Supplements

I don’t believe in any supplement for horses unless there is a deficiency. Except for starvation, mineral and vitamin deficiencies are rare in horses.

In every area of the country, horse owners tell me their location is low in selenium, yet I have never seen a case of selenium deficiency in horses. In my general practice, between 1984 and 1998, I would inject vitamin E plus selenium into mares a month before their delivery date to prevent retained placentas. However, the percentage of mares retaining their placentas was the same for mares I had injected (it had not prevented it) and those I had not given it.

Joint supplements and treats, herbs and spices, seeds and byproducts, chemicals and oils are only carbohydrates, fats, proteins and minerals. The purpose of “supplements” is to feed something missing in the diet, yet there are a few things that are missing for this efficient herbivore.  

“Essential,” written in front of food materials, are those horses cannot manufacture and must come from food. There is abundant evidence in horses and humans for the need to consume some essential amino acids to build the proteins of life. However, these essential amino acids (EAAs) are missing in the mono-grass fields that horses live in today and the mono-grass hay they are fed. 

All the fatty acids the horse needs are made from the bacterial digestion of cellulose (structural carbohydrates of plants) and are therefore not considered essential. Thus there are no essential fatty acids for horses. Minerals are abundant in water and plants that grow in well-maintained soil. The hindgut bacteria make all the vitamins they need.

I believe feeding supplements to horses is unnecessary unless there is a specific need. I also think there is a chronic protein deficiency, and adding a high-quality protein to the diet is all a horse needs to get the horse thriving when pastured in a non-wild field (cultivated), fed hay and, most importantly, fed grain.

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