Now and again I have a dig through horse forums to get a feel for what horse owners are talking about. During a recent foray, I noticed many owners asking others for health advice and advice on supplements for their horses. It seems to give us confidence when others have used a product, or those who we perceive have more experience than us are passing on advice. I urge you, however, to stop and think. Is the person who is answering your query really more experienced than you? Do they really know your horse better than you?

I would urge you to look for advice from more qualified channels as well as asking what has worked (or not) for other owners. The danger in asking other owners is that one or two horses is not a good sample size to assess something. And what works for one horse may not work for another. If someone who has many horses or who manages a large yard were to comment, this would be a more valuable source of information. Horses show a great individual variation in their physiology and their responses to nutrients and treatments. This large individual variation is what makes them challenging to run good research studies on. It also means that just because something works on one, it doesn’t mean that it will work on another. Sometimes you just need to try a supplement and assess your horse’s response.

Whilst trying to make a decision about which supplement to choose for your horse, I advise you to study the information provided by supplement manufacturers and retailers, and also try to read more about the ingredients that are used. Consider also the amount of active ingredients per daily dose of a supplement; this is key. A dose of 1500 mg of glucosamine daily is a human dose, which is unlikely to do anything for a horse. Your horse needs a great deal more than this! If a manufacturer, feed merchant, or online retailer won’t give you any information about a product, ask yourself if you are happy with this approach. Some manufacturers are secretive about their formulations, and in these cases you are going to have to simply buy and try.

Take care with information on the internet and try to find articles or information written by qualified individuals. Don’t ignore the power of herbs for horses. Herbs have been used for centuries and many current day drugs have been developed from plant constituents. Some owners believe herbs to be ‘fluffy’ and pointless, but herbal supplements can be very effective.

Try to think for yourself and do your own research as well as asking others about their experiences with supplements. You know your horse best.

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About Clare MacLeod

Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr is one of the UK’s few registered independent equine nutritionists who also has expertise in health and fitness. She advises private and commercial clients in all sectors of the horse world and is a hands-on horse owner herself. Clare is passionate about correct nutrition as a foundation for good health, without which peak fitness is not possible. She states “Good nutrition isn’t everything, but there’s nothing without it”.