Connective tissues (e.g., cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bone) are critical components of body structure. They are vital for the overall health and performance of all horses whether they are used for pleasure riding or competition. Many nutrients are required for normal development and maintenance of connective tissues, including silicon.

“Where we see the biggest advantage is using Platinum with broodmares from conception to foaling, while bone is developing. ... We also give it to the babies and yearlings to help them grow and develop.”
— Bob Loomis
Loomis Quarter Horses & Platinum Performance® Client since 2006

Although traditionally considered a nonessential nutrient for animals, silicon is now known to play a significant role in the development, growth and maturation of bones and other connective tissues. Several studies indicate that an insufficient amount of silicon in the diet is associated with poor growth rates, developmental abnormalities and a reduction in bone collagen and mineral content.1-4 Conversely, supplementation with silicon stimulates an increase in bone mineral content and formation,5,6 possibly by increasing calcium incorporation into bones.7 This effect may be particularly important during late pregnancy and lactation as bone mineral density may decrease in the dam at these times, as noted by research in a rodent model.8 Pregnant mares supplemented with a synthetic silicon demonstrated a trend toward increased blood osteocalcin,9 a marker associated with bone formation. Furthermore, foals that nursed from the supplemented mares showed a significant increase in their serum silicon. In addition to bone, silicon has been identified in glycosaminoglycans (e.g., chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid),10 which provide resistance to compression forces in connective tissue by attracting water.11 Silicon supplementation can be positively correlated with increased cartilage collagen content in animals.12

It is very likely that horses require a dietary source of silicon. Although grains and forage may be naturally high in silicon, this form of the element may not be easily absorbed. A bioavailable source of silicon is zeolite, which, when ingested, increases plasma concentrations of silicon and improves exercise performance in horses. For example, plasma silicon concentrations increased in training Thoroughbreds supplemented with Osteon®, a product containing natural zeolite (Figure 1).

In another study,13 Quarter Horses supplemented with a synthetic zeolite had faster middle distance race times, ran nearly twice as far during training before any injury occurred and had fewer injuries than non-supplemented controls. These authors concluded that silicon supplementation may allow horses to train at faster speeds for longer periods of time without incurring injury.

Feeding Trial Overview

Study: 5 Quarter Horse mares with a history of producing foals with OCD lesions were fed 4 scoops of Platinum Performance® Equine and 2 scoops of Osteon® daily throughout gestation.

Outcome: All 5 mares foaled live foals in 2013. All 5 foals were x-rayed as yearlings and no OCD lesions were reported. For one mare in particular, this was her first foal to not suffer from OCD.

Literature Cited

1. Carlisle E. Biochemical and morphological changes associated with long bone abnormalities in silicon deficiency. J Nutr 1980;110:1046-1056.
2. Seaborn CD, Nielsen FH. Silicon deprivation decreases collagen formation in wounds and bone and ornithine transaminase enzyme activity in liver. Biological Trace Element Research 2002;89:251-261.
3. Seaborn CD, Nielsen FH. Dietary silicon and arginine affect mineral element composition of rat femur and vertebra. Biological Trace Element Research 2002;89:239-250.
4. Carlisle E. A silicon requirement for normal skull formation in chicks. J Nutr 1980;110:352-359.
5. Calomme M, Geusens P, Demeester N, et al. Partial prevention of long-term femoral bone loss in aged ovariectomized rats supplemented with choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid. Calcified Tissue International 2006;78:227-232.
6. Rico H, Gallego-Lago J, Hernandez E, et al. Effect of silicon supplementation on osteopenia induced by ovariectomy in rats. Calcif Tissue Int 2000;66:53-55.
7. Carlisle E. A relationship between silicon and calcium in bone formation. Federation Proc 29 1970;265.
8. Zeni S, Weisstaub A, Di Gregorio S, et al. Bone Mass Changes In Vivo During the Entire Reproductive Cycle in Rats Feeding Different Dietary Calcium and Calcium/Phosphorus Ratio Content. Calcified Tissue International 2003;73:594-600.
9. Lang KJ, Nielsen BD, Waite KL, et al. Supplemental silicon increases plasma and milk silicon concentrations in horses. J Anim Sci 2001;79:2627-2633.
10. Schwarz K. A bound form of silicon in glycosaminoglycans and polyuronides. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1973;70:1608-1612.
11. Schiller J, Huster D. New methods to study the composition and structure of the extracellular matrix in natural and bioengineered tissues. Biomatter 2012;2:115-131.
12. Calomme M, Vanden Berghe D. Supplementation of calves with stabilized orthosilicic acid. Effect on the Si, Ca, Mg, and P concentrations in serum and the collagen concentration in skin and cartilage. Biol Trace Elem Res 1997;56:153-165.
13. Nielsen B, Potter G, Morris E, et al. Training distance to failure in young racing quarter horses fed sodium zeolite. A J Equine Vet Sci 1993;13:562-567.

Tara Hembrooke
  • by Tara Hembrooke, PhD, MS, Platinum Performance®