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  • March 16, 2023 3 min read

    Supplements are a great way to add vitamins and minerals to a horse's diet. However, not all horses will need a supplement, and whether or not they need one will depend on various factors, such as the horse's age, breed, workload, health status, and the overall quality of their diet. In this article, we will explore the circumstances in which your horse may need a supplement, the pros and cons of supplementing, and what to look for in a supplement. 

    To supplement, or not?

    When formulating your horse's diet, the first thing you need to ensure is that it is balanced in accordance with the Nutrient Requirements for Horses. To do this effectively, you must know the nutrient levels within your hard feed, pasture, and hay. Once you have this baseline, you can determine if your horse needs further supplementation. 

    Generally, if your horse has access to good quality forage, such as hay and pasture, and is retired or lightly ridden, you may not need additional supplements. But, if your horse is in work, is pregnant, or going through a period of growth, it may need a supplement to ensure all the minerals and nutrients are met. 

    Supplementation will also be dependent on if you hard feed your horse. Complete feeds or balancer pellets will often contain the recommended nutrient requirements for horses if the manufacturer's instructions are followed. However, if you feed less than the recommended amount, you may need to further supplement your horse. 

    The Pros and Cons of Supplementing 

    As with most things, there are pros and cons to feeding a supplement. The advantages of feeding a supplement include:

    • Improved Nutrition: supplements can provide additional vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that may be lacking in a horse's diet.
    • Improved Performance: Some supplements are designed to improve athletic performance, enhance muscle development, or support joint health, among other benefits.
    • Convenience: Supplements can be a convenient way to provide additional nutrition without having to drastically alter a horse's diet.
    • Targeted Health Support: Certain supplements can help support specific health concerns or conditions, such as digestive issues, skin/coat problems, or respiratory issues.

    The disadvantages of feeding supplements include;

    • Cost: Supplements can be expensive, especially if a horse requires multiple supplements to meet their nutritional needs.
    • Over-supplementation: Over-supplementing can lead to health issues or imbalances, especially if a horse is already receiving adequate nutrition from their diet.
    • Unregulated Industry: The equine supplement industry is not as closely regulated as the feed industry, which means there may be inconsistencies in the quality or efficacy of different supplements.
    • Masking Health Issues: Feeding supplements to mask symptoms of underlying health problems can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment.

    What to look for in a supplement 

    When looking for a supplement, there are several factors to consider to ensure that it is safe and effective for your horse:

    • Quality Ingredients: Look for supplements that use high-quality, bioavailable ingredients. Avoid supplements that contain fillers or low-quality ingredients that may be less effective or potentially harmful.
    • Adequate Dosages: Ensure that the supplement provides an adequate dosage of the nutrient(s) it is intended to provide. A supplement that is under-dosed may not be effective, while an over-dosed supplement may be harmful.
    • Third-Party Testing: Look for supplements that have been third-party tested for purity and potency. This can help ensure that the supplement contains what it claims to contain and that it is free from contaminants.
    • Reputation of the Manufacturer: Research the manufacturer of the supplement to ensure that they have a good reputation for quality and safety. Look for companies that have been in business for a while and have a track record of producing effective supplements.
    • Purpose of the Supplement: Make sure the supplement is intended to address a specific need or deficiency that your horse may have. Avoid "shotgun" supplements that claim to address a wide range of issues but may not be effective for any of them.
    • Your Horse's Individual Needs: Consider your horse's individual needs and consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine if the supplement is appropriate for your horse and their specific needs.

    There are a wide range of supplements available on the market, with different nutritional and health targets. It is recommended to consult with a qualified equine nutritionist or vet that can help you with balancing your horse's overall diet. 

    As always, we are here to help! We stock a variety of supplemental in-store and online, and would be happy to source a product that you may be interested in. 

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