This is a topic I come across frequently with fellow horse owners. Hell, I even deal with this in my IRL job with people who eat fast food for each meal a day, but think because they take a multi-vitamin and some other supplements they will be ok.
Do you know what your horses eat? Do you know where their hay comes from? Most importantly, do you trust your barn owner/manager who makes these decisions to choose with your horse’s best interest in mind? I can say I’m lucky enough to have that security blanket when it comes to the care of the horses at my barn, but do you?
If you do give your kid supplements, what are they for and why do you give them? Is it something that could be included in a better quality feed, or is it something you need to supplement because they came in poor condition and need some help getting healthy? Is your horse in heavy work and showing? Do they have conformation flaws that put them at risk for stocking up and growing stiff if left in their stall too long?
Equine nutrition is something a lot of people have strong opinions on, but contrary to popular belief, vets don’t get a lot of education on in school. But don’t blindly follow someone else because they say they’ve taken the time and researched and know the product they use is the best and nothing can compare. The better you know your horse, then you better be willing to learn more about what will work best for them, nutritionally.
Horses are like people — all different, all react differently to different supplements and different feeds, and all rely on their humans to keep their best interest in mind. I have many friends that swear the kind of feed and supplements they use are the best on the market and nothing else comes close. Only, my last horse did not do well on their products. In fact, I had to stop them because it was brought to my attention he was reacting to the soy base most of their supplements had. Another friend had the same experience with her older arabian. She kept waiting for this amazing, dapply, shining brighter then the sun coat.; but all that changed was their coat went from ok to looking blah and ribby. She switched to a different feed and within a few weeks, her horse gained weight, got shiny and happy, and rediscovered what life was when he was a a young man. Unfortunately, when we try to share these negative experiences about this brand of feed/supplements/etc., we are blatantly ignored.
Do your homework, ask questions, figure out what’s going to benefit your horse in the long run. Ask if oral joint supplements are better than injectables. Ask if your horse would benefit from something that prevents ulcers. And more importantly, find out what they eat every day -both hay and feed- and find out what’s in it. A horse who gets quality hay, quality turn out on grass, and a quality feed probably only needs minimal supplementation depending on their job. So before you start spending all that money on supplements you think you need to put your horse on, start at square one and go forward. Be as skeptical as you would be if you were buying a new car or a new house. And make decisions based on evidence and rational thought.
One of my best friends recently decided to move her horse from a barn where she had been for many years to a smaller barn, so she would not have to sell. In one month, her horse has gone from looking like she just pulled them out of a feed lot at an auction to a shiny, almost fat with barely visible ribs, and healthy feet growing out the way they are meant to be. The old barn swore they fed the horse a bale of hay a day on top of 2 lbs of feed twice a day. Their hooves were narrow and tiny, with the frogs rotting out. Their skin was flaky and scurfy, and dull. They didn’t get turn out on grass, they went out in a paddock full of other horses and mud. And maybe they did feed the horse that much. But by looking at the horse, it was obvious that something was missing and not right.
4 hours of turnout on grass, grass and orchard hay mixture throughout the day, and a higher quality feed with a small amount of clay to prevent and fix any possible ulcers has turned this horse into a looker. And it’s only been 1 month. We haven’t even added regular work into the program yet. I am so excited for what is in store for my friend and her equine child as this road continues. She’s considered a supplement, but why?? There really isnt a solid reason at this point as to why it would be needed.
If your barn owner wont answer you questions about your feed, go to the supplier. If your supplier can’t answer your questions, go to the internet. And if you don’t like what the internet has to say about it, try looking at other options. Respect your barn owner enough to ask about their policy on switching feeds, but be sure to explain why its important to you. You are responsible for your horse’s health. There are things we cant fix, but we can do our best to get them on a healthy diet. Just like you should respect yourself enough to eat a healthy diet to take care of yourself. Then start adding things if you need to. But I would bet money, there’s very little you would need to add if their basic intake is full of good things.