Cobalt misuse in horses has been called a serious welfare issue by Australia’s equine vets, who point out that cobalt deficiency has never been recorded in the animals.
The president of Equine Veterinarians Australia, Dr Ian Fulton, said that with no recorded cases of cobalt deficiency in horses, supplementation at high levels was unnecessary and may result in illness.
“Contrary to some recent views on the use of cobalt, there is information from research in humans that strongly indicates that cobalt use may result in performance-enhancing effects in athletes,” Fulton said.
Racing Australia has introduced a new rule to control the use of cobalt because of the potential for high doses to enhance performance, as well as the welfare issues arising from its use. Equine Veterinarians Australia said it supported the rule.
“International racing authorities have deemed excessive cobalt supplementation in racing horses to be inappropriate,” Fulton said.
“The collective knowledge of these organisations and adaptation by Racing Australia of a threshold level for cobalt is fully supported by EVA.”
Racing jurisdictions around the globe have moved to impose thresholds for cobalt, which can be found as a trace element in a range of horse feeds.