About Equine hTMA

The $99 Equine hTMA tests for heavy metal toxicity and provides comprehensive information about your horse's health. In addition, the report includes feed and corrective supplement recommendations to balance essential minerals, restore health and maximize performance. hTMA report examples are shown below.

A Brief hTMA Background

Hair is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as preferred tissue for determining toxic metal exposure. Obtaining the sample is inexpensive and non-invasive, and can be done without medical intervention. Hair tissue is stable over time (longevity) and provides several months of biochemical activity in a single sample. A 1980 EPA report1 states that hair can be effectively used for biological monitoring of the highest priority toxic metals. The EPA report confirms findings of other studies which conclude that hair tissue may be more appropriate for studying chronic toxic exposure.

A hair tissue mineral analysis (hTMA) is considered a standard test used around the world for the biological monitoring of trace elements and toxic metals in human and animal species. hTMA uses the same analytical technology as is used for soil testing and testing of rock samples to detect mineral levels. Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. Like other body tissues, it contains minerals that are deposited as the hair grows. Hair growth begins inside the hair follicle. The only ‘living’ portion of the hair is found in the follicle. The hair that is visible is the hair shaft, which exhibits no biochemical activity and is considered ‘dead.’ The mineral composition within the cortex remain intact (indefinitely) as the hair continues to grow out. A one to 1-½" long sample of hair cut close to the skin provides information about the mineral activity in the hair that took place over the past three to four months, depending on the rate of hair growth.

Soil scientists have understood the importance trace minerals play in plant health for 100 years. Forensic anthropologists use hair analysis extensively in understanding the diet and environmental conditions of animals dating back to prehistoric times. Although the DNA analysis of animal hair dates from the early 1990s2, the monitoring of rare North American carnivores via non-invasively collected samples began more recently with the analysis of mitochondrial DNA to identify different species. For example, several studies done in 19973 discussed reliable and inexpensive methods for identifying many species based on universal DNA primers4 from scats5 and hair6. The use of non-invasive hair collection methods to survey wildlife has expanded rapidly since the mid-1990s. Studies of high-profile, rare, and elusive species such as grizzly bears7, American black bears8, Canada lynx9, and American martens10 were among the first to exploit DNA-based hairsnaring techniques in North America, and have generated the bulk of literature available in this field. Hair sampling is now common and has expanded to include numerous other species.11

Clinical Laboratory Biopsy

Tissue assays are performed by Trace Elements (TEI) laboratory. Since 1984, TEI has processed over one million hTMA reports for health professionals worldwide.

Trace Elements, Inc. [TEI] is a federally licensed and certified laboratory. Clinical Laboratory License No.: 45-D0481787 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, State of Texas Department of Health, CLIA 1988.

The comprehensive 37 mineral TEI lab report includes metabolic and nutritional information on fifteen nutrient and eight toxic minerals, both their actual levels and their relationship with interacting elements (ratios). The report also includes level and ratio information on fourteen additional trace elements whose nutrient requirements and toxicity levels are still being researched. When indicated, the report includes notification of trending toward disease. The report also provides corrective supplement recommendations based on your horse's test results.

sample report p1 sample report p2

An equine hTMA is an effective toxicity screen, indicating toxic elements and toxic ratios. hTMA is a laboratory assay method which provides comprehensive health information based on an animal's unique biochemistry. The report includes information on nutritional element levels, significant mineral ratios, endocrine function and performance ability, these are described below. Click to download full-size sample

Equine hTMA Report Includes

  1. Toxic Elements
  2. Toxic Ratios
  3. Nutritional Elements
  4. Significant Ratios
  5. Endocrine Index
  6. Performance Index
  7. Feed and Supplement recommendations

Toxic Elements

The toxic elements section displays the results for each of the reported toxic elements. Since it is acknowledged that there are no safe levels of the toxic heavy metals tested, it is preferable that all levels be as low as possible and within the white reference section. Any test result that falls within the upper colored area should be considered as statistically significant, but not necessarily clinically significant. Further investigation may then be warranted to determine the possibility of actual clinical significance and steps can be taken to mitigate exposures. These toxic elements are well-known for their interference upon normal biochemical function and are commonly found in the environment and therefore are present to some degree in all biological systems. However, these metals clearly pose a concern for toxicity when tissue accumulation occurs to excess.

toxic elements

Toxic Elements: This chart shows uranium and arsenic are present at measurable levels, a high tissue beryllium level, and a dangerously high aluminum level. Aluminum is one of the most prevalent and damaging toxic metals affecting the horse's metabolism. Horses don't manage aluminum very effectively. They tend to accumulate it, and do not process or remove it from the tissue very efficiently. Excessive aluminum intake can interfere with the absorption of other minerals such as phosphorus resulting in skeletal abnormalities in the maturing horse. The owner's two other horses also tested with dangerously high aluminum. Water and feed were tested to discover the source, which turned out to be the pasture the horses grazed and that hay was cut from. Followup hTMA retests revealed that the mitigation, dietary and supplement changes made continued to bring tissue toxin levels down, along with health improvements in the horses.

Toxic Ratios

This section displays the relationships between the important nutritional elements and several toxic metals we are all exposed to. Each toxic metal ratio result should be in the upper white area of the graph, and the higher the better. Toxic ratios that fall within the colored area may indicate an interference of that toxic metal upon the utilization of the nutritional element.

Every horse is exposed to toxic metals to some degree. The retention of these toxic metals, however, is dependent upon the individual horse's susceptibility. The balance of the protective nutrient minerals within the body in relation to the heavy metals can frequently be the determining factor to this susceptibility. As an example, the accumulation of lead will have a more detrimental effect upon body chemistry when sufficient levels of calcium, iron and sulfur are not available. By examining the toxic metal levels in relation to the protective minerals, the extent to which the heavy metals may be involved in abnormal chemistry can frequently be seen. This is done by examining the toxic ratios.

toxic ratios

Toxic Ratios: This chart shows all nutrient minerals are available at high enough levels to protect against tissue accumulation of lead (Pb), mercury (Hg) and cadmium (Cd), all of which are shown at low levels in the toxic elements chart above. However, when these protective minerals are low in relation to these toxic elements, the protective action of them may become markedly reduced, allowing these toxins to accumulate in the body.

Nutritional Elements

Extensively studied, the nutrient minerals have been well defined and are considered essential for many biological functions. They play key roles in such metabolic processes as muscular activity, endocrine function, reproduction, skeletal integrity and overall development. This section of the report shows nutritional mineral levels that may reveal moderate or significant deviations from normal. The light colored center area of the reference range of the graph represent the established reference ranges as determined from statistical analysis of healthy horses. A mineral level that is outside the reference range can be identified.

nutritional elements

Nutritional Elements: This chart shows low levels of many elements and excessive levels of several elements. Only one element is within the healthy reference range. These imbalances are indicative of either inadequate nutrition, compromised digestion and/or toxin interference in this horse. The laboratory report includes discussion on minerals that are outside of the reference range. Follow-up hTMA retests showed improvements in the horse's mineral status and reduction in toxic mineral levels, along with health improvements.

Significant Ratios

The significant ratios section displays the important nutritional mineral relationships. The balance of minerals is as important, if not more so, than the individual mineral levels. The ratios reflect the critical balance that must be constantly maintained between the minerals in the body for healthy metabolic function and optimal cellular energy production.

Continuing research indicates that metabolic dysfunctions occur not necessarily as a result of a deficiency or excess of a particular mineral, but more frequently from an abnormal balance (ratio) between the minerals. Due to this complex interrelationship between the minerals, it is extremely important that mineral ratios be determined. Once these imbalances are identified, corrective therapy may then be used to help reestablish a healthy biochemical balance.

significant ratios

Significant Ratios: This chart shows several of the horse's nutrient mineral ratios are outside of the acceptable range. This result shows a low Ca/P ratio. Both calcium and phosphorus, along with other minerals, combine to form the major constituents of bone salts necessary for the maintenance of the skeleton and teeth. A prolonged reduction in calcium retention relative to phosphorus (see low Ca/P ratio) can eventually lead to the skeletal depletion of mineral salts, resulting in weakness of the legs, increased susceptibility to fractures, weakening of the tooth enamel, and enlargement of the facial bones. This report also shows a low Na/Mg ratio. Magnesium has a sedative or suppressing effect upon the central nervous system, especially when sodium levels are low. High magnesium levels relative to sodium (see low Na/Mg ratio) can result in decreased performance, fatigue, and lethargy.

Endocrine Index

The endocrine index is a graphic presentation of the pituitary-adrenal-thyroid relationship, or P.A.T. axis. These endocrine glands influence energy production on a cellular level and ultimately the health and performance of the horse. Ideally, there should be a balance within the P.A.T. The levels need not be at the ideal range as this range is used only as a reference point. However, they should be balanced above, below or at the ‘ideal’ point. A major deviation between the P.A.T. axis can be indicative of a tendency or trend toward an adverse health condition. In the performance horse, a major deviation of the P.A.T. axis is reflective of an adverse affect upon speed and/or stamina.

A balanced P.A.T. would appear on the following index with all three bar graphs extending the same length to the right. Ideally, all three would extend to the mid-way point, but as mentioned previously, a balance anywhere within the box is acceptable.

 Endocrine Index Graphic

Endocrine Index: This example shows an imbalanced endocrine system. The low adrenal function is significant. The adrenal glands produce a number of vital hormones responsible for quick energy production. An insufficiency of adrenal hormone production may result in slow starts for a performance horse and lethargy and fatigue in a non-performance horse.

Performance Index

The performance index graphically displays the relationship of the energy producing glands (thyroid and adrenal) on speed and endurance.

 Performance Index Graphic

Performance Index: This performance index reveals the domination of the thyroid gland over the adrenal gland. This is indicative of the tendency toward good endurance over long distances, but reduced quickness and speed for short distances.

Feed and Supplement Recommendations

The feed recommendations in the report include types of feed which should be reduced as they may contribute to increased mineral imbalances, and feeds which should be increased to help improve mineral deficiencies. Supplement recommendations are provided to help correct and improve mineral levels and ratios. The purpose of the recommendations are to re-establish a normal balance of body chemistry through individually designed diet and supplement suggestions, enhancing the horse's ability to utilize the nutrients efficiently and resulting in improved energy production and health.

  1. Jenkins, D. (1980). Biological Monitoring of Toxic Trace Metals - Vol. II, Toxic Trace Metals in Plants and Animals of the World - part I. (EPA600380090). Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C..
  2. Morin and Woodruff, 1992
  3. Foran et al. 1997a, b; Paxinos et al. 1997. Foran et al. (1997a, b).
  4. Kocher et al. 1989.
  5. Foran et al. 1997a.
  6. Foran, et al. 1997b.
  7. Ursus arctos; Woods et al. 1999; Poole et al. 2001; Boulanger et al 2002; Paetkau 2003.
  8. U. americanus; Boersen et al. 2003.
  9. Lynx canadensis; McDaniel et al. 2000; J. Weaver, Wildlife Conservation Society, pers. comm.
  10. Martes americana; Foran et al. 1997b; Mowat and Paetkau 2002.
  11. Noninvasive Survey Methods for Carnivores, Robert A. Long (Editor), Paula MacKay (Editor), Justina Ray (Editor), William Zielinski (Editor). Publication Date: May 30, 2008 | ISBN-10: 159726119X | ISBN-13: 978-1597261197