A lot of horses get supplements - it's something I'm really aware of since I make up the feed at our barn every day for 11 horses - all but one gets some sort of supplement. I used to be anti-supplement - I expect because I thought a horse that is healthy doesn't need one. I still basically believe this, but also now understand that there are some conditions even healthy horses can have which may (possibly) benefit from supplements. The "possibly" is because I think the benefits of many supplements are really unproven, but if they can't harm the horse, there's no reason not to try. Supplements are also big business, and I'm a skeptic about product marketing in general. And I firmly believe that the best way to a healthy horse is good nutrition - quality hay, grass and feeds - tailored to the needs of the specific horse - and as much turnout as is possible: movement helps all horses, particularly seniors.
Just for fun, this morning I wrote down all the supplements the horses at our barn receive. I'll start with my own horses:
Noble (QH, age 29, gelding) - all he gets is Aspirease (form of aspirin that is easier on the stomach) for the comfort of his arthritic joints.
Dawn (TB, age 12, mare) - she gets U-Gard for ulcers, Mare Magic (raspberry leaves) for "marishness" - we're on trial with this - and a magnesium/chromium/selenium/vitamin E supplement specially formulated by our chiropractor/vet for insulin resistance - Dawn has asymptomatic "pre-Cushings", probably brought on by the anabolic steroids she likely received when she was racing. We suspected this because her neck had been getting a bit thick, although she isn't cresty in the classic sense.
Maisie (TB/Trakehner cross, age 12, mare) - she gets U-Gard for ulcers and Aspirease for arthritis pain relief.
Now on to the other horses in the barn - their owners decide what supplements they get:
Fritz (Appendix QH, late teens, gelding) and Fred (TB, age 23 or so, gelding) - they both get Aspirease and Vita-Flex MSM for their joints.
Blackjack (Tennessee Walker, age 30+, gelding) - he gets buffered aspirin and Senior-Flex, a supplement containing a number of vitamins, as well as yucca, glucosamine, MSM, and chondroitin sulfate for joints. I may suggest to Blackjack's owner that we reevaluate this supplement due to Blackjack's age and the gluclosamine it contains (see below).
Sugar - (QH, age 12 or so, mare) - she gets Grand Complete, which is a general supplement containing vitamins, minerals, biotin, fatty acids, glucosamine and MSM.
Scout (Appendix QH, age 6, gelding) - he also gets Grand Complete, as well as Matrix 5 + H/A, a joint supplement containing hyaluronic acid.
Joe (Appendix QH, age 27, gelding) - he gets D-Carb Balance (this is a supplement similar to the one Dawn receives for insulin resistance), pre/probiotics - I use these as well for horses that have been receiving antibiotics to help restore gastrointestinal function, Vetri - HA, a hyaluronic acid supplement for joints (but no glucosamine - see below on this), and cyproheptadine, also for his insulin resistance. Joe is the king of supplements at our barn!
Charisma - (Morgan, age 20, mare) - she gets the same supplement for insulin resistance that Dawn does, but at a larger dose, and also gets pergolide and U-Gard.
Misty - (QH, age 16?, mare) - she gets no supplements, although she would benefit from Aspirease for her arthritis - she was on it for a while but it irritated her mouth.
And every horse in our barn receives a small amount of Cocosoya Oil, for essential fatty acids and vitamin E.
A couple of things that are good to remember about supplements:
1. Just because some is good doesn't mean more is better - this applies to the supplements themselves and their components. Some things that are OK in small doses can be toxic in larger doses, and this applies to herbal/natural supplements as well. Some things are toxic, period - make sure you understand what you are feeding your horse and what its effects might be.
2. Supplements are additive to whatever your horse is eating - and that includes hay, grass, vitamin/mineral balancer pellets (which all our horses receive) and grain. We have our pastures and hay tested to know what we are dealing with, and know what each horse receives in its feed by weight - which varies by horse. The vitamin/mineral balancer pellet we use, CPI Equibalancer, is specifically formulated for our part of the country and complements our hay and grass.
3. Supplements can interact with medications. If your horse is on supplements, make sure that your vet knows this and what is in them - for example, the anesthetics used for dental work, or other cases where sedation is needed, can interact adversely with certain supplements, particularly some of the herbal ones.
4. Our chiropractor/vet believes that senior horses, or horses with insulin resistance, should not receive supplements containing glucosamine.
What supplements, if any, do you use, and why, and what has your experience been?