Could Your Horse Benefit from a Supplement?
In many ways, horse ownership in the 21st century is easier than ever before because much of the guesswork has been removed. One important area that has seen significant change and improvement in recent decades is equine nutrition.
Much of what a horse requires to develop properly and maintain condition is available in good-quality forage. You can round out his diet by adding a balanced feed designed for your horse's age and use, and complement that with targeted nutritional supplements.
Adding a Supplement
A supplement is defined as a feed used in conjunction with another to improve the horse’s nutritive balance or performance, and is intended to be fed undiluted as a supplement to other feeds. There’s a wide range of supplements on the market and a variety of reasons why adding one or more to your horse’s diet can benefit his health.
In addition to vitamin/mineral supplements to address gaps in the diet, there are many supplement products that target specific situations, such as psyllium supplements that help keep things moving through the horse's digestive tract; supplements to help support healthy joints; calming products that help horses stay focused and composed in stressful situations; supplements that promote healthy skin and a radiant coat; and more.
Let's look at two very different horses. The first is an eight-year-old, 1,000-pound gelding you trail ride regularly and occasionally show at local events. He's not hardworking and he's not growing or elderly, and is an "easy keeper" when it comes to maintaining condition, so he only eats forage and no grain. He's in good weight, has a shiny, soft hair coat, and your farrier often comments on his strong, healthy hooves. Although he may not need supplements to support coat and hoof condition, he could still benefit from a vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure that most of his nutritional needs are met. And since he's often turned out in a large dirt run, you could also supplement his diet with a psyllium product in case he picks up sand/dirt and to keep things moving through his digestive system.
Now let's look at the horse owned by your boarding stable buddy. This off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding is in his mid-teens and regularly competes in three-day eventing. He trains hard and sometimes ships fairly long distances to an event. When he’s not exercising or being shown, he spends most of his time in a stall. Your friend always says she wishes he looked more like your gelding. Because there are several areas where your friend's horse has challenges, he’s a strong candidate for supplement use, although not necessarily the same products you give your horse. The good news is that there are supplements specifically designed for virtually every horse's needs.
Filling the Gap
Smart horse owners know that the right supplements can fill nutritional gaps and meet specific requirements. Start by taking a hard, honest look at your horse's physical condition and exercise/training routine. Here are some questions to consider:
Is his hair coat soft and shiny, even in winter? Does he have good hooves or are they brittle, soft and easily broken? Does he have enough energy for his work? Is he hauled for competition or work regularly? Is he under stress from travel or heavy training? Does he spend most of his time in a stall? Does he frequently have digestive issues? Is your mare in late-stage gestation or nursing a foal? Is he young and still growing or 15 years old or older, a "senior"? Is he grazing pastures with low grass or in a dirt/sand lot or corral?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, your horse could likely benefit from supplementation. First, make sure you’re feeding a balanced diet in sufficient amounts for your horse, and then ask your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist for recommendations on which supplements would be most helpful.
If your horse has poor-quality hooves, for example, choose a supplement designed to support normal hoof health that includes ingredients such as biotin, methionine and lysine. Be patient: It can take 180 days or more to notice a difference, and you’ll need to keep feeding the supplement to maintain the benefits.
Horses that spend most of the day in a stall may need supplemental vitamin D, since this vitamin is usually provided through exposure to direct sunlight.
In cases where a horse is under stress, he may need supplements that provide vitamin E to support his immune system, pre- and probiotics for digestive support and maybe a psyllium product as well.
Hardworking horses or horses living in hot, humid regions usually need more salt than what is provided in their daily ration. In these situations, electrolytes should be fed as a supplement. Electrolytes can also benefit horses year-round (yes, even during winter months) by encouraging adequate water consumption, which is vital for proper digestive function and overall health.
Horses under stress, competition or heavy workloads may benefit from supplementation of B-complex vitamins and iron, which are helpful for energy metabolism.
How Long Should You Use a Supplement?
That totally depends on why you’re using it in the first place.
Perhaps you’re using a supplement to help support your horse’s immune system. In that case, the horse may not need to remain on the product once he’s healthy and fully recovered. But if you’ve put your horse on a product to maintain hoof quality, for example, you’ll want to keep him on the supplement to continue seeing good results.
An iron supplement may help in specific cases when a horse needs additional support. Your veterinarian can advise when iron supplementation is needed.
The results of supplement use may be seen fairly soon or could take much longer, depending on the issue. Keep in mind that your horse can have too much of a good thing, so don’t use supplements haphazardly. If you’re feeding multiple supplements, check to see if any ingredients are duplicated. Read the labels carefully and follow directions. If you have any questions about how long your horse should receive a specific supplement, ask your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist.
Save BIG on Supplements with Farnam's Horse Care Loyalty Rewards Program!
Once you find a supplement that's right for your horse, you’ll want to keep using it. Farnam's Horse Care Loyalty Rewards program provides repeat customers with free products. All you have to do is register online at HorseCareLoyalty.com and submit images of your receipts.
Here's how it works:
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When you buy 5, you get the next 1 FREE!
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The program continues through December 31, 2021, so you have plenty of time to save and redeem your rewards. Get started today in just minutes by visiting HorseCareLoyalty.com!
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