A discussion of equine nutrition is incomplete without discussion of horse nutrition supplements. The options for supplementation are endless...there are vitamins, minerals, joint supplements, hoof supplements, blood builders, digestive supplements -- the list is almost endless.
The largest task for most horse owners is to determine which horse nutrition supplements, if any, are appropriate for their particular horse.
In general, I tend to try to avoid commercial supplements as much as possible for the average, healthy horse. However, there have been a number of horses in my life who have needed supplements for one reason or another, so I've been there, done that, trying to navigate the world of equine nutritional supplements.
Let's take a look at some of the most common types...
Hoof supplements are used to strengthen a horse's hooves. One of the most common complaints of horse owners that use hoof supplements is excessive cracking of the horse's hooves, or the inability for the horse to keep a shoe on for the entire duration between farrier visits.
Common ingredients in hoof supplements are biotin (a vitamin), methionine (an amino acid), lysine (another amino acid) and calcium pantothenate (a mineral), among others. Many also contain various other ingredients for additional benefits.
Joint supplements are used to help horses that are having joint problems, typically in their leg joints. The horse may be having issues due to advanced age or because of a strenuous workload. Joint supplements are often very valuable horse nutrition supplements for these horses, as it allows them to continue to carry on their lifestyle in a much more comfortable manner.
These supplements generally help to lubricate the joints, and often contain chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and other similar ingredients.
Other typical nutritional supplements might include weight builders, muscle building, and general vitamin and mineral supplements.
As the name implies, weight builders are used to help put weight on a horse that otherwise has trouble gaining weight. These might be used for performance horses, broodmares and stallions, or elderly horses who simply cannot consume enough calories to maintain sufficient body weight.
Muscle builders are, as their name implies, used to help build muscle, most commonly used for performance horses.
Lastly, there are all of the general vitamin/mineral supplements that are used to help correct a nutritionally deficient diet.