One of the most difficult decisions is to determine what supplements your horse needs. Before you purchase any supplement, it is important to consider the following factors:
1. What do I do with my horse?
Depending on the physical requirements of your horse, they may not need a certain supplements. For instance, a horse that hacks out for 30 minutes 2-3 times/week has different needs than the horse in hard work 5-6 days/week. Honestly assess your horse's physical activity and nutritional needs.
2. How old is my horse?
Similar to the first question, a 4 year old in work has different needs than a 15 year old. While they may both perform similar work, their bodies have different needs, in terms of joint, energy, digestive, metabolic, etc.
Horses with arthritis may need a different joint supplement than a horse that is not showing signs of arthritis.
3. What is my horse's current nutritional assessment?
This is a question that you should consult with your veterinarian before you change any aspect of your horse's diet. Another great idea is to look at what your horse is currently eating (and therefore already receiving) in their diet. This may mean having your horse's pasture or hay is analyzed. If your horse is eating grain, also look at the guaranteed analysis because a lot of grains have added vitamins and minerals and you would not want to overfeed - save money and maintain your horse's health.
4. Is my horse a picky eater?
If you have a horse that is a picky eater, you may have to look at forms of supplements. Supplements come in all kinds of forms - paste, powder, pellets, and liquid. Find what works best for your horse and there is likely a supplement available for their needs.
5. Is my horse under any stress?
If you are going to be moving, training, competing, or adding any "stressful" event to your horse's life, you may need to consider feeding an ulcer or gastric support supplement. There are many feed through supplements as well as paste supplements that can be given to your horse. These ulcer and gastric supplements can be medicinal or herbal based. Again, what is fed should be determined based on what works best for you and your horse.
6. What is my horse's main source of fuel?
As mentioned earlier, it is important to evaluate what type of "fuel" your horse receives. A horse in a stall with the majority of their food coming from grain or hay has very different supplemental needs than a horse who lives 24/7 on a pasture without grain.
Don't feel as though your horse needs to be on a multi-vitamin supplement or joint supplement just because the horse down the aisle is - every horse has different nutritional needs.
7. Does your horse live in an area where winters are hard? Is your horse a hard or easy keeper?
If your horse lives in an area that has cold winters, you may need to add extra calories during fall and winter months in order to keep your horse at a healthy weight. Some horses simply do well if a supplement with high fat and protein is given throughout the winter, while some may nee additional grain rations.
The same goes for if your horse is a hard or easy keeper all year long. If your horse is an easy keeper, a metabolic supplement may be needed to keep your horse at a healthy weight versus a hard keeper may need additional calories through a supplement if you don't want to feed too much grain.
There are many different factors to consider before changing or adding any supplement to your horse's diet. It is important to look at all aspects of your horse's lifestyle prior to determining a supplementing plan - and as always, check with your veterinarian.
Once you have determined what supplement your horse may need, check out our comparison tables to determine which supplement is best for your horse.
Need to know if you're over supplementing once you have determined what your horse needs? Check out this blog.