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As a specialist retailer of equine supplements, we understand how confusing selecting a supplement can be. There are a wide variety of supplements on the market, each claiming to have a specific benefit to your horse, but what should you look for in a supplement? And which supplement would be best for your horse?

What is a supplement?

Before you can decide which supplement would best suit your horse, it is important to first understand what is meant by the term, “Supplement.” A supplement is defined as, “Something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.” Therefore, any supplement you add should improve or complete your horses’ diet. There is no doubt that a correct program of supplementation can improve performance (often dramatically), prevent injury or illness, and speed recovery times after intense effort. When nutrients are used in this sense they are often referred to as nutraceuticals. Conversely, a diet which is over supplemented can have just as dramatic ill-effects on a horse’s performance, and even affect its general health and well-being.

Nutritionally balanced diets

People often do not realise the importance of a correctly and nutritionally balanced diet; that is, a diet which contains the correct ratio of forage to grains and a calculated intake of vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that sub optimal nutrition will have deleterious effects on key body systems and functions, and even personality is influenced for better or worse with improper nutrition.

Horse owners are often confused by the array of feeds available, many of which are called “balanced feeds”. Complete horse feeds are nutritionally balanced however unless fed at exactly the correct quantity they easily become unbalanced, and often do not take into consideration the quality and quantity of forage fed. If horse owners actually fed their horses at the manufacturers recommended daily quantity, many horses would be overweight and too ‘fizzy’ to ride. It is therefore vital to ensure that you are aware of the quantities of vitamins and minerals your horse is ingesting, so you are able to make an informed choice as to which supplements they require.

The only way to get a completely accurate evaluation of nutritional intake is by having feed and hay analysed by a laboratory, which is expensive and rarely practiced. However, a fairly accurate estimation can be made using the quantities of vitamins and minerals given on the reverse of your feed bag. If you find that your horse is lacking in vitamins and minerals, supplementing their diet is a good option – broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplements are inexpensive, easy to feed and widely available.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Most supplement manufacturers make a vitamin and mineral supplement, also called a “balancer” and choosing the correct one can be daunting, however there are a few things you can look out for, which will assure you that the supplement is of high quality and good for your horse. Firstly, there is a list of essential vitamins and minerals, which are recognised by the National Research Council as being required in a horse’s daily diet. These should be included in a balancer and can be found in the table below:

Major Minerals Trace Minerals B-Vitamins Vitamins Amino Acids
Calcium Cobalt Biotin Vitamin A Lysine
Magnesium Copper B12 Vitamin C Methionine
Phosphorus Fluorine Folic Acid Vitamin D  
Potassium Iodine Pantothenic Acid Vitamin E  
Sodium Iron Niacin Vitamin K  
Chloride Manganese Pyridoxine B6    
Sulphur Selenium Riboflavin    
  Zinc Thiamine    

Secondly, it is important that the minerals contained in the balancer are at the correct ratio to one another, as an incorrect balance between minerals can prohibit uptake of others. Below is a short summary of the key minerals, their functions, the ratios of certain minerals to others and symptoms of deficiency and toxicity.

From the table, it is easy to see that vitamins and minerals within the horse are very much “intertwined” and act alongside one another. Therefore, if your horse is showing signs of deficiency, it would be impossible to pinpoint which vitamin or mineral he is lacking; and the chances are, if your horse is deficient in one mineral, he will be deficient in another, making his dietary intake unbalanced. The best way to rectify this would be to feed a balancer, which should provide your horse with the correct ratio of all the essential vitamins and minerals. There are many factors that affect the horse’s nutritional requirements, and therefore the best balancer to feed. These factors include: teeth and digestion, age, exercise, breed, pregnancy, illness, location, injury and general health. It is also worth noting that many manufacturers have created balancers which are specific for certain types of horses, such as broodmares and competition horses. Below are examples of these vitamin and mineral supplements and the reasons they are specialised.

Mare and Foal

When in foal, a mare’s nutritional needs become much greater and more specific as she nears the end of her pregnancy, therefore you may wish to feed her a balancer which is specifically designed to include the correct levels of certain minerals, namely calcium and phosphorus, which are essential during pregnancy and lactation. These minerals are also essential for foals, as it is vital that their vitamin and mineral intake is adequate whilst they are growing and developing. A good example of this type of supplement is NAF Mare, Foal and Youngstock. Available in 1.8kg and 3.6kg, it provides the correct ratio of calcium:phosphorus, alongside a broad spectrum of micronutrients essential to healthy growth and development.

Veteran

If you were looking for a balancer for a veteran on the other hand, you may be looking to give them an extra ‘spark’ and help to reduce joint stiffness. An example of a balancer designed to do this is Science Supplements WellHorse Veteran. It contains all the vitamins, minerals and trace elements necessary to keep your older horse in tip-top condition and feeling well, plus the added benefit of glucosamine and MSM to help maintain joint function and reduce stiffness, helping to ensure that your veteran stays active for longer. It also contains a probiotic which helps to maintain digestive efficiency to ensure that you older horse absorbs as many nutrients from his feed as possible; something that can become a problem as horses get older.

Laminitic

Vitamin and mineral supplements can also be very important for horses prone to, or suffering from, laminitis, as their feed intake will be greatly restricted, so the levels of nutrients they are absorbing will be below optimum. It has also been shown that some minerals may help to reduce the likelihood of laminitis occurring; such minerals include magnesium, vanadium and chromium. It is vital, when supplementing a laminitic horse or pony, to ensure that the supplement is suitable, as an unsuitable supplement, which may be rich in starch or sugars, can cause more harm than good. In order to ensure the supplement is suitable for your horse, you should ideally look out for the Laminitis Trust approval logo. A good example of this type of supplement is Formula 4 Feet by Equi Life. Developed by Dr Robert Eustace, director of the Laminitis Clinic and Dr David Frape, the country’s leading equine nutritionist, Formula 4 Feet was originally designed as a hoof supplement to improve hoof horn quality. However, with over 65 micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, Formula 4 Feet is also a very comprehensive feed balancer. It comes in a 7kg or a 20kg bag.

Performance/Competition Horse

It goes without saying that a feed balancer is fairly essential for a performance horse, as they will be utilising a larger proportion of vitamins and minerals than the average happy hacker! Dressage, show jumping and event horses all require greater levels of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium as they are required for muscle contraction and nervous impulses during training and competing. They also require extra sodium and chloride, to replace the salt lost when the horse sweats. A basic balancer would be adequate for a performance horse; however there are specific supplements on the market which provide extra nutrients for these elite athletes. One such supplement is Farnam Red Cell. In liquid form, it acts as an excellent all round vitamin and mineral supplement, as well as boosting performance in competition horses due to its high iron content – definitely one of our best sellers!

All-Rounders

Although it is important to address the needs of specific types of horses, most fall into the final category, which is hard to give just one name. Known as “Happy Hackers,” “Leisure Horses,” “Family Friends” and “All-Rounders,” these horses generally do a ‘bit of everything’ and tend to be easy going, even tempered and well behaved. Although not in hard work and seemingly fit and healthy, their nutritional needs are still on par with those of the specific categories of horse discussed earlier. For these allrounders, there are several simple vitamin and mineral balancers on the market designed to provide a base level of balanced vitamins and minerals, without a focus on a specific element, as is the case with the other products discussed. A good example of this type of balancer is Global Herbs Globalvite. It contains all the vital vitamins and minerals that your leisure horse needs to stay fit and healthy, including a correctly balanced ratio of calcium and phosphorus. Also worth noting is that the minerals in this balancer are chelated, or protein bound, which will help them to be absorbed more readily into the body through the wall of the intestines. This balancer is available in 3kg, 6kg and 12kg tubs so is suited to all yard sizes and budgets. A slightly more comprehensive balancer for this type of horse is NAF In The Pink Powder, which again contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals, with the added benefit of Sacchromyces cerevisiae, a species of yeast that works alongside the micro flora in the horses digestive system, allowing your horse to digest and absorb more of the nutrients it is feed. NAF In The Pink Powder is also available in various sizes, from 1.4kg right up to 10kg, so would be perfectly suited to any yard.

Which Supplement?

As you can see, the choice of vitamin and mineral supplements is vast, which makes it confusing when you are trying to select a balancer. There is no doubt that there will be a supplement on the market to suit both the needs of yourself and your horse, however if you are unsure of which one to choose, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will do our utmost to help you.

Joint Supplements

Joint supplements are designed to keep joints healthy and supple through work and competition, and can help older horses with their mobility and joint comfort. The number of joint supplements available is vast and finding the right one for your horse can be quite a challenge! Here is a breakdown of the key ingredients in joint supplements. All you need to do is select the ingredients most suitable to your horses needs and find a supplement that contains them. Some examples of the different types of joint supplements are also listed below. 

Glucosamine: A naturally occuring substance that plays a vital role in building cartilage, the "natural shock absorber," and connective tissuse in joints.

Chondroitin: Assists the joint in withstanding the compression and concussion associated with horses in hard work or with compromised joint function. Also acts to reduce the number of "cartilage chewing" enzymes present in damaged joints. 

Glucosamine and chondroitin work synergistically to help regenerate new cartilage and re-establish the function of damaged joints. 

MSM: Methyl sulphonyl methane (MSM) is essential for the health and elasticity of the connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, soft tissues and muscles surrounding the joints. 

HA: Hyaluronuc Acid, or HA, as it is more commonly known, makes up the sticky, viscous liquid surrounding your horses joints. This synovial fluid reduces friction between the joint cartilage during movement. In older or degenerated joints, this fluid becomes very thin and ineffective, thus causing pain and inflammation on movement. 

Collagen: Collagen is relatively new to the equine joint supplement market, but has its place, particularly in heavily solicited joint of competition horses and hunters. Collagen works by interacting with the horse's immune system to prevent white blood cells attacking the horse's own cartilage, allowing the body to perform it's natural reparation process. Collagen comes in two forms; type 1 and type 2. It is thought that type 2 is more effective than type 1, as it is in the state in which it is found in the horse's body, whereas type 1 has been altered using high heat or chemical processes, making in less easily recognised by the immune system. 

Green Lipped Mussel: A potent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, including EPAs and DHAs, which have been linked with a wide range of health benefits, including joint health. Green Lipped Mussel extract has natural soothing properties, so is ideal for stiff, older joints. It also contains naturally occuring chondroitin sulphate so helps to promote healthy cartilage and connective tissue. 

NAF Superflex

Glucosamine Sulphate, Chondroitin Sulphate, MSM, Hyaluronic Acid and antioxidants to maintain healthy, flexible joints.

Equistro Flexadin UCII

Patented undenatured type 2 collagen, MSM and manganese; a combination that has proved its efficacy in clinical studies in horses (Gupta, 2009).

Maxavita MaxaFlex

Glucosamine HCL, Green Lipped Mussel, MSM and Hyaluronic Acid to combine the soothing power of Green Lipped Mussel with key ingredients to offer short and long term support for joint health. 

Calming Supplements

Calmers can be very useful in situations where horses are displaying undesirable behaviour, due to stress or tension, or are showing signs of worry. Such behaviours include: spooking, napping, box walking, weaving, excitability and stereotypical behaviours.

Calmers are also useful for competition nerves, new environments, loading, travelling, shoeing and clipping. Calming supplements can be broken down into three categories: magnesium-based, L-tryptophan-based and herbal. 

Magnesium-based Calmers

Magnesium-based calmers work well when the horse in question has a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is involved in muscle contraction and nerve function, so if this is lacking, the horse may display stress-related behaviours. Supplementing with a magnesium-based calmer rebalancers the magnesium levels in the horse's system and thus helps to resolve the behavioural problems. 

NAF Magic

Magic is a magnesium calmer with a difference. Its a five star formula that is magnesium based, but there's more; Magic also contains a unique combination of calming herbs and nutrients known to help relax muscle tissue ans support concentration. 

ProSportive Chill

Chill provides effective ingredients to aid in the reduction of anxiety and undesirable behaviour in the equine species. Such behaviour has been linked to a lack of magnesium in the diet. CHill provides magnesium from two distinct sources to ensure optimal uptake and utilisation. L-tryptophan may also help to reduce undesirable behaviour by working in the brain to produce serotonin, which promotes a feeling of wellbeing, calm and relaxation. 

L-Tryptophan-based calmers

L-Tryptophan is an amino acid, which is converted to serotonin in the body. Serotonin is known as the "happy hormone" and acts in the brain to help your horse feel more secure, calm and happier in his environment. 

NutriScience AnxiKalm Compete

AnxiKalm Compete is a scientifically designed nutritional powdered supplement to help calm excitable horses in stressful conditions, such as competition, travelling or sales, therefore maximising equine performance. It is safeto use in horses and ponies competing. 

Science Supplements ProKalm

An innovation in helping manage anxiety, worried horses, stereotypical behaviour and challenging behaviour. Contains a blend of amino acids and herbs. 

Herbal Calmers

Valerian is the herb of chouce in calmers; it acts to help reduce anxiety and tension, however valerenic acid is on the FEI prohibited substances list, so valerian calmers are unsuitable for competition horses. 

James Hart V Calm

V Calm can be used to calm fractious, over-anxious or nervous horses. It has been widely used to settle horses during various types of training and stressful situations. With a tincture in the ration of 1:2, this is the strongest product of its kind on the equine market. 

NutriScience AnxiKalm

Valerian-based calmer offering a rapid effect. Scientifically designed and formulated to help calm excitable horses in stressful conditions. AnxiKalm is ideal for the management of a "difficult" horse.

 BETA UFAS NOPS Code

Reducing the Risk of Disqualification from Naturally Occurring Prohibited Substances in Feed.

The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) has introduced two assurance schemes designed to reduce the risk of naturally occurring prohibited substances (NOPS) in equine feeds.

The Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS), Naturally Occurring Prohibited Substances (NOPS) Code is designed for manufacturers of compound feeds, and the Feed materials Assurance Scheme (FEMAS) NOPS Code is a sister scheme designed for raw material and straights providers. Both UFAS and FEMAS together with the NOPS components are administered by the AIC (Agricultural Industries Confederation). Companies are audited through the AIC schemes as well as being bound by additional requirements run by BETA as part of the BETA UFAS NOPS code.

Feeds and supplements conforming to the new Codes will carry logos to reassure owners and trainers of the stringent quality management procedures that have been undertaken by manufacturers.

NOPS


NOPS – what are they and where do they come from?

The definition of a prohibited substance is “any substance that can exert an effect on a horse” which is a broad, all encompassing definition. A naturally occurring prohibited substance (or NOPS) is one that is either naturally present within certain ingredients or that occurs as a result of inadvertent cross contamination during processing before arriving at the feed manufacturer’s facility. The main NOPS and their sources are:

  • Caffeine – (cacao)
  • Theobromine – (cacao)
  • Theophylline – (tea)
  • Morphine – (opium poppy, Papaver somniferum)
  • Hyoscine –  (nightshade, Datura)
  • Hordenine – (germinating barley)
  • Atropine – (nightshade – Atropa belladonna)
  • Nicotine – from tobacco

Historically the principal risk has come from caffeine and theobromine, but more recently several incidences of morphine contamination of feed have occurred, coinciding with the cultivation of morphine poppies in UK.

The British Horseracing Authority’s Rules of Racing and International FEI rules for competition state a no threshold policy for naturally occurring substances that could affect performance, with the exception of theobromine.  Whilst the risks of such an occurrence are low, the consequences can be disastrous with loss of prize money, value, earnings, prestige, owners, trainers, riders, feed/supplement manufacturers and team placings.

BETA NOPS Assurance Schemes

The BETA Codes require manufacturers to evaluate the risk of a NOPS contamination during every step of the sourcing, storage, transport and manufacturing processes for their each product, and design their quality management systems in line with the risks identified.

Suppliers of raw materials will be regularly audited and staff will also undergo rigorous training to ensure strict adherence to the Code.

The Code has been endorsed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and the National Trainers Association.  Professor Tim Morris, Director of Equine Health and Welfare of the British Horseracing Authority says of the Code: “By significantly reducing the risk of NOPS, the new Code provides important protection for those competing or racing under rules. The fact that most of the UK’s major feed manufacturers have already agreed to comply with the Code confirms its viability as a workable verification system.”

The endorsement of the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is currently being sought and it is hoped to work with the FEI in the future.

Participating Companies

The following companies have signed up to be audited under the new codes.


Best Practice on Yard

Beyond the NOPS code, best practice for responsible control of prohibited substances on a yard should include the below. A downloadable 'Guide to Avoiding Prohibited Substances' can be found here.

There is also a more detailed leaflet which can be downloaded here.

Stable Management

  • Inform staff of all possible sources of contamination;
  • Forbid the consumption of food and drinks meant for human consumption in the stable;
  • Required stable staff to wash their hands thoroughly after and / or use disposable gloves whilst carrying out treatment on a horse or on themselves;
  • Require stable staff to declare any medications they are taking;
  • Empty and decontaminate the loose box, manger and water trough prior to the arrival of a new horse;
  • Empty and decontaminate the horse box after each journey;

Medication Management

  • Designate one person (who is well-informed of the risks of contamination) to look after the horses’ healthcare needs and to administer treatment(s);
  • Make it very clear which horse the vet should treat;
  • For each horse, have a log book available which details all treatment(s) currently being carried out as well as the prescribed dosages.
  • Keep prescriptions for the statutory period (namely, 5 years);
  • Be aware of medication ‘withdrawal periods’ before racing or competing;
  • Keep medication in a first-aid cupboard or box which is locked at all times;
  • If the manger or feed bucket is used to administer medication, clean thoroughly after use.

Feed Management

  • Choose companies accredited to the BETA / UFAS NOPS Code;
  • Keep the labels or delivery notes which state the batch numbers of the feed delivered,  suppliers being under obligation to keep samples of the batches;
  • If possible, keep samples of the feed upon delivery and keep for two months after the feed has been consumed in case of any future investigations;
  • Close the feed store when not in use;
  • Never place the first aid box, material(s), equipment or grooming kit in the feed store;
  • Designate one person (who is well-informed of the different contaminations risks)to prepare and distribute the feed rations;
Store Locations

Customers are welcome to collect orders, view products in our showroom or arrange a consultation. Whilst we do hold most items in stock, we advise you to telephone before you set off to check that the items your require are in stock. If you would like to arrange an appointment please contact us so we can schedule a time.

Office

Supplement Solutions Ltd
The Weind
Great Eccleston
Lancashire
PR3 0ZU
Tel: 01995 672464

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