Supplement Myths Busted

Healthy Horses Don’t Need Supplements

False. A smart supplement program is a tool for maintaining your horse’s good health. Modern horse keeping puts horses under stress from limited grazing, stall confinement, feeding grain and training. These factors disrupt the horse’s digestive health, immunity and well being. Even a horse that looks great could be fending off health problems like chronic inflammation, ulcers or insulin resistance. Help your horse thrive by first balancing his diet for vitamins and minerals. We also suggest adding Omega 3 fatty acids. Next, ensure proper hydration with electrolytes as needed, and consider supplements for digestive support, joint support or other targeted “problem-solvers”.

Horses On Fortified Grain Don’t Need A Mutli-Vitamin

False. Many horses on fortified grain also need a multi-vitamin. In our research of feeding practices, we found that 7 out of 10 horses were not getting enough vitamins and minerals from their fortified grain. To meet his nutrient requirements, your horse must get the full amount of fortified grain recommended on the feed bag for his age, weight and workload. But like many horses, yours may not need the amount of calories that much grain provides. Feeding a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement is the perfect way to “close the gap” by adding the nutrients he needs without extra calories he doesn’t.

Skinny Horses Need More Grain

False. Underweight horses may have other problems that need to be addressed before increasing their grain intake. If your horse can’t maintain a healthy weight, be sure he gets a complete veterinary exam that includes a dental check and parasite test, and assess his overall diet before adding more grain. Feeding excess grain can lead to digestive problems like ulcers and colic. A horse’s digestive system was built for constant grazing, and an average sized horse should eat 10-20 lbs of forage daily. A multi-vitamin can provide additional nutrients if needed. If he is a hard keeper, or in work and needs grain, space it out over at least 2-3 meals daily. Also consider adding a weight gain supplement that provides healthy fat, amino acids, and digestive support from Prebiotics and Probiotics.

Horses Only Get Ulcers In Their Stomachs

False. Horses also get ulcers in their colon. In fact, nearly 65% of performance horses suffer from colonic ulcers, which can be just as detrimental to health and performance as gastric ulcers. Colonic ulcers are thought to be caused by use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs) like bute, as well as intestinal parasites, heavy training and other stress. Signs of colonic ulcers include recurring colic, loss of appetite, poor performance, low energy, weight loss, diarrhea, dehydration and fever. If your horse is showing signs or has the risk factors of colonic ulcers, talk to your veterinarian.

Corn Oil Is A Good Source Of Fat For Your Horse

False. Corn oil promotes chronic inflammation. Generations of horsemen have used corn oil for extra calories and a shiny coat, but it’s time to rethink this practice. Nutrition experts now understand that all fats are not created equal. Corn oil contains about 70% Omega 6 fatty acids and virtually no Omega 3 fatty acids. Why does this matter? Omega 6s are generally considered pro-inflammatory, while Omega 3s are more anti-inflammatory. Too many Omega 6s in the diet puts your horse’s body in a state of chronic inflammation, lending him to degenerative health conditions. Grain is also very high in Omega 6s, causing further imbalance. Instead of corn oil, turn to alternative fat sources like Flax Seed and Fish Oil which contain higher levels of Omega 3s.

Joint Supplements Are Only For Old Or Injured Horses

False. Any horse can benefit from joint support. Joint supplements are a worthwhile investment, even if your horse is young and still feeling great. Studies have shown that Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate and Hyaluronic Acid may stimulate cartilage production and inhibit cartilage breakdown. Research also shows that MSM protects tissues against inflammation caused by exercise and stress. Think of joint supplements as an “insurance policy” for your horse’s lasting soundness and welfare. Provide him with the building blocks of healthy joint tissue through a daily joint supplement.

Only Feed Electrolytes In The Summer

False. Some horses need electrolytes year-round. Electrolyte supplements not only replace the minerals your horse loses through sweat, they also encourage adequate water intake because they provide salt. Many horses drink less water during the winter, increasing their risk of impaction colic. To ensure your horse is drinking enough, consider topdressing his grain with a complete and balanced electrolyte supplement.

Low Energy Horses Need More Iron

False. Lack of iron is rarely the reason horses have low energy. Iron deficiency in horses is uncommon, and feeding extra iron has not been shown to improve red blood cell count or athletic ability. Horses usually receive adequate iron in their diets, so only feed more if your vet has diagnosed iron deficiency through blood work. Anemia doesn’t mean low iron, but rather a low red blood cell count. Many nutrients are needed for the production of red blood cells, including Copper, Zinc, Cobalt, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid.

Performance Horses Only Need Supplements During Their Competitive Season

False. Hard working horses can benefit from nutritional support all year round. Though it might make sense to adjust your horse’s supplement program according to changes in his workload, taking him off a supplement altogether may not be best for his health (or for his performance next season). There is an exception to every rule, and there are truly “seasonal” supplements, like those designed for insect control. However, the majority of supplements give the best results when fed consistently.

Weight Gain Supplements Will Make Horses “Hot”

False. Quality weight gain supplements get the vast majority of their calories from fats, which are often referred to “cool calories” or “calm energy”. Because the fats provide calories without causing a spike in blood sugar, you will not see the same “sugar-high” effect as you would if you simply fed more starches (like grain).

Giving An Electrolyte Is All You Have To Do To Keep Your Horse Hydrated

False. Your horse needs fresh water to stay hydrated. Feeding an electrolyte supplement is a great way to replace the essential minerals lost in sweat, while providing salt, which encourages your horse to drink. However, if you don’t also offer fresh water, your horse could end up more dehydrated than he was before.

Courtesy of SmartPak