Investigating product labels and learning about ingredients of feeds, supplements and healthcare products will help you to make more informed choices about what you feed and use on your horse. Many products are well formulated and ethically marketed, but not all. In the UK we are fortunate to have a very wide choice of products, but sometimes this can be confusing.
t’s important to compare products on a realistic basis, so for feeds or supplements be sure to compare active ingredients or nutrients per daily serving rather than per kilo. Most regular compound feeds are given in quantities of around 3 kg to a 500 kg horse and balancers around 500 g to a 500 kg horse, but some compounds are fed at rates of around 1-1.5 kg daily to a 500 kg horse. If you are comparing ingredients per kilo, you won’t know how much your horse will actually receive.
Legal requirements mean that you will find the protein, oil, fibre and ash content of your feed and many of your supplements on the packaging (or on an accompanying information sheet for bulk feeds), but these are analytical details, not actual ingredients. The feed is tested in a laboratory to determine the amounts of protein, oil, fibre and ash it contains.
Do you know what you are actually feeding your horse when you choose a feed or supplement? Manufacturers have to use ingredients suitable for horse feeds, but not all are vegetarian, and some contain artificial additives such as preservatives. Knowing what your feed or supplement contains allows you to decide whether or not you wish to feed that ingredient to you horse. For example, hyaluronic acid – found in some joint supplements – can be made from rooster combs, and chondroitin is usually made from bovine tracheal cartilage.
Consider also what you apply to the skin, coat and hooves of your horse. Do you know what your fly spray, hoof dressing or skin cream contains? Being aware of ingredients allows you to make a more informed choice. You might not mind synthetic ingredients or you might prefer all natural. For example, fly sprays may contain a fly repelling chemical such as DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or natural plant oils such as eucalyptus or neem.
If you don’t understand labels, or aren’t sure where to look for information, then call the company and ask them for the details. Learning more about what you are feeding your horse and what you are applying to their skin, coat and hooves will allow you to make more informed choices.