Supplements and Your Horse: Navigating Needs, Myths, and Facts

Learn to assess your horse's needs, distinguish effective supplements from myths, and make informed decisions. Our guide covers joint health, digestive aids, and coat enhancers, while debunking common misconceptions. Consult with our experts to create a personalized supplement plan for your horse's optimal health and happiness.

As a devoted horse owner, you always want what's best for your equine companion. From their diet to their daily care, ensuring your horse thrives is a top priority. One area that often generates questions and confusion is the use of dietary supplements. Are they necessary? Which ones are effective? How do you distinguish between helpful additions and mere marketing? At Carrollton Equine, we understand these concerns and are here to guide you through the complex world of equine supplements.

Assessing Needs

Before adding any supplement to your horse's diet, it's crucial to determine whether it's needed. Not every horse requires supplements, and the decision should be based on specific factors including the horse’s existing diet, health status, and lifestyle. For example, a horse primarily fed on high-quality forage might not need as many supplements as one with limited access to pasture. Health conditions such as arthritis or digestive issues may also necessitate specific supplements. Always start with a thorough assessment of your horse's current nutritional intake and health needs.

Popular Supplements and Their Efficacy

Equine supplements come in various forms, with promises to enhance everything from joint health to coat shine. Here’s a breakdown of some popular types:

  • Joint Supplements: Products containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM are common and have been shown to support joint health, particularly in older horses or those with arthritis.
  • Digestive Aids: Probiotics and prebiotics can help maintain a healthy gut flora, which is vital for digestion and overall health.
  • Coat Enhancers: Supplements rich in omega fatty acids can promote a glossy coat and healthy skin.

While many supplements are backed by scientific studies, it’s essential to scrutinize the evidence and not just the marketing claims.

Myths vs. Facts

The supplement market is rife with myths. Here are a few debunked for better clarity:

  • Myth: Supplements can replace a balanced diet.
    • Fact: Supplements are intended to complement, not replace, a balanced diet. They should only be used to fill nutritional gaps that a horse's regular feed cannot cover. A well-rounded diet tailored to the horse’s specific needs is always the foundation of good nutrition.
  • Myth: If one supplement is good, more is better.
    • Fact: Over-supplementation can be harmful. Excessive intake of certain nutrients can lead to imbalances and health issues such as toxicity or interference with nutrient absorption. It's important to follow dosage recommendations and consult with a nutritionist or vet.
  • Myth: All horses need electrolyte supplements.
    • Fact: Electrolyte supplements are beneficial during extreme physical exertion, high heat, or if the diet is deficient in minerals. However, for most horses under normal conditions or with a balanced diet, additional electrolytes are unnecessary.
  • Myth: Supplements approved by regulatory agencies are guaranteed to produce results.
    • Fact: While regulatory approval means a supplement meets certain standards for safety, it does not guarantee efficacy. The effectiveness of a supplement can vary based on a horse's individual health needs and conditions.
  • Myth: Natural or organic supplements are inherently safer than synthetic ones.
    • Fact: The source of an ingredient (natural vs. synthetic) does not necessarily reflect its safety or effectiveness. Natural substances can be just as potent and potentially risky as synthetic ones. Safety depends on the chemical form of the supplement, its dosage, and how it’s used.
  • Myth: CBD supplements are a cure-all for various equine health issues.
    • Fact: CBD has been studied for its potential benefits in reducing anxiety and pain in horses, but it is not a cure-all. The effects of CBD can vary, and it should be used under veterinary guidance, especially considering the legal and regulatory status of CBD products.
  • Myth: Vitamin and mineral supplements are necessary for all horses.
    • Fact: The need for vitamin and mineral supplements depends on the existing diet and health of the horse. Many commercial feeds already include balanced nutrients tailored to different types of horses and their levels of activity. Supplementing without understanding what the horse already receives can lead to excesses and deficiencies.

Reading Labels

Understanding supplement labels is key to ensuring you’re giving your horse what it needs. Labels should be clear about:

  • The ingredients and their amounts
  • Recommended dosages and any warnings
  • Scientific claims backed by research

Becoming proficient in label reading can prevent overdosing or combining incompatible supplements.

Consulting Professionals

Perhaps the most important advice we can offer is to consult with a professional. A veterinarian or an equine nutritionist can provide insights specific to your horse’s needs, ensuring that any supplements added to its diet are beneficial and safe. Personalized plans are particularly effective because they consider the unique aspects of your horse's health and nutritional requirements.


Are you considering supplements for your horse but unsure where to start? Contact Carrollton Equine to discuss a personalized supplement plan. Every horse is unique, and a tailored approach ensures that your horse receives exactly what it needs to remain healthy and happy. Avoid the one-size-fits-all mindset; let’s create a regimen that’s as unique as your horse.

At Carrollton Equine, we’re dedicated to helping you make the best decisions for your horse's health. Understanding the role of supplements is a significant aspect of modern equine care—let us guide you through it.

About The Author

Nicole Kelleher

DVM, CVA, VSMT  |  Owner & Equine Veterinarian

Nicole graduated from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2014. Since then she has continued to further her education by becoming a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist graduating from the Chi Institute in 2017. She then attended the Healing Oasis school to graduate with her degree in Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy (VSMT) in 2021. Dr. Kelleher regularly sees clients utilizing Shenanigans Stables to perform lameness evaluations and treat patients with both acupuncture and VSMT allowing for an integrative approach to the equine athlete.

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