Supplements for Horses
I know an awful lot of horse owners who add things to their horse’s feed. In my experience, there seems to be a trend for feeding horses a mixture of chaff, nuts and an array of supplements. Now don’t get me wrong, there are horses which require additional supplementation for specific issues, and who benefit from a specific product, but does every horse and pony really need additional supplements? The answer is far from simple! Before we discuss this, it’s important to be super clear about the different types of additional supplements & their use.
What is classed as a ‘supplement’?
Technically a supplement is defined as “a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it” (Google Dictionary, 2017). In terms of horses, supplements can be loosely grouped as follows:
- Broad spectrum vitamin & mineral supplements
- Herbal supplements
- Joint supplements
- Calming supplements
- Gastric or Digestive supplements
- Hoof supplements
- Veterinary supplements (prescription only)
Let’s get this out of the way first; if you are feeding the recommended feeding levels of a good quality feed produced in the UK, you should not need to add a general vitamin & mineral supplement.This is because when fed at recommended levels, most feed manufacturers state that their product is nutritionally balanced, so you shouldn’t add anything as your will then be disrupting the balance of nutrients.
The trouble is that in my experience, most horse owners do not feed the recommended quantities of a feed. So they are right in believing that their horse is not necessarily receiving optimal levels of key nutrients. However, the average horse owner has no means of working out which nutrients are lacking and how these will be specifically provided by a supplement. This confusion means that owners often keep adding different products in an attempt to correct perceived or real issues with their horse’s diet.
So should you feed a general purpose vitamin & mineral supplement? Yes. But only if one of the following points apply:
- You’re not feeding recommended levels of a compound feed, i.e. mix, nuts
- If you horse is only receiving hay/haylage and/or pasture, but not receiving any compound feed
- If your vet/independent nutritionist has identified a specific imbalance in your horse’s diet
So what about the other types of supplement?
Yes they can absolutely be of benefit to your horse, depending on the issue you are trying to manage. However, pleaseget some independent advice on what you should feed your horse, when, how much and why. There are many independent equine nutritionists out there who can help; think of it as a long-term investment in the health of your horse.
So, does every horse and pony need a supplement? The answer has to be No. If you’re unsure, get some professional advice & don’t get distracted or influenced anyone else!