Vitamin C and Equine Respiratory Health

Willowtrail Mountain HoneyThe other day I received a distraught call from a mother about her daughter’s pony. She called me looking for feeding advice because the pony was either a Gypsy-cross or a Fell-cross and she’d seen my name in an article about Fells. The daughter and the pony had really clicked in their first six months together, then the pony became lethargic. A few days previously the daughter told the mother that the pony was holding her back from her equestrian goals, and friends of the mother were telling her that she just had a lazy pony on her hands. These comments broke my heart.

I learned that lots of vet bills had been accumulated without any significant change in the pony’s energy level. The pony’s feed had been changed, and it had been put on an anti-ulcer regimen, and still no improvement. He’d been put on anemia medication for a short period, but most of his blood work came back so close to normal as to not motivate any significant intervention.

The symptom that the mother kept mentioning was that the pony was breathing harder at the end of work than seemed normal. The vets didn’t hear any abnormal lung sounds so didn’t think that was the problem. After I talked to the mother and got the case history, I told her I’d have to call back because I’d seen something somewhere about respiratory health but couldn’t remember where.

I always do my best thinking while I’m doing chores, so I finished feeding and sure enough had some insight. Not only did I find the articles on respiratory health that I’d remembered, but I also thought to ask a question when I called the mother back. Had the pony’s housing situation changed about the time she noticed the lethargy? The answer was yes, that turnout time had been changed from pasture to an indoor arena only because of ground conditions. I suggested that perhaps indoor air quality was the problem, but I also shared what I’d learned about vitamin C and equine respiratory health.

Vitamin C has been found beneficial in treating horses with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  A study in the January 2004 American Journal of Veterinary Research looked at the Vitamin C levels in fluid from the lungs of horses with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and  compared it to normal horses.  Significantly lower levels of active Vitamin C were found in the airway fluids from horses with COPD, commonly called Heaves. The lowest levels were in horses that also had active inflammation, but even currently asymptomatic horses had levels lower than in normal controls. (1)  A University of Nottingham study on humans found that “a high dietary intake of vitamin C or of foods rich in this vitamin may reduce the rate of loss of lung function in adults. This in turn may help to prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” (2)

Just prior to receiving the phone call from the distressed pony lover’s mom, I’d also received information on the benefits of vitamin C for autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis in humans. “Most patients with chronic illnesses, RA included, are found to be deficient in Vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient that we cannot manufacture in our bodies. Simply put, we must get vitamin C from our food supply or we will fall ill and die. Unfortunately, the levels of vitamin C in food have been steadily declining for 20 years. Oral dosing of vitamin C can help nearly any condition…. For those with severe illnesses, vitamin C IV’s can make dramatic changes in chronic disease.” (3)

The last time I talked to the pony lover’s mom, I learned that the pony was again being given access to the outdoors. I’m glad she expressed her concern about the pony’s breathing so that good solutions could be found. Hopefully those changes can return the pony to a valued place in the pony lover’s life.

  1. “Pulmonary epithelial lining fluid and plasma ascorbic acid concentrations in horses affected by recurrent airway obstruction”, American Journal of Veterinary Research, January 2004, Vol. 65, No. 1, Pages 80-87, available at
  2. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2002;165:1299-1303 as cited at
  3. “Vitamin C Heals a Wide Range of Chronic Diseases,” referencing a study in Modern Research in Inflammation, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2012,

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2013


About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
This entry was posted in Natural Health, Partnered Pony (TM). Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Vitamin C and Equine Respiratory Health

  1. Pingback: Pre-Travel Nutritional Support for Equines | Willowtrail Farmhouse

Comments are closed.