The Copper SeriesCopper deficient and then not...

So what is the story with copper?
It is true that if the horse is copper deficient, he will be more susceptible to various skin conditions such as rain scald and Mud Fever and his coat colour will be affected. You won’t be seeing his true colour.
Copper is an essential trace mineral. All tissues of the body need it for normal metabolic functions. It helps reduce inflammation, form strong bones, joints and blood vessels, maintain hair colour and it is a fungicide.

However it is not as simple as adding copper sulfate to their feed. In fact because copper sulfate is a chemical compound which is extremely acidic it is a very strong irritant, potentially painful and harmful if you get it wrong. I remember some years ago when ‘someone said’ to dilute copper sulfate with water then spray it on mud-fever which I did then instantly regretted, my poor horse hopped around holding her leg in the air, it must have stung like mad. After that I would never consider putting it down my horses throat!

The following are some excerpts and links for those who need more convincing.

'Copper sulfate is a chemical compound which is produced commercially by reacting various copper compounds with sulfuric acid. This compound is used in a wide range of industries, from pyrotechnics to viticulture. It is also known as bluestone or blue vitriol, although these terms are not as widely used as they once were. Some caution is required in handling copper sulfate, as it is toxic and acidic, and it can pose health risks to living organisms.
It is a fungicide, herbicide, and pesticide and potentially very unsafe to feed to livestock and the current practice of adding copper sulphate is dangerous and likely to be ineffective as a means of getting copper into the horse.
Copper sulphate can be irritant to the horse's mouth and the daily copper requirement will be fulfilled by less than a gram of copper sulphate. It is difficult to accurately feed that small a quantity, let alone know if the horse eats it. Often copper deficiencies are matched by zinc, manganese, iodine and selenium as well. ... eding.html
In addition it is known in those dairy cows whose liver is already compromised, that the feeding of copper sulphate can be deadly.
Another useful link about this is

Pictured is Spike a much loved horse who was seriously minerally deficient pictured here before - and after he went on Premium NZ Horse Minerals (Supreme is the Australian equivalent).


Quality Supplements...

The importance of feeding a high spec multi vit & min rather than adding items separately yourself cannot be overstated...

Copper is closely involved with several other vitamins and minerals. Copper and zinc levels need to be present in the correct ratios. An excess of one will cause a problem with the absorption of the other. It would rarely be the right thing to add copper to your horses feed on it’s own.

Copper is required for iron absorption so a lack of copper is usually the real cause of anemia in horses. Horses very rarely lack iron itself because they are always nibbling around near the soil which is full of it. When you get a forage test done you have to ignore the iron and manganese readings, they are always very high as no matter how careful you are when you pick the sample there is always some soil particles on the grass.

The young growing horse needs adequate, balanced amounts of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and other nutrients to form strong, healthy bones and joints.

Dr. Thomas Swerczek, D.V.M., Ph.D, University of Kentucky, recommends horse owners purchase feed and supplements from reputable companies. He has found heavy metals, such as cadmium in inferior products. These heavy metals interfere with the absorption of copper. The copper is there, but it can't be utilized by the horse.

Organic, chelated copper in a high spec multi like Premium (or Supreme) which also contain the necessary co-factors for absorption is the safest most effective way to supply copper to your horse
A soil test will tell you whether your soils are lacking in copper

Symptoms of Copper Deficiency

Chronic excess iron leads to deficiencies in zinc and copper, leading to skin problems, tendon and ligament weaknesses, faulty production of joint cartilage and foot problems including laminitis. Excess iron also can cause anemia by creating a copper deficiency.
Blood screenings show that horses with allergies often have a lack of copper.

The first noticeable sign of deficiency in copper is usually a dull faded coat, he may also be more sluggish than normal.
Hooves tend to lose shoes and split causing danger of contracting white line disease. The cracks in the hoof will allow entry into the hoof by opportunistic anaerobic bacteria.

Once established the bacteria will literally "eat" their way up the inner hoof wall. It's common to resect (remove) the outer hoof wall to expose the bacteria to air and stop the process, but this is not the answer. The answer is to stop the problem at the source....stop the hoof wall separation through proper mineral supplementation. Horses with copper and zinc deficiency will also tend to have problems with thrush. The reason for this is because the frog tissue is not healthy. It's weak and soft which allows bacteria and fungus to enter and feast on flesh.

"Copper is essential for the formation of the connective tissues. Since many minerals can compete with each other for absorption, it's very important to have mineral present in the correct amounts, ratios, and balance.

Commonly suggested ratios of Cu:Zn:Mn are from 1:3:3 TO 1:5:5. A horse may have adequate iron levels but be unable to use them properly due to lack of adequate copper in the diet.

Iron can't be properly utilized and incorportated into red cells with copper deficiency. Excess iron is toxic.

Skip high-iron supplements unless blood tests of iron status prove you need it."

Dr. Eleanor Kellon

Copper Deficiency & Hooves

The first noticeable sign of deficiency in copper is usually a dull faded coat and since the hoof walls are closely related to coat-hair they too will be affected.

Hooves will be weak, prone to abscessing, losing shoes, breaking off or crumbling and splitting. Flare, cracks and stretched white line allow entry of nasty anaerobic bacteria, which can potentially "eat" their way up the inner hoof wall tissue and hey presto you have ‘seedy-toe’!!

Instead of cutting away the hoof wall it is far better to supplement with the correct ratios of minerals (not just biotin) and be fanatical about preventing flare with regular trimming.

When you prevent flare the new hoof wall grows down tightly knitted to the pedal bone and with the diet tweaks the seedy-toe will no longer be a problem.

Horses with copper and zinc deficiency will also tend to have frog tissue that is prone to developing thrush which is a fungus (black and putrid!).