STEP THREE: SELECT A PRODUCT
Once you’re familiar with the ingredients common in a supplement category, it’s time to select a specific product. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements as strictly as it does medications---the efficacy of supplements does not have to be proven--so you’ll need to be a savvy shopper to identify the products likely to be more worthwhile than others.
Start by inspecting the labels of potential purchases. Look for one that lists ingredients clearly, along with amounts of each. There is no requirement for supplements to display this information, but reputable companies will. Also look for a lot number, which allows companies to keep track of each batch; it’s a sign of quality control. Finally, look for a phone number. A reliable supplement manufacturer will make it easy for consumers to get their questions answered.
Also look for the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Seal of Quality. A nonprofit corporation, the NASC allows only manufacturers who meet certain standards to display the NASC Seal on their labels. Among the requirements are an independent quality audit, an adverse-event reporting system and labels that are consistent with the requirements for nutritional or health products.
The next step takes some work but is crucial: Compare the ingredients in the product you’ve selected to the nutritional makeup of the rest of your horse’s diet. This means collecting all his other
supplements and the label off a bag of his feed and comparing the ingredients in each. You need to avoid overloading your horse with any one nutrient, which could be dangerous. In many products, grains are fortified with vitamins and other nutrients, so the chance of an overlap is significant and increases with each additional supplement in your horse’s diet. This is where multivitamin supplements can be helpful. Instead of feeding three separate products, which risks overloading on some nutrients, you may be able to find one product that covers all your nutritional bases safely. Your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist can offer you some guidance if you have a lot of variables to consider.
Finally, of course, price is a consideration. You don’t want to strain your budget with spending on supplements, but cheaper isn’t always better, especially if the product that saves you money lacks label information, a method to contact the manufacturer or any evidence of quality-control measures.
Most conscientious horse owners are savvy shoppers, ready to take on the multifaceted process involved in purchasing the right supplement. It takes a bit of work, but the payoff comes when you’ve selected a product that perfectly rounds out your horse’s diet.