If we told you Perfect-O Supplement M is a 100% organic supplement that contains all the minerals needed by the horse, most in naturally chelated form, would you be interested' What if we also said it has virtually no carbohydrates in it and contains moderate protein'
And let’s say we added that it includes high concentrations of probiotics in the same proportions as in the equine intestine, partially fermented fiber sources, and high levels of naturally occurring B vitamins. Would it pique your interest'
Of course it would. But we’ve also just described the ingredients in rotting leaves and manure, too. Advertisers use buzz words to attract your attention. Let’s look at the most common:
The biggie is ”organic.” While organic has a specific meaning when applied to foods, what it really means is related to, or derived from, living things — from an apple to a rotting carcass.
”All the minerals needed by your horse” sounds great. But, a chunk of dirt out of your backyard also contains all the minerals needed for your horse. The fact they are in there isn’t enough. The real issues are how much and in what proportions.
Some equine supplements are more suitable for a bird than a horse. Others have the wrong proportions and amounts for what you’re already feeding. Still others contain minerals that not only aren’t needed but are also potentially toxic, such as iron.
Another popular grab word is ”chelated.” Chelated means bound to something to form a particular chemical structure. In the case of a mineral in the digestive tract, it’s combined with a carbohydrate, an amino acid or a chain of amino acids (peptide) that may or may not result in more mineral absorption. This hasn’t been established for horses.
And ”carbohydrates” . . . even if you are carbohydrate-phobic because you have an insulin-resistant horse, the goal is never zero. All of the chemical intermediates the cells need to process other energy sources — fat, protein, fiber — require a bare minimum amount of carbohydrate. The more work the horse does, the more the horse requires carbohydrates.
”Partially fermented fiber” probably sounds like it’s giving your horse’s digestive tract a head start, but the fact is that any fiber component that makes it to the manure pile is probably indigestible and not fermentable no matter how many times you send it through the horse.
The point is that the right rhetoric can make manure sound like a super food. There are supplements that amount to ”dirt in a jar.” Some supplements contain naturally occurring substances that have little rationale behind their use. It’s true there are many gaps in our knowledge of equine nutrition, but most of the basics are there. There are no short cuts to a healthy, sound horse. Begin with a regular exercise and conditioning with nutritional supplementation based on your horse’s hay and grain gaps and ratios and you won’t go wrong.