Look in any equine supply catalog or tack shop, and the array of supplements you will find can be mind-boggling. The catalog copy sounds appealing, and you can easily go a little overboard simply by your desire to provide the best for your horse. You can also drain your bank account paying for these supplements and add a host of complications to feeding time by having to pull from a smorgasbord of supplement buckets. Supplements may not be necessary, and they may not necessarily be good for your horse either. Remember, too much of a nutrient can be just as detrimental as too little.
As with all other health and nutrition concerns, consult your veterinarian to determine what, if anything, your horse might need for supplements.
Sometimes a region has a known deficiency in a certain nutrient. For example, in many areas of the Northeast selenium is known to be deficient. That is a good reason to supplement feed with that nutrient. The local extension agency or the U.S. Department of Agriculture can provide specifics about your area.
Salt and mineral blocks come in small bricklike sizes or large fifty-pound blocks. If you feed commercial grain, your horse will probably get all the appropriate trace minerals he needs, so you could choose to use plain white salt blocks. Hang one in every horse's stall and keep one in the paddock so that horses can always have free access to salt, which is a key mineral in their diet. Place the fiftypound block on a pan that keeps the salt block off the ground. If at all possible, keep it under some sort of cover since it will deteriorate fast if it is rained on.
What does esophageal choke mean?
This is a condition that is often caused when horses gulp down pelleted feeds too rapidly. To deter this, place a couple of stones or half a salt block in the feed bucket. Having to eat around them makes the horse slow down.
According to Griffin and Gore's
Most supplements directed at older horses are to relieve arthritis and joint pain and include a glucosamine/chondrotin mix for joint flexibility (with names like Glucomax, Flex-free, etc.). Some are digestive aids and include bacterial cultures, such as acidophilus, that are critical to digestion, since older horses often don't process their food as efficiently as younger horses do.
The horse's hoof is important. If the hoof is not growing properly, it probably wouldn't hurt to add a supplement to the horse's diet. However, as always, consult with your equine health care team, especially your veterinarian and farrier, to determine the need of supplementation of this kind. Hoof problems may also be caused by environmental factors, and it may be the bedding that needs to be altered, not the horse's nutrition.
Calcium and phosphorus are extremely important to the health of a horse. However, they also are dependent on each other, and their ratio is as important as their quantity. The perfect ratio is between 1:1 and 3:1 calcium to phosphorus, but should always consist of at least as much calcium as phosphorus. This can be an important issue if, for instance, you decide to add rice bran to your horse's diet. Rice bran is high in phosphorus and low in calcium, so a calcium supplement would be needed to maintain an appropriate ratio.
These are supplements intended to enhance coat shine and maintenance and are usually fortified with fatty acids as well as other vitamins and minerals.
These supplements contain high-fiber ingredients, such as psyllium seed husks, that are a natural laxative needed to reduce the potential for colic in horses who consume sand and dirt while feeding from the ground or on short pasture. These preservatives are intended for prevention and are not to be used in the event of a colic episode, in which case you should promptly call a veterinarian.