We believe in optimizing health and performance and supporting injured/ill horses through nutrition and the role of herbals and nutraceuticals. However, we aren’t going to abandon conventional medical therapy to do it. Supplements aren’t substitutes for drugs.
For any vitamin, mineral, nutraceutical or herbal to be of benefit, it must have the right ingredients in the correct amounts. It’s risky to use a supplement without regard to dose or ingredients. If you believe natural ingredients have the potential to influence your horse’s body positively, you must also accept that they can be equally harmful to the body.
Beware of self-proclaimed herbalists, “alternative practitioners” (with no recognized veterinary-medicine license) or biochemists. They aren’t trained in equine physiology. If your vet isn’t sure how to answer your questions or evaluate a supplement, consult a nutritionist or talk to a specialist from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (http://www.ars.usda.gov or your local Yellow Pages).
Be wary, too, of paying for ingredients you don’t need. You’re wasting money and risking toxic overdoses. We told you about vitamin A excess in our September issue, but it doesn’t stop there.
Supplement labels can include ingredients we call “window dressing” and allow a manufacturer to use words like “complete” to describe the product. However, “complete” may not be a good thing, especially on top of a solid diet. Sure, a little bit extra as vitamin, mineral or protein insurance is OK, but when dietary totals approach toxic levels or push the price up, it’s time to make adjustments. It can be to both your wallet’s and your horse’s advantage to focus on the nutrients you actually need and look for supplements that provide only those vitamins and minerals. We’ve devised a chart to help you decide what you might be able to safely skip.