Are Equine Supplements Worth It?
By Linda Werst, barn manager, The University of Findlay western farm
Let’s face it, feeding a horse is expensive. Adding daily supplements can increase that expense, not to mention the extra time spent measuring and remembering who gets what. So. . .is purchasing something for healthier joints, hooves, manes and tails, coats, bones and teeth worth the cost?
At The University of Findlay western farm, we can accommodate more than 300 horses, so we try to be efficient when we feed. We do not use a single supplement “across the board” for every horse. We feed a 14% Kalmbach pellet and high quality alfalfa/orchard grass hay. Good hay can meet most of the dietary requirements of our horses.
We do feed a product called, “Essential K,” made by Kalmbach Feeds here in Ohio, to some of our overweight horses. Essential K has fewer calories than regular feed and the horses get one-half pound (with their hay) in the morning and evening. Some of our horses do not digest carbohydrates well, and they are fed a Kalmbach product, “K Finish” which is a high fat supplement.
Joint supplements are sometimes good for horses who have arthritis and those whose “jobs” cause a lot of joint strain, like reiners, cutters and jumpers. There are a lot of choices when it comes to joint supplements, and we have been using one called Finish Line HA that sells for about $85/gallon. There are also injectable glucosamine products that work well and more quickly than those administered orally.
I don’t know of anyone who has had a lot of success with “calming” supplements and we do not use any at the University. These are usually made for mares and sometimes contain hormones. Topical hoof remedies can be helpful during the summer when hoofs become dry and brittle, although our farrier recommends just running a hose on the coronary band and hoof to keep it moist.
I do think that you can “over supplement” a horse, at least from a financial standpoint. Supplements that are simply flushed out in the horse’s urine are a waste of time and money. Reading the dosage is important, and remember that it can take up to six weeks for a supplement to take effect.
Probably the best investment you can make in your horse’s nutrition is good quality hay. This should meet most of his dietary requirements. A few things to look for when buying hay:
- Good color (dark green, leafy)
- Smaller stems
- Free of dust and mold; not gray
- Not too compact or hard
- Fresh smell
Next article: A veterinarian looks at supplements.
photo credit: Tammra McCauley - http://photopin.com