Grand Meadows Cares Series: Is Your Equine Feed Supplement Bucket List Too Long?

by Nikki Alvin-Smith

The long and the short of it is, that your horse feed supplement bucket list is likely duplicating ingredients related to your equine’s nutritional needs. The extensive changes in the ever-expanding selection of feed offerings from equine feed supplement manufacturers, can be a confusing collection of claims and tantalizing horsey health ideas all marketed as the elixir that will make everything better.

The stark reality is that for many horses what is required is not a bucket list of feed supplement buckets to fix their behavior issues, soundness dilemmas or apparent shortfalls in performance, but a targeted approach to adding only supplements that can help support a horse’s health alongside better horse management and better training. Dangerous or annoying behavior in our horses is a safety issue, but the over-administration of feed products to try and resolve it can also create a health issue for our horses rather than solve it.

Consider the horse that comes out of his stable stiff every morning. The horse may appear reluctant to allow his hind feet to be picked clean during grooming, be girthy when being tacked up pinning his ears back, fidgeting and generally being obnoxious. During the mounting process he may attempt to shuffle away from the rider the minute weight is placed in the stirrup iron.

The educated horse trainer/owner may realize that the overnight stabling on a hard concrete floor with little bedding, a 24/7 stabling scenario, ill-fitting tack, a rider’s lack of training in how to gently mount a horse and how to teach him to stand quietly for mounting, and poor riding once in the saddle, may all be ingredients in this perfect recipe for unwanted horse behavior.  A change in lifestyle to more turnout, an experienced saddle fitter and some rider training can help the horse recover his soundness and willingness to work.

There may be specific medical conditions that also contribute to the negative behavior. Issues such as arthritis, sore muscle tissues, lack of hoof growth or poor hoof health can diminish an equine’s ability to successfully answer the performance tasks the rider requests. These conditions would benefit from adjunct therapy to aid in their recovery process and management via the addition of a specific feed supplement to the horse’s diet. But the supplement used must be correctly aimed at solving actual problems and not supposed medical issues that may or may not exist.

Horses that demonstrate poor behavior (especially if that behavior is out of character), are trying to tell us that something is wrong. There is usually a very good reason for a horse misbehaving, and more usually a bevy of reasons. Sometimes it is not as dire a cause for concern as we may think. For example, it is now commonplace for the equestrian mind to jump to the notion that a horse showcasing these negative habits has gastric ulcers. But without an endoscopic exam there is no way to know if the horse is actually suffering with Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome {EGUS}.

A less educated horse person may determine the ill-mannered horse has an attitude problem that needs adjustment. The poor equine behavior will become worse as time progresses, and the human intervention may be to add a calming supplement before riding, administer unnecessary feed supplements to calm nervous energy such as B vitamins, or to go the holistic route. Other remedial actions taken may be to combine herbal tonics with NSAIDS. This host of medicinal treatments may unwittingly cause different problems rather than solve the ones at hand.

Remember that treating symptoms is rarely the answer to solving a medical issue long term.

There is a significant lack of research on how the varietal remedies for equine maladies, feed supplements and medicinal products interact with each other. The horse’s gut and entire digestive process can be subjected to a battering of attacks from contraindicated products they are forced to ingest. An equine’s metabolic processes can quickly become unbalanced if feed supplements are used without due care and attention.

How To Evaluate Your Horse Feed Supplement Bucket List

Review of the animal’s entire diet including seasonal pasture testing, hay testing and grain testing should be the start of the evaluation process. The water supply should be tested to ensure it is not only safe but that it does not contain certain minerals or chemicals that can avert the horse’s digestive capacities in precarious ways. Obviously seasonal equine wellness checks with dental care and fecal worm counts are also in order.

Sadly not everything we buy is what it is cracked up to be. Erroneous labelling, a lack of stabilized ingredients, inappropriate product storage environments and shelf-life expiry that is hard to translate into timelines with only lot numbers available, make accurate evaluation of what our horses eat both expensive and difficult to ascertain.

It is a shame to wait until your horse(s) displays a health or behavioral issue before you take the steps necessary to determine how best to care for him. Unfortunately, human nature is often to delay the inevitable. Imbalances in a horse’s diet and/or his ability to uptake the nutritional resources provided, will eventually catch up with him and may be much more difficult to resolve at a later date.

A lack of understanding is usually the causative reasoning behind the blind trust we place in the feed, grain and supplement manufacturers, local farmers and their haymaking methodologies, and the pasture management system we employ.

What’s In The Pot And What’s Not?

 Here’s a checklist that will help you target areas where your horse feed supplement bucket list is too long or where it may need replacement:

  • Ensure all products are NASC seal approved.
  • Are the products evidence-backed and high quality?
  • Check the ingredient list in each product for stabilized ingredients. These will be noted if they are included and this is particularly important for the Omega 3’s and 6’s.
  • Review any duplications in ingredients between feed supplement buckets and their amounts even when different products are labelled for different purposes. It may be that one high-quality compound feed supplement could address multiple issues depending on their root cause.
  • Check ‘best use by’ and expiry dates.
  • Review product storage location/methods to ensure it meets manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Ensure the equine feed supplements being used are well-targeted in purpose.
  • Consider seasonal feed supplement requirements and ensure your feed supplement is handy, fresh and ready for use.

Special Times Of Need

There are certain times in a horse’s life where a special feed supplement can help them over a hump or bump or particular need. For example, the addition of an equine feed supplement that supports the horse’s microbiome during and after times of antibiotic use, is a good idea to counteract the negative effects administration of such medications have on the horse’s digestive processes.

Also consider if the feed supplement is seasonally relevant. For example, there’s little point in feeding an electrolyte supplement in cool months.

Do No Harm and Don’t Look For Zebras

 As horse owners most of us know these veterinary mantras and have heard them often. It is easy for horse owners to over supplement their horses with the best of intentions but doing so can have adverse health effects. A horse aficionado’s earnest desire to fix a perceived problem with their beloved equine partner, can result in their treatment actions becoming over-zealous and they may overestimate their diagnostic abilities. The ‘When you hear hoofbeats, don’t look for zebras,’ medical idiom where the simplest, most commonplace cause for an issue is overlooked in favor of a more exotic diagnosis is highly applicable in modern day life. People are consistently bamboozled with marketing efforts for medical products or remedial solutions and treatments for their equine partners that can result in high levels of health anxiety in regard to their horse’s health.

These aforementioned idioms are wise words to live by and keeping them front and center in your horse’s care and management is always a good idea.

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 About Grand Meadows: Founded in 1989 by visionary Angela Slater, Grand Meadows is a leading horse health product and equine supplement manufacturer driven by the guiding principle of providing affordable, extremely high-quality science-backed horse products to help ensure horses look and feel their best.

For the past 35 years the company’s mission has been honored and developed further, by President Nick Hartog, who among other accomplishments is one of the founding members and current board member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), an organization that has a profound impact on the safety, transparency, and legitimacy of the animal supplement industry.

Grand Meadow products are widely used and trusted across the entire horse community from Olympic medal winning competitors and successful horse racing trainers to backyard horse owners. Their equine supplements are highly regarded for their excellent quality resourced ingredients and completely accurate labelling and effective formulations. Learn more at

Grand Meadows, Orange, CA
Media Contact:
Tel: 607 434 4470

Photos are available on request.

About Nikki Alvin-Smith:
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