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Considerations on How to Supplement Horses Diets: Part Two


Welcome to Part Two for considerations on how to supplement horses diets.


During Part One, we considered the following:

  • What is a horse supplement?
  • Should you give your horse supplements?
  • Do horse supplements really work?
  • How long does it take horse supplements to work?


We will now look at these remaining questions under Part Two:

  • What do different supplements do for horses?
  • How should you start a horse on supplements?
  • What to mix with horse supplements?
  • What horse supplements should not be mixed?
  • How many supplements is too much for a horse?
  • Why are supplements important for horses?



According to the European Commission, ‘Feed intended for particular nutritional purposes’ means feed which can satisfy a particular nutritional purpose by virtue of its particular composition or method of manufacture, which clearly distinguishes it from ordinary feed. Feed intended for particular nutritional purposes does not include medicated feeding stuffs.

A horse supplement (equine supplement) may state on the label that it has a particular nutritional purpose. As such, it needs to have satisfied the regulatory requirements for that purpose. Otherwise, it cannot legally make that claim.

Therefore, let’s assume you have selected a good way to supplement horse need in this instance. In which case, what that equine supplement will do will depend upon what the composition of ingredients in it is. The feed manufacturer will give you an indication as to what areas the equine supplement is intended for. For example, you may see reference to the following popular options:

  • Horse supplement for joints / horse joint supplement.
  • Horse supplement for arthritis / equine arthritis supplement.
  • Tendon supplement for horses / Horse supplement for tendons and ligaments.
  • Veteran horse supplement / Horse supplements for older horses.
  • Equine calmer / Calmer for horses.
  • Collagen for horses / Horse collagen supplement.
  • Horse hoof supplement.
  • Horse coat supplement / Horse mane and tail supplement.
  • Amino acids for horses.
  • Silicon supplement for horses.
  • Horse connective tissue supplement / Nutritional support for equine connective tissues.
  • Equine electrolytes / Electrolytes for horses.

These various descriptions tend to include the following elements:

An indication of the species (i.e., horse / pony / equine).


The term supplement (in most cases). However, as you may recall from Part One, this a layman’s term and not an official label term.


Either what is in the supplement as an ingredient of interest.


What part of the anatomy the supplement is formulated towards


Its function.

Table showing some common target areas and typical ingredients:

Horse Anatomical Area / Function Ingredients You May Find Included Labelling Declarations
Joints ·         Glucosamine

·         Chondroitin

·         Hyaluronic Acid

·         Omega 3 sources

·         Silicon

·         Collagen peptides

Dependent upon ingredients
Tendons / Ligaments ·         Silicon

·         Collagen source

·         Amino acids

Dependent upon ingredients
Bones ·         Silicon

·         Calcium

·         Vitamin D

·         Amino acids

Dependent upon ingredients
Cartilage ·         Silicon

·         Glucosamine

·         Chondroitin

·         Amino acids

Dependent upon ingredients
Large Intestine Cereal grains processed via a hydrothermal treatment, such as extrusion, micronisation, expansion or flaking, to improve small intestinal starch digestion Starch

Crude Fat

Small Intestine ·         Highly digestible fibres

·         High quality protein sources

·         Lysine

·         Cereal grains processed via a hydrothermal treatment (e.g., extrusion or micronisation), to improve precaecal digestion

Highly digestible feed materials including their processing, if appropriate

Total sugar and starch

Protein sources

Support of energy metabolism and of the muscle function in the case of rhabdomyolosis ·         Crude Fat

·         Vitamin E



Crude fat

Vitamin E (total)

Compensation of electrolyte loss in the cases of heavy sweating ·         Sodium chloride

·         Potassium chloride

·         Magnesium

·         Calcium

·         Phosphorous







Hooves ·         Zinc

·         Methionine

·         Biotin

Zinc (total)

Methionine (total)

Biotin (if added)


Reminder: A supplement is not a medicine. Thus be wary when a non-medicinal product makes claims that it will “prevent, treat, or cure a disease”. This is not in line with regulatory standards.



The straightforward answer to this is: you should start a horse on supplements according to the label feeding guidelines.

In absence of any specific guidance on the equine supplement label, you may wish to err on the side of caution and follow the tried and tested rules of feeding horses. For example:

  • Making changes to the horse’s diet gradually.  Introduce a new supplement to your horse’s diet below the recommended feed rate and build up to it over the course of 7 to 10 days.
  • Feeding little and often. So split across multiple feeds instead of a single feed, where practical to do so (e.g., feed rate may be so small that splitting across multiple feeds would not make sense to do this).

If you compete, then you also need to consider is the supplement competition legal and consulting the rules of your competition governing body (e.g., the FEI, British Horse Racing, Horse Racing Ireland etc.) is a good place to start to see what is allowed or not as the case may be. These rules may influence whether you even start using an equine supplement or not for your horse, or if you need to cease use of it a certain timeframe in advance of competition, or if it is suitable for use before and during competition time or not.

Information on how to start a horse on supplements
Starting equine supplements for your horse



Let’s look at the answer to this question from a couple of angles:

  1. The different forms that horse supplements come in and what each may mix best with.

This will likely depend upon the nature of the equine supplement and any directions the manufacturer may give:

  • Say you have a syringe equine supplement then it may just be delivered directly via the horse’s mouth, or you may prefer to mix it through the horse’s hard feed.
  • Or perhaps it is a liquid equine supplement that is palatable then pouring it over some sliced carrots may be sufficient if no hard feed is given, or if a hard feed is given then you could mix it through it or pour it over the top.
  • A granular equine supplement may be intended as a top dressing or could be mixed through the hard feed.
  • However, if it is a powder equine supplement, then likelihood is it is intended to be mixed through the hard feed. If you don’t feed a hard feed, or if you just feed a dry cube or coarse mix, then using soaked sugar beet or dampened chaff might be a good option to help carry that supplement into your horse.
  1. The scenario of palatability issues

    (i.e., the horse doesn’t want to eat what it is presented with).

    Is your horse usually keen for their feed but the introduction of a new equine supplement has changed that?

  • Should they normally be a fussy feeder, then that scenario may need looked at in more detail (e.g., from the perspective of their teeth and gut health, as well as what is being offered to them and what it is being offered in), or perhaps that is their “normal”. In which case also think here about the feed container the horse is eating out of. You wouldn’t want to eat your dinner off a plate with old rotting food on it. So keep horse feed pots nice and clean, so as to not deter horses from eating their feed.
  • Whereas if they are usually a good eater and the introduction of the supplement has changed that, then a few things you may wish to try on their own or in combination with one another are:
    • Reducing the amount of supplement and re-introducing to the diet gradually (if not already done so).
    • Adding a little linseed oil or micronized linseed meal.
    • Including some succulents (i.e., sliced carrots or apples)
    • Using some soaked sugar beet as a carrier.
    • Some horses reportedly like beetroot powder, but success with this can vary.

In other words, try and keep things simple by introducing into their usual feed but if needs be then you may need to try a bit of trial and error to see what your horse likes best.

Tips on how to improve palatability when feeding supplements for horses
Helping palatability for the horse when feeding equine supplements


When using multiple equine supplements, it is good to understand what is in each one and if any of these ingredients overlap to an excessive extent. In other words, understand if they could result in over-supply of certain nutrients above upper safe levels.

In addition, look at how they contribute to the mineral ratios in the overall diet of the horse. Select ingredients that help balance these out, as opposed to pushing the ratios further out of range. Refer to the section entitled “What is a Horse Supplement?” in Part One of this series for more information on this aspect.

Whenever you are in doubt, then consult with your vet.



It is fair to say that if you take a logical approach. In other words, to determine what equine supplements may be beneficial to give to your horse, based on the balance of their overall diet. As such, the likelihood of you reaching an over supplementation situation should be reduced. Refer to section “Should you give your horse supplements?” from Part One of this blog series.

You want your horse to have mostly forage and for any equine supplements to be the smallest portion of their intake. The amounts of which to be in line with the feed label and minimal overlap (if any) in nutrients (unless overall levels or ratios necessitate such).

However, should the horse receive more than it needs then they may excrete it out of their bodies (e.g., water soluble vitamins). Some considerations to have where there is overlap in nutrients include:

  • Mineral toxicity (e.g., Selenium and Iodine).
  • Vitamin toxicity (e.g., Fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K).
  • Competing nutrients (e.g., Excessive intake of zinc or iron can interfere with copper absorption).



A horse needs a balanced diet, appropriate exercise programme, caring management routine and access to natural horse lifestyle experiences.

Undoubtedly, horses in training and competition face stressors. As do many leisure horses. Examples of such stressors are:

  • Increased stable confinement.
  • Reduction in pasture turn-out.
  • Increased exercise intensity.
  • Travel.
  • Competition venue stabling.
  • A heightened risk of exposure to pathogens (disease-causing organisms).

These stressors tax the equine musculoskeletal and immune systems.

The musculoskeletal system includes the bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons, and other connective tissue. Disorders of these systems are common in horses, which can lead to lameness and other problems.

In addition to a good vaccination program, a balanced diet is one of the best defenses a horse has against disease. Any deficiencies or imbalances in nutrition, including minerals, essential amino acids, and fibre, can compromise immune function.

Often the core forage and concentrate feed diet does not fully meet this need for the horse. However, if you were to increase those feed items, then that would also increase calorie intake, energy levels and other nutrient levels. These may not need any further increase and could cause detriment to the horse. As a result, supplements are important for horses, because they allow these additional nutrients to be included in a more controlled and focused manner than would otherwise be possible.

Horse stressors and diet to support connective tissues, muscles and immune system
Examples of horse stressors and their impact


In conclusion, feed materials and feed additives are commonly referred to as “horse supplements” or “equine supplements”. The decision as to whether to give supplements to your horse or not is personal to your set of circumstances. This decision is ideally tailored to the needs of the horse.

A logical approach that looks at the whole of the horse’s diet and then bolts on an equine supplement in  line with the needs of the horse is a pragmatic approach to take.

Supplements for horses can be set up for success to work by ensuring you select quality products. This and how long they take to work can both be helped by following the feeding guidelines.

Different equine supplements are formulated with different ingredients. The preference is that the ingredients are at levels based on scientific and research focused evidence. In addition, the label will advise whether they are horse supplements for joints, a hoof supplement, or an equine supplement for connective tissues for example.

Hopefully this blog has given you some food for thought as to how to go about deciding whether your horse needs an equine supplement or not. Moreover, if one is required, that you have some help in selecting the best horse supplement for their needs.

We are interested in your thoughts, comments and questions. Please reach out and connect with us.



 Link to Part One: Considerations on How to Supplement Horses Diets: Part One (equine-x.com)

FEI Prohibited Substances Database: FEI Prohibited Substances Database | FEI

Horse & Hound article on the rules of feeding: https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/features/horse-nutrition-the-10-golden-rules-of-feeding-40745

For educational courses on nutrition and other equine related topics: https://equitopiacenter.com/ref/Equine-X/


Equine-X® is a registered feed business and the home of CONNEXION®. CONNEXION® is a feed material (aka: equine supplement / horse supplement) formulated to support equine connective tissues. Examples of equine connective tissues are tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone, and fascia.

Interested in finding out more about the connective tissues in horses?

Head over to our blog on this topic, available via this link: EQUINE CONNECTIVE TISSUE EXPLAINED (equine-x.com)



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