Choose supplements for your horse wisely (Part 2) (Animal Science Update)
Seems like lately I have been getting a lot of requests from around the country to present my webinar “Choosing Supplements for your Horse Wisely.”
So, I figured I would do a series in this column based on that webinar.
In the last column we discussed when your horse might need a supplement.
Over the next few columns we will move through different classes of supplements, when they might be of benefit and ways you can be an educated buyer.
The first class we will talk about has been found to be the most popular class of supplements for horses, joint supplements.
These supplements are used for one of two reasons:
• To help decrease the clinical signs of osteoarthritis, or in other words make and unsound horse sound.; and
• To prevent any joint damage from exercise or decrease the risk of arthritis with advancing age.
The problem with reason No.2 is that it has not been scientifically proven that oral joint supplements will ‘prevent’ arthritis in the future.
If you think about it, that is a very difficult study to design. Studies have found some joint supplement ingredients have some anti-inflammatory properties, which could help future damage, however, that is not a direct link.
Some of the ingredients in various joint supplements include chondroitin sulfate (CS), glucosamine, hyaluronic acid (HA), MSM, ASU, among others (Vitamin C, Mg, etc.).
The problem with many joint supplements is they do not have the amounts of these ingredients in them that have been scientifically proven to be effective.
Especially considering that CS and glucosamine are only 32 and 2.5-percent digestible, respectively.
Also, HA is such a huge molecule the mechanism of absorption is still in question!
So, my recommendation with joint supplements is to check the labels, make sure they have the proper quantity of ingredients in them (I.e. at least 10,000 mg glucosamine, 7,000 mg CS), then use your judgement as to if you think it is helping your horse.
If your horse shows no differences after a full month of supplementation they might be non-responders, or one of those horses that just don’t respond to those particular ingredients.
It doesn’t mean that it won’t work for all horses and it doesn’t mean that all joint products won’t help your horse.
You could then decide to try another product, maybe one with ASU, or some different combination of ingredients, or try a pharmaceutical product instead.
The next supplement class is electrolytes.
Electrolytes include minerals with an electrical charge; the main ones include sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
This is one supplement that if you have an exercising horse that is sweating on a regular basis you should be feeding an electrolyte product.
Horses have very highly concentrated sweat, and they loose a lot of electrolytes when sweating, but that is the only time they loose electrolytes.
Therefore, if the only reason you have started your horse on an electrolyte supplement is because it is summer and hot outside you are wasting your money.
If your horse is not sweating, they do not need electrolytes.
The only exception here is horses with anhidrosis, or those that lack the ability to sweat; there are special electrolyte mixtures for these horses.
The key with electrolyte supplements is that they MUST have salt or sodium chloride as the No. 1 ingredient!
If it has any glucose, sucrose, fructose or any sugar, they will not be effective in replacing the electrolytes lost.
For example, Gatorade is formulated for humans and has a sugar as the first ingredient, and while horses would love the taste, it will not do much else for them.
You can use what products are best for you and your horse, i.e. paste mixtures in dosing syringes, powders to top dress on feed or mix in water or other carrier, etc.
Just remember if you are doing to give electrolytes in water, make sure your horse will drink the water and always have a plain water bucket available as well.
Another supplement class we will dive into today is antioxidant supplements. Antioxidants include vitamin sources like vitamins E, C and A, but also enzyme sources including glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, as well as others like selenium, co-Q10, cysteine, lipoic acid, and glutathione.
Antioxidants play a role in protecting cells from oxidative damage.
The browning of an apple or rust are examples of every day oxidative damage, but this also can happen to our body’s cells like immune, muscular or nervous cells during times of stress.
Stress in our horses can include exercise, growth, pregnancy, or lactation. Antioxidants will help prevent and repair this damage and work best when used as mixtures and not a pure source of one particular antioxidant.
Since I did my dissertation research on antioxidant supplements in endurance horses I could go on here for pages, so see a future column on more specific information on stress and antioxidants in horses.
Hoof supplements are another popular category of supplements for our horses and will be the last one I talk about today.
These supplements can be difficult to see the results of because you are feeding the hoof from the inside out, and hooves take eight to 12 months to grow from the coronary band down.
Also there are a lot of environmental factors that go into keeping hooves healthy and if you don’t have a good environment (i.e. too wet or too dry, etc.) supplements will not work.
Ingredients in hoof supplements that have been proven to be effective in aiding hoof growth are biotin (20 mg per day), zinc (175-250 mg per day), Iodine (1 mg per day) and Methionine all in therapeutic quantities.
However, remember this needs to be on top of an already well-balanced diet.
If you don’t have all the nutrients in order, these ingredients will not help.
Also don’t expect a noticeable difference in a month, try these supplements for almost a year before determining if they will be a wise investment worth continuing.
This is it for now, but stay tuned for future columns on more classes of supplements including calming aids, digestive products, weight builders, herbal supplements and more!
But let me leave you with one bit of advice here, with supplements “you get what you pay for.”
Good quality supplements with high quality ingredients from reputable companies will cost money, more money than a sub-par product will cost.
Keep this in mind as you shop. See you next time for more on supplements!