California Riding Magazine • January, 2011

Supplements Simplified, Part Three

by Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA

Step One:  Assess Your Horse’s Diet (covered in a previous issue)

Step Two: Accommodate for Activity (covered in a previous issue)

Step Three: Address Individual Health Concerns
Now that we’ve reviewed your horse’s basic diet and his workload it’s time to address any unique needs he may have.  You, your veterinarian, and the other health care professionals you rely on to keep your horse functioning at his peak are the best judges of where he may need additional support.  To help though, below are some common concerns among event riders and options for addressing them:

Electrolytes
Problem: Your horse doesn’t drink well when he travels. You’re concerned that he’ll get dehydrated especially after cross-country and not recover well from the exertion.

Solution:  Provide electrolytes daily top-dressed on your horse’s feed throughout the competition season.  While it’s not possible to “stock up” on electrolytes or water, a constant supply of these key minerals will replace what he loses in sweat and encourage him to drink and stay hydrated. 

Joint
Problem: Your horse comes out of his stall stiffly and takes a long time to warm up.  You’re concerned that jumping and galloping is adding additional wear and tear to his joints.

Solution:  Research shows that ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and HA not only aid in the production of new cartilage but also inhibit tissue breakdown.  MSM is a proven antioxidant against the oxidative stress created with exercise like jumping.  Work with your veterinarian to maintain your horse’s joints with diagnostic tests as needed, prescription medications, corrective shoeing, oral supplements and other support.

Hoof
Problem: Your horse has weak feet that chip easily.  You’re concerned that he’ll lose a shoe just before an event or worse yet, DURING the event.

Solution:  Good quality hooves require care from the inside as well as the outside.  That is, provide optimum nutrition and do your best to control his environment.  Studies indicate long-term, daily supplementation of products containing biotin, methionine, zinc and other ingredients may improve the growth rate and hardness of hooves.

Tendon & Ligament
Problem:  Your horse had a mild bowed tendon or pulled suspensory in his past.  You’re concerned about galloping over uneven terrain, turns and landings.

Solution:  While no supplement can prevent a soft tissue sprain or strain, research over the last 30 years has shown that silica is important for the strength of connective tissues like tendons and ligaments.  Consider including it as well as the main structural protein of connective tissue, collagen, to your horse’s daily nutrition.

Digestion
Problem: Your horse has a sensitive intestinal tract.  You’re concerned travel and competition may lead to develop ulcers or loose stool.

Solution:  One approach to an overreactive gut is to provide a complete digestive conditioner.  These products contain functional feed ingredients that support healthy structure and function of the entire digestive tract.  Or you could target the stomach with antacids, soothing herbs and critical amino acids; and the hindgut with probiotics, prebiotics (soluble fiber) and enzymes.

Muscle
Problem: Your horse sometimes has stiff, painful muscles after a particularly hard workout.  You’re concerned he may “tie up” due to the stress, schedule and exertion of an event.

Solution: Reevaluate your horse’s nutrition to make sure he’s getting a complete and balanced diet, then consider adding Vitamin E (and Selenium, if you’re sure the forage in your area has low levels).  Since a high-grain diet has been linked to muscle disorders, use fat if your horse needs calories to keep his weight and energy

Article provided by SmartPak.
Dr. Lydia Gray is the Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak, where she guides research and new product development, answers questions on her Ask the Vet blog, and speaks around the country at various events such as Equine Affaire, Dressage at Devon, and the USHJA Trainers’ Symposiums.