Supplements That Solve Problems
Does your horse have weak hooves? A dull coat? Achy joints? Dietary supplements for horses are available to address a wide variety of issues. But for the best results, take a targeted approach.
Ask three horsemen about the role of supplements in a horse’s diet and you’ll likely get three different answers. As the number of available products has grown over the past two decades, so too has the debate over how and when they are best utilized.
Yet one rule is universally recognized: “Give only what a horse needs.” Every veterinarian and nutritionist will tell you that unnecessary or overzealouss supplementation isn’t only a waste of money, it can lead to nutritional imbalances. For instance, a se given a vitamin supplement in addition to a grain fortified with vitamins may ingest an overdose of certain nutrients, which can be detrimental to his health. It’s much, much safer and more effective to first identify your horse’s dietary needs and then shop for a supplement that meets them.
The tendency to reverse this order is understandable. If your friend’s mare looks fabulous after being started on a particular supplement, for instance, it’s tempting to put your own horse on it. The mare, however, may have been missing something in her diet or had a specific problem that your own horse does not. In that case, you won’t see the same benefits. In fact, your horse may have a different deficit or need that only a different supplement can address.
Fortunately, supplements are available to address nearly every problem a horse can have, from poor-quality hooves to creaky joints to excitable behavior. Here’s a survey of the basic categories of equine supplements available, along with a rundown of the ingredients you are most likely to find in each one. Once you’ve had a look, discuss your horse’s needs with your veterinarian and get ready to go shopping.
Calming supplements contain nutritional and herbal ingredients aimed to “settle” anxious horses by affecting the nervous system. Common ingredients:
• magnesium, a mineral that plays a role in hundreds of biochemical reactions within the body, including muscle and nerve function
• thiamine (vitamin B1), a compound found in fresh forages that help• the body convert carbohydrates and fat into energy and is critical to proper function of the nervous system
• valerian, an extract from the dried root of the flowering plant Valeriana officinalis, which contains compounds believed to interact with certain neurotransmitters; used since the times of the ancient Greeks to relieve restlessness, anxiety and insomnia
• chamomile, an extract derived from the flowers of the perennial herbs Matricaria recutita or Chamaemelum nobile; used for thousands of years to treat insomnia and anxiety
• L-tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to the neurotransmitters serotonin, which induces calming and melatonin, which encourages sleep
• taurine, the organic acid abundant in animal
tissue that plays a significant role in many neurologic functions
inositol (vitamin B8), an organic compound integral to the health of cell membranes; research suggests that inositol supplementation can aid in treatment of panic disorders, bipolar depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder in people raspberry leaves, the dried foliage of the raspberry bush, are high in vitamin C, tannins and other nutrients; long thought to affect muscle tone
alpha-casozepine, a protein derived from milk that is believed to have a natural calming effect on nursing youngsters Special considerations: Many sport and show associations restrict the use of some calming agents prior to competition. Joint-care supplements aim to support the health of structures such as the cartilage between bones and the synovial fluid in the joint spaces.
Common ingredients: glucosamine, an amino sugar, is one of the building blocks of cartilage production and repair
chondroitin sulfate, a large protein molecule, is a constituent of connective tissues and cartilage
hyaluronan (hyaluronic acid), a key structural component of synovial fluid, connective tissue and cartilage
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), is an organic compound that is a source of sulfur, which is necessary for the production of collagen
yucca, an extract from the roots of a species of yucca, a flowering desert plant; a source of saponins, compounds with both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASU), extract from the oils of avocado and soybean; early research suggest ASU slows the production of some inflammatory chemicals in the body, thereby protecting cartilage
boswellia, an extract from the gum resin of Boswellia serrata, a tree native to India; research suggests that it has anti-inflammatory properties.
ascorbic acid (vitamin C), the familiar water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant; required for the synthesis of collagen and connective tissue.
Special considerations: The ingredients in joint supplements are among the most studied by scientists. However, the levels vary from product to product. Read and compare labels to select a supplement with the desired amount of your preferred active ingredients.
Hoof supplements are designed to improve the quality of hoof horn, leading to stronger hooves. Common ingredients:
biotin, a B vitamin that supports the production of keratin, a protein that forms the basis for hair and hoof horn; studies have shown that biotin supplementation improves the growth