The Benefits of Supplements for the Health of your Horse

The Benefits of Supplements for the Health of your Horse

Today I have a guest post discussing the benefits of supplementing. This is something I struggle with, because my tendency is to want to SUPPLEMENT ALL THE THINGS but I am both a) poor b) not very knowledgeable when it comes to supplements.

The Benefits of Supplements for the Health of your Horse

In an ideal world your horse would probably spend most of his time grazing and wandering, with a few short breaks for sleeping. He would travel great distances as he grazed but would try to expend the minimum of energy in order to conserve his reserves for fleeing from predators.

Desirable as this might be to your horse; this is clearly not an option. Those of us who keep horses know only too well the hard work and expense that goes into maintaining their stables, fields and associated items and we expect our horses to respond by giving us a few short hours of their time each day.

From hacking to driving and from racing to dressage, there is a huge variety of disciplines for horse and rider to participate in and all of them require our horses to be in the peak of physical condition in order to meet our expectations.


Are supplements really necessary?

Ask most horse owners to name a supplement and the first thing that tends to come to mind is magnesium. In the world of riding, magnesium has taken on almost mystical properties thanks to its widespread use as a calmer for nervous, excitable and flighty horses. Often used as the first line of defence whenever a horse displays challenging behaviour, magnesium is just the tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to providing supplements for your horse.

The demands of carrying a rider create stresses and strains for a horse’s bones and musculature. Over time our horses can suffer from joint pain, inflammation, arthritis and a host of other associated problems. Repeated school movements place additional strain on the horse and so it makes perfect sense that we should work to keep our horses’ joints, muscles and bones in optimum condition in order to cope with these demands.

Talk to any horse owner who has experienced hoof problems such as laminitis and they will tell you of the supplements available to minimise the risks of this dreadful condition. Science now indicates that laminitis can be diet related and nutritional balance can help to reduce the risks of this and other conditions.

Distressing skin conditions such as sweet itch can in some cases be controlled through careful nutritional support and supplementation, making this an important avenue of investigation for the horse owner facing a long-term health condition in their horse.


How do I know which supplements to choose?

Your vet or farrier may suggest a supplement which could be of benefit to your horse, but most of us begin supplementation on the advice of a friend or after seeing someone else achieve results. Most feed companies offer expert advice on supplementation and there is a wealth of knowledge available online for those prepared to spend a little time on research.

Most companies suggest allowing at least three months to see the full effects of a supplementation programme, but in some instances, such as magnesium calmers, the effect can be almost instantaneous.

For a fantastic selection of nutritional supplements for your horse check out – experts are always on hand if you feel you would like additional information or advice.


So what about you – are you pro or anti supplements? I’m very much pro supplementing, but think it’s something that merits a significant amount of research and as always, talking to your vet!

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post’s contents, though I do think supplementing is a great idea and something to consider!

8 thoughts on “The Benefits of Supplements for the Health of your Horse

  1. My horses live on excellent pasture and are on 24 hour turn out. Out of the six horses and two minis on the property, only one needs to be grained. In general, I’ve been lucky in being able to avoid supplements. With that said, I am pro-supplement. As you pointed out, we do NOT keep our horses in a way that is ideal or ‘natural’. In my area, for example, the soil is low in selenium, and many horses benefit from a selenium supplement. Right now, the one horse I have to grain benefits from Probiotics. He was underfed before I got him and his body just stopped absorbing nutrients properly. Putting him on the Probiotics instantly increased his weight gain, and it’s a great preventative for colic. I have a handful of client horses who have mild arthritis and benefit greatly from general joint supplements. So, long story short, yes, horses benefit from supplements. My approach is to start them on no supplements, then tackle problems that come up on an individual basis, usually consulting with a vet and/or farrier first.

  2. I am not a fan of supplements just for the heck of it. That said, Alex gets 4 supplements. Farriers Formula (hoof), Tandem (joint), U-7 Gastric Aid (Ulcers/Digestive) and Fastrack (Probiotic/Digestive). All of these address specific issues we’ve had, growing a better foot to ward of abscesses, joint maintenance (he’s had a bone chip removed from his fetlock) digestive maintenance to deal with his tendency toward ulcers and tummy upset. I’ve used others and cut them out because I didn’t think there was any benefit. I agree with Dom, use them for specific issues you’re worried about otherwise, just feed your horse well!

  3. I think people seriously oversupplement. For a great many supplements, there’s no good peer-reviewed research showing efficacy, harm, etc. Wasting money is one thing and I don’t care what other people spend on their horses, so whatever. But people throw a lot of supplements at horses without knowledge – and it isn’t just their own personal knowledge bank that is lacking, it’s everyone’s, because again, the research isn’t there. There’s no research, for instance, that shows the benefits of feed-through fly control. The only feed-through joint supplement with anything showing that it has what it says on the label AND that it works is Cosequin. Here’s the thing about supplements: I could put some salt in a baggy and tell you that it is Magical Calm Sound Horse Wonder Dust, Now With Added Fly Control, and sell it to you. Legally. No one regulates this stuff. It’s nice when supplements do what they say they’re going to do, but we shouldn’t assume that it will. The placebo effect in humans is strong when we medicate or supplement our pets, so look for something that backs up what you’re buying. I’m actually not anti-supplement – Lex has a Smartpak – but I’m not interested in burning my money so *I* feel better, either.

  4. I’m not totally against supplements, and I think that the horse should get most of its nutrients from diet alone. Then I would give supplements if his diet is lacking certain nutrients.

  5. I wish I knew more about supplements but currently Walker is only a supplement for his hooves – and that’s only because the vet suggested it after our last scare. Before that, he wasn’t on any supplements. I do believe that people over-supplement at times, but I would definitely give my horse anything that the vet suggested

  6. Horse are non-ruminant herbivores of a kind known as a “hindgut fermenter.” This implies that horses have only one abdomen, as do people. So your details really beneficial for me.

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