Whether you have an old nag that just hacks around the farm or a high performing equestrian athlete that travels the world in more style that you could ever dream of, people who care for horses are the first to admit that they do get a little obsessed. It is possible that horses are the most well researched animal, with specialisation in their care and treatment often being undertaken by people who trained to become qualified veterinarians before studying just one small aspect of the horse anatomy.
There is a an old joke that suggests if you get your child into horses they’ll never have enough money for drugs, and there may be something to it, there is always something to buy for a horse, whether it’s a new bit of tack or better horseshoes. Non-horse people often see this as a total waste of money, but for those of us that love our horses know that it really isn’t.
Keeping Your Animals Healthy
Of course, whether you have a newly broken stallion, a fresh foal, a retired work or the kids’ pony, you want to ensure that your horse is in prime health, free from pain and performing at their best. All the time and energy you spend on training doesn’t mean much if your animal develops joint and mobility problems – and this is one of the main reasons for trainers and owners in invest in the best horse supplements, particularly for high performing dressage animals.
There are a lot of discussions around what feed is needed, or what supplements should be added, and as a general idea it is worth talking to a professional who can look at your horse and help identify what they need. Always bear in mind that just because one of your animals is low in iodine doesn’t mean that they all are! Each animal has different requirements, due to different digestion and activity, just as with humans. While a nice multivitamin might be great to help you, the additional selenium could cause a toxic reaction in your stable hand, and again, the same applies with animals (including the toxicity risks).
Also consider your source of information if you are talking to people online (see here). If you horses are out in the pasture they will be getting a different set of vitamins, minerals and nutrients than if they are in the stables, and different soil content means that a pastured animal in one area will be getting a different level of nutrients than one in a similar pasture in another area – even if the grass type is identical, the soil is not. For example, many countries have soil where iodine is non-existent.
One of the advantages to consulting with your vet before starting any form of supplementation is that they can run blood tests to not only confirm where there is a deficiency, but they can also look to see if there is an underlying issue that should be addressed. Treating what you think is a deficiency may be in fact simply masking a more serious problem.
One of the safer types of supplement that you can use seems to be a probiotic, read here: https://equusmagazine.com/horse-care/probiotics-explained-27405 . This doesn’t mean that they have been completely cleared as safe, so as with all treatment, make sure you are very clear on what you are buying and why. However, probiotic based supplements seem to have been used quite successfully by a range of different concerns, most commonly to help with gastro related issues such as diarrhea, constipation, or excessive gas. You will have seen live micro organisms in a range of human and animal foods, with probiotics being commonly added to yoghurts. In horse, and farm animal, supplements this is usually added as a live bacterium (usually Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Enterococcus), but you may also see added as a yeast (such as Saccharomyces) or fungi.
The manufactures may be able to tell you want the difference is, but the research on this particular area is still scarce. Part of the reason for the lack of conclusive evidence is that there is such a variety that makes consistent study difficult. The different forms of microorganisms used, the amount, the reasons for supplementing, as well as the other health conditions of the horse, all make accurate data collection difficult. However, anecdotal evidence for the use is strong and positive.
IF you have a working horse, particularly one that is going to be training or working intensely, you have an animal that will need around 1,000 IU of vitamin E a day. This vitamin is helpful for creating encouraging a healthy immune system, as well as boosting muscle removing and helping to maintain a good nervous system.
Vitamin B is another vitamin that is often in need of boosting in working animals, particularly highly strung and easily stressed thoroughbreds. Although there are a number of B vitamins, the ones of your primary concern should be folic acid, B12, B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin). These are particularly good for helping to increase energy levels and ensuring that your animals maintain a good healthy appetite. B vitamin supplements might be something you should talk to your vet about using if you have a high-performance animal that regularly go off their food when travelling or around events.
There are a huge number of supplements that can be added to horses feed, from electrolytes to minerals, but many of them will do more damage that good – with minerals like Iron only being needed if there is a serious bleeding issue. It doesn’t hurt to check with your professional first.