will undoubtedly be compromised. Giving significant consideration to your youngstock’s skeletal development from gestation to sales will pay dividends to both their health and sales potential.

Additional articles:

Sales Prep Part 2: Conditioning Muscle & Topline

Sales Prep Part 3: Coat Condition

Sales Prep Part 4: Behaviour and Temperament

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