Equine Supplements – A Veterinarian’s View
by Linda Peck, DVM, professor of biology and director of the Animal Science Program
When considering feeding supplements for your horse, you need to take into consideration his workload and your geographical location.
Here in northwest Ohio, our soil is deficient in selenium. Although toxic in large amounts, trace amounts of selenium are needed for proper cellular function in animals. I recommend a mineralized salt block that you can put in a holder in your horse’s stall. Unlike people, horses will only take in as much minerals as they need, so no worries about him “overdosing” on salt blocks! In some cases with young animals we use injectable selenium, but that would be up to your veterinarian.
For horses that are worked or ridden several times a week, I also recommend a joint supplement like Cosequin. Also, don’t wait until your horse is lame before starting it. Joint supplements are good preventive medicine, especially when horses do more than just stand in the stall or pasture.
Of course, no supplement can take the place of good quality grass and hay. In our area, the alfalfa crop was hit very hard by last year’s drought, so it’s getting more difficult to find nutritious forage. If you rely completely on pasture for your horse during spring and summer, keep n mind that pastures lose nutrition as they “mature.”
Remember, horses are meant to live outside and graze almost continually. It seems we run into trouble when we keep horses inside, even though it may be well intended. With a waterproof sheet and a three-sided shelter, most horses can fare quite well outdoors year ‘round. To keep them interested and grazing during winter months, feed grain in at least two meals a day and scatter hay around the pasture. It takes some creativity to mimic what comes naturally to our horses.
I’m tempted to try one of the “calming” supplements for high-strung horses or those that spook easily. I’ve heard different results from these and would like to try them myself to see if they really make a difference. My last suggestion for show horses whose coats just don’t seem to shine like they should, is adding a balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 to their feed. Again, it’s always best to ask your veterinarian before putting your horse on a supplement regimen.