Dr. David L. Watts, is a pioneer in the field of hTMA. Dr. Watts is Director of Research for Trace Elements, Inc. laboratory. We are grateful for his contributions to the science of mineral balancing, to human (and animal) performance, health and wellness.

hTMA for the Assessment of Animal Nutrition: Equine

Author: David L. Watts, Ph.D

A great deal of nutritional research is presently being applied to food producing animals. This has resulted in an evolution of super-breeds. For example, while the total number of dairy cattle has decreased over the past several years, total milk production has increased. Improved nutrition of the chicken has resulted in stronger eggshells thereby decreasing losses due to breakage during shipping. A better understanding and application of nutrition has increased the desired performance of these food-producing animals, for which the economic gains have been significant.


  1. Equine hTMA
  2. Equine Nutrition
  3. Mineral Testing
  4. Tissue Mineral Testing Equine Hair
  5. Case Studies
  6. Conclusion
  7. Resources
equine pictograph

Equine hTMA

Properly applied, nutritional science can and is being used to increase performance in both animals and man. Optimum performance can be enhanced in any animal whether the animal is used for stud service, work, show, or athletic competition.

Equine Nutrition

Little is really known or understood about the nutrient requirements of the horse, particularly the athletic or racing horse. It has been estimated that only 10% of Thoroughbreds raised for racing are able to continue competition after their first year. Animal nutrition has been largely an art rather than a science. Its application has been directed at attempting to correct or prevent deficiencies of vital nutrients. Little consideration however, has been given to the biochemical balance of these nutrients; the most important of which are the trace elements.

The trace elements (essential nutrient minerals) are more important than vitamins, in that they cannot be synthesized by living matter. They are the basic spark-plugs in the chemistry of life, on which the exchanges of energy in the combustion of foods and the building of living tissues depend. Dr. Henry Schroeder

Mineral Testing

Until recent years there has been no suitable test for minerals. Testing mineral levels in the blood has not been adequate, due to its homeostatic regulation. Minerals are usually maintained in the blood at the expense of tissue concentrations. For example a tissue deficiency of an element can develop without noticeable deviations occurring in the blood levels. Bone loss of calcium can become advanced leading to increased fragility and fractures, while blood calcium levels remain within normal limits. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can develop long before low iron levels can be detected in the blood. It is becoming more evident that what minerals are being retained or lost in the animal is just as important as what nutrients are contained in the feed.

Tissue Mineral Testing Equine Hair

Analysis of the hair for its mineral content is becoming more accepted as a mean of determining tissue storage levels of minerals. Extensive research supports the view that the trace element content of the hair reflects intake, and is probably the best source for evaluating nutritional needs of minerals.

Equine Application

A major consideration in the nutritional support for the performance horse should be geared toward improving its nutritional balance rather than only supplying nutrients to correct or prevent a deficiency. An excess of a nutrient can be as dangerous as a deficiency. Many deficiencies in animals are not due to a lack of nutrients, but are actually induced deficiencies brought about by excessive supplementation.

Tissue mineral analysis (hTMA) can aid in determining what the animal is retaining from its feeds, as well as be a guide in determining supplementation. TMA can be used to closely monitor the effects of supplementation and provide information for modifying supplements. hTMA can reveal not only what may be needed, but also just as importantly, what is not needed.

Case Studies

hTMA Testing and Specific Nutritional Application to the Athletic Horse
Case 1

We were approached by an owner of 16 horses. His primary interest concerned a horse that was unthrifty and suffering from weight loss. The owner had consulted several vets and the problem was never actually determined. The best this particular horse had placed in a race when in better form was always near last.

We performed a hTMA on the horse and suggested specific nutritional therapy. The single nutrient combinations suggested were either not available through normal supply, or appeared as combinations with other multiple nutrients. Therefore we resorted to the use of our own line of supplements normally used for human consumption. The supplements in tablet form were crushed and mixed with molasses and fed to the animal. Within two weeks the horse gained over 85 pounds. After 4 weeks on therapy the horse was entered to race at Turf Paradise, and finished with its best career time, as well as placing 3rd. Follow-up hTMA analysis showed marked improvements, and the nutritional therapy was modified accordingly. In subsequent races the horse's performance continually improved, and was eventually bought in a claims race. No further follow-up was performed.

Case 2
A client in the New England area asked if we could test animals since she had an older horse that was once used in jumping competitions, and was suffering from severe arthritis symptoms as well as other problems. She had a strong attachment to the animal and only exercised it by walking or riding it very slowly. She related that the horse limped severely. A hTMA was performed and specific supplements were suggested. Again, we used our formulations designed for human consumption. She instituted the program and a hTMA re-evaluation was performed in 6 weeks. Improvements as well as lack of improvements were noted and supplement recommendations were modified accordingly. During the next period she reported a very apparent reduction in pain and decreased limping. A short time later she reported being able to ride the horse at a gallop, and eventually was jumping the horse again.
Case 3
A client in Florida asked if we could test a horse that was owned by one of his patients. We had no history or back ground on the horse. The test and nutritional recommendations were performed. Later we were informed of the improvements in the animal's performance as well as being told that it was a racing horse. Soon this doctor's patient contacted us directly. He was an attorney and belonged to a group that was starting to invest in racehorses. Their ideas were to buy a horse in a claims race, and build it up to winning races and then sell it for a profit. We tested the first sample that was sent to us from a horse that they had purchased. From the test results were able to describe how the horse performed in a race. The best the horse had ever performed was 4th but several lengths behind 3rd place. They took the horse off the track for 6 weeks and instituted our suggestions. The horse was then placed in a competition with horses that were considered way above it's class. The horse won the race by 3 lengths. The horse was eventually sold for triple the purchase price.
Case 4
Another sample was sent on a horse that was a good performer, but had a bleeding problem. Again we suggested a specific nutritional regime based upon the hTMA results. The bleeding problem was brought under control quickly and performance was improved. After a few weeks the horses' performance faltered and the bleeding problem returned. We asked for another sample. The follow-up results did not show much of an improvement. Unable to explain why there were no improvements in the test results, we were contacted by one of the owners. The only thing that we could ascertain was that the horse had not been continued on our recommended program. When the owners checked into this they in fact found that their new trainers had stopped our program and put the horse on his own special program. Little over a week after correcting this problem, the bleeding was again brought under control.
Case 5

A horse owner came to see us from Alabama who owned show horses. One particular horse was unable to carry a foal. We tested the animal for him and addressed a problem that we found evident in the hTMA pattern. After therapy the animal was able to carry a foal full term.


Tissue mineral testing using hair has proven to be an excellent monitor of the nutritional status and heavy metal exposure for humans. This same technology is being applied to animals with great success. The above cases are only a small group of examples of responses to specific nutritional therapy based upon Hair Tissue Mineral Testing performed at Trace Elements, Inc.

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