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Too much iron?
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Wed Aug 11th, 2010
Posts: 12
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 Posted: Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 07:57 pm
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Hello Dr. Deb & fellow members.
We have our water pumped from the river which is high in iron. For ourselves, the feed is via a couple of filters but for the troughs, it's direct. Is it likely that my horses are receiving too much iron & if so, what are the ramifications of this?
I haven't an analysis of percentage but the bird table can have a glorious bright red residue after a week.
The troughs are scrubbed out weekly & more frequently in dry weather. The determined New Zealand rain is also very good at giving a good mix to the water.
The horses always have soaked hay available & restricted grass grazing.
I've asked the locals who are oblivious & even my vets are unsure.


Joined: Mon Aug 4th, 2008
Location: Pennsylvania USA
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 Posted: Thu Feb 23rd, 2012 03:34 am
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I used to keep my horses at a barn with a similar issue. All the water tubs would turn red and the water smelled and tasted terrible. I had the water tested and it had a very high iron content. I discussed it with my vet who did some research and felt that the high iron levels would not hurt the horses. His only concern was that they might not want to drink the water. My ponies did not seem to mind the taste. I do think their coats have improved since I moved them to a different barn, but that could be due to several factors.
I am interested to hear what others have to say.

Sharon Adley

Joined: Fri Aug 5th, 2011
Location: Indiana USA
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 Posted: Wed Jun 27th, 2012 11:42 pm
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I also live in an area where many wells have iron in the water. 

According to the Illinois Dept of Public Health: "
Iron can be a troublesome chemical in water supplies. Making up at least 5 percent of the earth’s crust, iron is one of the earth’s most plentiful resources. Rainwater as it infiltrates the soil and underlying geologic formations dissolves iron, causing it to seep into aquifers that serve as sources of groundwater for wells. Although present in drinking water, iron is seldom found at concentrations greater than 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 10 parts per million. However, as little as 0.3 mg/l can cause water to turn a reddish brown color.
Iron is mainly present in water in two forms: either the soluble ferrous iron or the insoluble ferric iron. Water containing ferrous iron is clear and colorless because the iron is completely dissolved. When exposed to air in the pressure tank or atmosphere, the water turns cloudy and a reddish brown substance begins to form. This sediment is the oxidized or ferric form of iron that will not dissolve in water."
With humans, unless there is a genetic abnormality, the intestines fail to absorb the iron in water and it passes through the body and is eliminated.

Super Moderator

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
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 Posted: Thu Jun 28th, 2012 06:10 am
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Not entirely, Sharon. Excess iron has been linked to liver and kidney damage, especially in women over age 50. This is why you'll find no iron in multivitamins labeled for women over 50 or "silver" supplements for women. Go read more about it at -- Dr. Deb


Joined: Thu Jan 24th, 2008
Location: High River, Alberta Canada
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 Posted: Thu Jun 28th, 2012 04:10 pm
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There is a lot of information regarding iron overload for horses on the Equine Cushings Yahoo group.  It is run by Dr. Eleanor Kellon .

Just an interesting aside, we cut our own hay and I have it tested every year.  2 years ago the iron was very high.  I had read in an article that if you cut the hay a bit higher, there is subsequently less iron on the hay (as some of the iron comes from the dirt/dust that gets kicked up as you cut, flip and bale).   Last year, our iron was reduced to a quarter of the first year level and I was very happy about this as the levels were too high for horses.  

Last edited on Thu Jun 28th, 2012 04:13 pm by saffire_100


Joined: Tue Apr 19th, 2011
Location: Utah USA
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 Posted: Thu Jun 28th, 2012 05:14 pm
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Thanks Saffire for the idea, that might be something I can use.

I have not studied Dr Kelton’s research deeply but as I have understood it and have been applying it to my horses, there is a balance between iron, cooper, and zinc.   Keeping that balance, helps keep the horses healthy and especially effects hoof health.  I have seen more healthy feet since I have been testing and balancing the iron in the feed.  However, in all honesty, I can’t say that it was the only variable that changed.  Applying the scientific method to real life is always a challenge.

I think this is worth looking into, especially if you have health issues.  If I recall correctly Dr Kelton’s research surrounds IR horses that have problems and she says that if your horse is “healthy as a horse” then you don’t need to worry about it so much.

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