How Can Supplements Help?
The vision of horses out in lush, green meadows is one every owner looks forward to during those long winter months. But can you really assess your horse’s inner health by looking at a field of grass? Grass, like hay, can only offer the nutrients from the soil in which it is grown so your horse could actually be lacking a key nutrient from his forage diet and you wouldn’t necessarily know.
Dietary supplements are the ‘go to’ remedy for so many equine conditions and problems. There are multiple off the shelf and veterinary prescribed supplements and additives for a whole range of problems and conditions including:-
- Gastric and gut health
- Respiratory compromise, coughing and pollen-related issues
- Joint supplements to promote the good health of joint components, joint fluid and cartilage
- Hoof supplements to boost growth or help to maintain strong good quality horn
- Skin supplements
- Immuno boosters
- Supplements that support performance horses in very hard work
- Behavioural problems
Soil and grass analysis
It is possible to have the herbage and soil of your fields analysed and this is a relatively straightforward process. A quick Google search will reveal lots of laboratories who can offer this service. But scientific evaluation is better placed as part of your long-term pasture management strategy during those periods when the fields are rested and treated. You can also get your hay analysed but this is more useful as a guide for protein and sugar levels and potentially identifying horses for whom the hay might not be suitable.
You can’t tell by looking
Every year, grass growth is different. It depends on winter rainfall levels, the arrival of spring, ambient temperatures and how much rain continues throughout the growing season. The same applies to cutting hay which will vary hugely depending on the quality of the crop, how long the hay lay on the field and how much rainfall it had.
Rather than hoping for the best, a broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement will take the guesswork out of your horse’s core nutritional requirements. It covers horses at rest solely on a grass and hay diet and horses in light work who are receiving hard rations but not in sufficient amounts to ensure adequate vitamin and mineral levels.
The competition season
This is the time of year when horses can work hard, these are the months of local shows, county shows, horse trials and Pony Club and riding club qualifiers.
Many horses can compete on a diet of just hay and grass, it is surprising how much energy and stamina simple fibre can provide. It’s great for your horse to have as natural a diet as possible but do you have that nagging concern at the back of your mind that there is just not quite enough energy for competition? You don’t want your horse to struggle but you also don’t want to overfeed him either with all the health and temperament issues associated with this. Why not think about a balancer or tonic to help maintain healthy gut function and assist your horse in really deriving the most from his food? This will help support him through the stresses of travelling and competition which can deplete resources too.
Your horse’s airways are under constant assault from stable mites, dust, mould spores and pollen. Keeping horses out in the field as much as possible is really important for all aspects of their general health but some horses do suffer from the sudden spike in tree and grass pollens. This can be exacerbated by long periods of time on transport and stabling away at shows and competitions when it is hard to regulate air quality and turnout may be non-existent.
Horses with RAO – Recurrent Obstructive Airway Disease, formerly known as COPD – may experience no difficulties during the long, light days of summer when they are out at grass 24/7 but start to cough and exhibit nasal discharge when they have to be stabled for the winter. An appropriate supplement can help promote clear nasal passages and support correct stable management systems in caring for horses with this issue.
Keeping feed dust free so soaking the hay or feeding haylage is helpful but you can support the horse further with a supplement specifically designed to enhance and optimise healthy airways. These can soothe inflammation and use nature’s remedies such as peppermint and eucalyptus to discourage mucous build up and an irritated response to airborne pollens and dust.
Hard working horses need good muscle tone and development to work athletically and stay sound and well. Performance supplements add in amino-acids to the horse’s diet to aid correct muscle development, supporting the rider’s training and schooling and competition prowess. But they can also help muscle repair after strenuous activity and encourage growth in immature horses. Horses coming back into work after a period of rest of rehabilitation will also benefit.
Competition time is exciting and not just for the rider! Sharp, performance horses and young green horses may boil over and not give of their best despite the correct preparation and training. Calmers are an invaluable tool to take the edge off, allowing the horse perform to the best of his ability and not become so stressed by travelling, the competition arena, a change of routine or different accommodation. Magnesium and Calcium are the most popular ingredients in most calmers which can be liquid or powder.
Cracked and brittle feet
These are not just a problem in the long dry spell but can affect horses who lack quality hoof horn year round. Warm, dry weather only exacerbates the condition and hard ground can chip sizeable chunks from unshod feet. Holding a shoe can become a challenge, there is nothing more frustrating for the owner. Get ahead of the curve and use a proprietary hoof supplement. These take time to work although you can start with an initial loading dose to help boost growth and repair. There are topical treatments too which help the foot restore its own natural levels of moisture and are a good stop gap in the short term. But ultimately, the only way to influence the hoof is via nutrition.
Using equine supplements gives the informed owner the chance to influence their horse’s physical health and temperament to good effect. Grass, hay and good feeding can’t always provide the optimum nutritional levels for so many reasons and it can be hard to determine what may be lacking. Targeted use of supplements can only enhance an already sound diet and should form part of every owner’s repertoire of horse management. These products are largely based on natural remedies and have been carefully developed by scientists and vets who understand the physiological requirements of the working horse and the challenges many owners face with this excitable and temperamental creature of flight.