Best Horse Supplements
This article is written by one of our veterinarians,and last updated by
The world of horse supplements can be tricky to navigate at the best of times: how do you know if your horse needs a supplement? Which one should you use?
Read on for an explanation of how, why and when some common horse supplements should be used.
There are so many hoof supplements available containing a variety of ingredients, so how do you know which ones really work? The key is to look for nutrients that have been scientifically proven to support hoof growth like biotin, methionine, zinc and copper.
Biotin (Vitamin H, Vitamin B7) is manufactured in horses' hindguts. However, research shows that even when normal levels of biotin are found in the blood, horses with poor quality hooves benefit from receiving additional supplementary biotin. Supplementing with biotin does not affect hoof growth rate or the condition of existing hoof wall integrity, but rather increases the strength of newly growing hoof wall. This means that it will take an extended period of time to see the benefits of supplementing with biotin.
Methionine is an essential amino acid that is converted to cysteine by the body. Cysteine provides sulphur which is necessary to make strong keratin - the substance that forms the outer layers of the hoof. Methionine also works with biotin to increase the effectiveness of both nutrients.
Zinc and Copper
Zinc plays a vital role in the structure of what are called âzinc finger proteinsâ in keratin, so zinc deficiency can result in slow hoof growth and thin hoof walls. Copper activates the enzyme that forms the sulphur bonds between strands of keratin. Both Zinc and Copper are required for the enzyme in hoof tissue that maintains the integrity of the fat layer that stops the hoof from getting too dry.
One important fact to note is that too much zinc (along with iron, cadmium molybdenum and sulphur) will interfere with absorption of copper and cause a secondary copper deficiency.
Popular horse hoof supplements
How do you know if your horse needs a joint supplement and, if they do, which one is the best?
- Activity level: All horses that are used for strenuous sports like racing, cutting or eventing should receive a joint supplement to help guard against injuries and maintain their athleticism.
- Age: Senior horses benefit from joint supplements to help slow down the deterioration of their joints and support their mobility.
- Bioavailability of Ingredients: The bioavailability of substance means the amount that can be absorbed and used by the body in a beneficial way.
- Efficacy: This is the ability of a substance to provide its intended result. The efficacy of a joint supplement is best measured by scientific research performed using the target species, in this case, horses.
Popular horse joint supplement ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid and turmeric seem to have a lot of anecdotal evidence to support their use. Some of these substances are used because they have been proven to be beneficial in other species such as humans and dogs. Unfortunately, most of the scientific studies that have been conducted to test individual ingredients or combination products have either failed to prove their efficacy or been inconclusive as to the benefits of these substances. There does seem to be some valid scientific evidence for the efficacy of curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric), MSM and a particular species of Rose Hip (Rose canina).
Popular horse joint supplements
Electrolytes are minerals which, when dissolved in water within the body, become ions (particles with an electric charge). These electrolytes are vital in maintaining the fluid balance in the body and play many other important roles including maintaining normal function in the nerves, heart and muscles.
While electrolytes are normally lost from the body through a variety of ways, such as through the manure and urine, large amounts of electrolytes (particularly sodium, potassium and chloride) can be lost in the sweat during periods of heavy work. It doesn't take long for electrolyte losses from heavy sweating to start causing problems and large losses can result in muscle cramps, "tying up" and "thumps." Counterintuitively, lowered sodium levels can also reduce your horse's thirst - meaning they drink less and the dehydration worsens.
Electrolyte supplements can be used to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat during and immediately after periods of heavy sweating. When choosing an electrolyte supplement for this purpose, look for one which has similar electrolytes to those lost in equine sweat (sodium, potassium and chloride). Alongside supplementing electrolytes, it's also extremely important that your horse has access to fresh water to help prevent dehydration. Try to keep the water at room temperature and, for those who can be fussy about taste, consider bringing water from home when you travel or adding a little molasses to mask any unusual flavours.
Electrolyte supplements for horses may come as powders which are added to the feed or water, liquids to be added to the water or given as a drench and pastes to be administered orally.
Popular Horse Electrolyte Supplements
Vitamin & Mineral Supplements
Pasture, hay and grain that are grown in Australia often reflect the mineral deficiencies of the soils they are grown on. Copper, zinc, selenium and iodine are the most commonly deficient minerals and the amounts of calcium, phosphorus, sodium and chloride are extremely variable. The types of grass, hay and grains will also have an impact on the mineral content e.g. lucerne hay is high in calcium compared with Rhodes grass hay.
The essential vitamins required by horses are A, B, C, D, E and K and they are able to produce all of these in their bodies. Nevertheless, if a horse's diet is not complete and balanced or if they are suffering from a medical condition, these vitamins may need to be supplemented.
The key to keeping your horse healthy and happy is to ensure they are being fed a complete and balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients in the right balance. It is important to analyse your horse's diet to determine which vitamins and minerals are lacking or in excess rather than just adding a supplement in the hope that it will "fix" their diet. You can access free diet analyses through most of the major horse feed and supplement manufacturers or by using the services of a qualified equine nutritionist.
Popular Horse Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
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