Role of Coenzyme Q10 in Horse Nutrition

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) plays a key role in mitochondrial function and is essential for the production of energy. Produced in the body, CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant, capable of regenerating other antioxidants, such as vitamin E and vitamin C. Though research on CoQ10 in horses is limited, certain facts have come to light: CoQ10 has been found in equine serum and oral CoQ10 supplements are well-absorbed during digestion.

Antioxidants protect cell membranes and support overall health. Specifically, antioxidants counter the effects of “reactive oxygen species,” also known as free radicals, that damage cell membranes. Reactive oxygen species may increase due to environmental factors, lack of antioxidants, or even as a natural response to exercise. Common antioxidants include vitamin E, vitamin C, and glutathione peroxidase, the latter of which requires selenium as an essential component. Antioxidants work best when used in combination with each other.

According to the Mayo Clinic, CoQ10 use in humans improves symptoms of heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, muscle weakness, and migraines and has potential benefits for improving exercise performance in humans.

A review of data regarding prolonged time to fatigue in human athletes is mixed, with about half of the studies showing no effect of CoQ10 supplementation, and half showing improvements; however, improvements were consistently evident in symptoms of heart failure patients. Research has suggested that horses exercising intensely showed depleted CoQ10, potentially because it is being consumed during work.

In one study, CoQ10 supplementation was well tolerated by horses in a trial at a rate of 1.47 mg CoQ10 per kilogram of body weight. No gastrointestinal disturbances or other side effects were reported at this dose, which was extrapolated from typical amounts consumed in human supplements.

Additional studies of CoQ10 report:

  • Benefits to cooled semen, such as improving sperm motility;
  • Improved cryopreservation of semen from stallions with poor freezing ability;
  • Lowered markers of oxidative stress, reduced oxidative damage, and heat shock protein expression in exercise-trained rats;
  • Lowered oxidative stress in adolescent, male swimmers supplemented with oral CoQ10.

While many of the potential benefits of CoQ10 supplementation are not fully understood, the compound undoubtedly has strong antioxidant properties, which should be advantageous to sport horses and breeding stallions.

If you’d like to discuss the benefits of  including a coenzyme Q10 supplement, such as Nano-Q10 from Kentucky Equine Research, in your horse’s nutritional program, contact a nutrition advisor today.