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    Equine Nutrition | Summer 2012 Out Here Magazine

    Supplements provide boost to horses with specialized needs

    a horse with it's head in a trough
    Equine supplements are designed to help provide your horse the best health possible, no matter his stage of life.
    Out Here

    By Carol Davis

    Photography by iStock

    The horse's injury was enough to make everyone wince. He had stepped on sharp steel and ripped half of his hoof from the toe to the coronet band, painfully exposing the hoof's inner laminae.

    Recovery was expected to take a year; after all, a hoof grows only about one-fourth of an inch per month, says Dr. John Lew, a horse nutritionist for McCauley Bros., a Kentucky manufacturer of premium feeds and nutritional supplements exclusively for horses.

    Within just nine months, however, the horse was performing in dressage competitions, thanks to the help and benefit of hoof supplements.

    Horse supplements are formulated with specific conditions and life stages in mind, with the idea being to provide the horse with the nutrition he needs for optimal health.

    Like vitamins for humans, equine supplements fall into several categories, depending on how they're needed. Horse supplements generally include those for hoof, joint, calming, digestive aids, antioxidants, energy, seniors, muscling, immune function, and skin and coat, Lew says.

    A performance horse, for example, may require extra nutrition to support and protect his joints, muscles, and bones and to help with stamina during demanding training and competition. A pregnant or nursing mare's needs are different; she may need nutrients to protect her foal from prenatal diseases, growth problems, and bone deformities.

    And a horse with chronic health issues such as laminitis or Cushing's disease may need an infusion of certain nutrients to help reduce inflammation and boost immunity against other illnesses.

    Not every horse needs to take supplements, particularly if they're thriving on forage and commercial feed that provide ample nutrition, Lew says.

    "But there are clearly groups of horses that, despite the fact that they are getting a sound nutritional diet that covers what we know scientifically as required nutrients, they need something else," he says.

    "We live in a supersized world where if 1 ounce is good, then 4 ounces is thought to be even better," he says. "But that's not necessarily so; indeed, it may even be detrimental to your horse's health," Lew says.

    "They might need something extra in order to help with certain conditions … so we specifically target those groups of horses that need nutrients in larger amounts."

    A horse, for example, may exhibit symptoms that indicate his hoof walls are not very strong. A rescue horse may have suffered such long-term neglect that his entire system needs boosting. Or one may have trouble keeping weight on because of continuing digestive problems.

    Older horses have their own particular issues that supplements can benefit, Lew says.

    "Senior supplements are typically high-caloric density because seniors may have a problem of maintaining body condition, because their digestion system is impaired due to age," Lew says.

    A senior supplement may also provide vitamin C for those older equines who no longer can produce their own adequate amount of vitamin C at a time when their need is greater. And it may also provide biotin for digestive problems that occur with age.

    If you decide to add supplements to your horse's diet, it's always a good idea to consult a veterinarian or horse nutritionist.

    At least, carefully read and follow label and usage, Lew advises.

    "We live in a supersized world where if 1 ounce is good, then 4 ounces is thought to be even better," he says. "But that's not necessarily so; indeed, it may even be detrimental to your horse's health," Lew says.

    Finally, do the math if you are feeding your horse more than one supplement, Lew says. Keep close track of ingredients, particularly if they overlap from one supplement to the next, so you always know exactly what your horse is getting.

    Carol Davis, a former horse owner herself, is editor of Out Here.

     

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