The Busy Owner’s Guide to Supplements
Any experienced horse owner will know that there’s so much more to feeling horses than just forage and hard feed.
Whether you’re a competition rider or a happy hacker, keeping your horse in good nick is probably top of your priorities. This includes your horse’s muscles, joints, skin, hooves and so much more – and it’s safe to say there’s a lot out there.
But does your horse really need supplements, and if yes, which ones should you go for? If you don’t fancy spending a fortune but still want the best for your horse, here are a few of the basics.
There’s a huge range of supplements on the market designed to keep your horse supple and his joints moving properly. Owners often don’t start thinking about joint supplements until there’s already a problem, but it’s actually best to start taking care of your horse’s joints long before you notice any signs of discomfort.
One of the most common ingredients in joint supplements is Glucosamine. This is used to slow cartilage breakdown and relieve pain in the joints. Other ingredients include Chondroitin Sulfate which can stimulate new cartilage production, and Hyaluronic Acid which provides both lubrication and shock absorption.
Your horse’s hooves need the best possible care, and there’s a variety of supplements designed to keep hooves healthy. Weak hooves can lead to a whole load of problems, so it’s best to act early to keep them strong.
Hoof supplements encourage growth and can help develop strength in the hooves. Look for amino acids, biotin, which can support the growth rate of the hooves, and both copper and zinc. Whether your horse’s hooves are prone to cracks or not, a supplement is well worth considering.
Keeping your horse in good physical condition is essential, but if you’re feeding enough and doing the right exercise to no avail, you could try a muscle building supplement. These can be added to your horse’s feed to help encourage muscle growth. The most popular ingredients are creatine, spirulina and amino acids such as lysine. Look out for these if you’re struggling to build a topline and your horse needs some more condition.
Digestive supplements are used to support a horse’s digestive system, usually during periods of dietary change. These supplements usually contain herbs and probiotics that can protect the stomach from excess acid and ensure your horse gets the most out of what he eats.
If your horse is struggling to put on weight or you notice a difference in his droppings, the first port of call should be your vet who may recommend some digestive supplements.
Skin & Coat Supplements
Your horse’s skin and coat isn’t just important in the show ring, it can also be a key indicator of his overall health. A dull coat may be a sign that your horse isn’t feeling well, perhaps due to a metabolic imbalance or toxins. If your horse’s coat becomes duller, you should check for other signs of illness and consider calling a vet.
If your horse is in good health but you’d like his coat even shinier, there is a whole load of supplements to choose from. Adding oil to your horse’s feed is helpful (provided they aren’t overweight), while yeast based supplements are rich in protein and vitamins to help maintain a healthy coat and skin. Look for fish oil, flaxseed, and spices like paprika and nutmeg.
If your horse is nervous, very spooky or excitable (and not in a fun way!), you might want to consider a calmer. While underlying causes should be addressed (such as ill-fitting tack, ulcers, pain elsewhere or lack of turnout), calmers can have a soothing effect on your horse’s nervous system and lead to a more chilled out demeanour!
Herb based calmers include chamomile, valerian and hops, while nutrient-based calmers will almost certainly contain magnesium. Moody mares can benefit from calmers, although your vet may suggest regumate as a more effective alternative.
If you don’t fancy spending a fortune on a supplement for every body part, you could opt for a multipurpose supplement. These are more cost-effective and usually work to keep any area of the horse healthy – including hooves, digestion, muscles and joints.