Not all supplements are created equal

Jim eats better than I do. He has a personal nutritionist. He has all of his meals carefully planned. He gets an ideal amount of everything he needs to be the successful athlete he is. While I sit and just try to make a healthy recipe out of a book, he is getting the most perfect feed for his type, weight and exercise. What we feed our horses matters. They are athletes and they need the dietary support to perform how we want them to.

It’s sometimes easy as a horse owner to sit back and let others make decisions for you. Your horse may be fairly easy to feed. He or she may get fat on air. But when it comes to becoming an educated owner who likes to learn and be involved, it’s important to dive right in and understand WHY your horse is fed what he is.

I’m very fortunate to have a trainer who doubles as a nutritionist for the farm. She has spent a lot of time with me sitting down and discussing supplements and how best to tailor Jim’s diet to his workload and condition.

My favorite example is when it came to picking a new hoof supplement. Before I had Jim on the DAC Bloom and Oil for his coat and hooves. The products are fabulous together. However Jim started gaining fat pockets. He had tipped the side of the scale from muscle and healthy weight to getting fat and we wanted to nip it in the bud.

But not all hoof supplements are created equal and this is where equine nutrition and a knowledge in it become important.

For example, every supplement varies in the vitamins and amount of vitamins. They have to, otherwise they would all be the same product. Some have different fillers. Some are one ingredient. Some deliver vitamins by way of fat.

Hoof supplements are a perfect example of variation. They vary anywhere from 10mg of biotin in a 1oz scoop to 50mg or more. Some include copper, zinc and methionine while others are strictly biotin. It’s important as you begin to travel through the pages upon pages of supplements to have a trusted guide at your side. What sounds like Greek to you will be easily understood by someone with more experience.

But learn. Pay attention to why a supplement is better than another supplement for your horse. For Jim, he couldn’t have anything with a high fat content or something that delivered the biotin via fat. That was the reason he could not be on the Bloom anymore. But the methionine helps a horse’s body process biotin so it’s a good thing to have in a supplement.

We went through dozens. It took over an hour going through supplements to decide on one to try. And yes, I said try because at the end of the day, we may not be happy with it. Your horse’s diet – yours as well – is fluid. It always has to be assessed and tailored.

At some point, sit down with your trainer or someone – not a feed store rep – to analyze what you feed. Determine what holes exist in the feeding program and ask questions. Be more involved. At the end of the day, your horse will thank you.

Treats aren’t the only way to show love

I’m going to say something that will make everyone gasp…

Treats aren’t the only way you can show your horse love and appreciation.

I touched on some of these in my blog about my post-show routine, but I think it’s an important fact to get across. You don’t have to constantly feed your horse to make them happy.

With the issues of obesity in horses, many people don’t look into what they’re feeding as treats. Some treats are so laden with sugars, artificial flavors or fillers that it’s like giving your horse a McDonald’s milkshake every day.

And it’s not just sugar-filled treats. Apples have a historically higher sugar content than carrots do. Better yet – rainbow organic carrots have an even lower sugar content.

How many treats – even the little peppermints from restaurants that you nabbed on the way out – do you give a day? One or two? Or five to 10? It may seem incidental, but it’s not. It adds up in your horse’s overall health.

Along with finding low or no sugar treats and watching out for artificial flavors and starches, your horse would just as much appreciate a good liniment rub. Or a massage with a favorite curry comb. I have one of the curry combs with the rolling magnets on one side. Jim absolutely loves it!

Instead of filling up a treat ball or hanging a Lick-It in the stall, how about a few special moments of hand grazing? Or a nice shampoo and conditioning – including mane and tail – that would make your horse feel better.

Even a long scratch on the withers where it’s particularly itchy for horses is sometimes most satisfying for them than a treat. I’m not saying to never give treats – I think Jim would murder me – but feed within reason. One or two after a good work where he or she earned them is better than a huge handful for just existing. Also pay attention to what you’re feeding. I’ve been personally feeding Giddyap Girl treats that are lower in sugar and also include some good probiotics.

Your horse and his body condition score will thank you.

Product Review: My Favorite Supplements

One of the most hotly debated topics in the horse industry is supplements. Do you feed them? Do you not? How do you choose between the thousands of products that are available? I will admit I’ve only been a horse owner for a short period of time. However one of the things I find most important is education. I’ve taken the time to learn, ask questions and read all I can to be a more informed horse owner and to make better decisions.

When I first started out with Jack, my barn was a SmartPak barn. Almost every boarder in the barn and many of our lesson ponies had a SmartPak bin. I feed meals to the horses frequently on the weekends and the SmartPaks were easy to use and great to have around. At the time I was giving Jack Smart Dark and Handsome and SmartDigest Ultra (with ColiCare protection). But SmartPak began getting very expensive and even though the company had great benefits like the ColiCare program and free shipping, it wasn’t very feasible anymore. Also we had several horses at the barn who would balk at different supplements and refuse to eat them.

About a year ago, my barn owner started learning about DAC products. Our barn shows on the Quarter horse circuit and DAC has become very popular in the Quarter horse world. After starting Jack and then Jim on DAC, I can see why.

I feed DAC’s CoolGut, Bloom and Oil. (The Bloom and Oil together make for great hoof and skin support!) I’ve also fed their Foundation Formula for hooves before. I must say I’ve been impressed. Not only do the products work and really show a difference in my horse, but they smell amazing to the point where even humans want to try it! We really have yet to have a horse who has refused a DAC product.

Price wise you can’t beat it. DAC works through dealers in different regions across the country and you can buy directly online as well. DAC has become so popular that SmartPak began to carry some of the products in their wells. Although I’ve considered doing that, you still cannot beat the price for the DAC tubs. The only headache is feeding them out. You are now dealing with a lot of buckets that otherwise wouldn’t have been around with SmartPak.

It’s not to say that I don’t think SmartPak is a great company. They are and I do occasionally order from them. Just for supplements, DAC fits what I’m looking for in a great product.

If anyone has any questions about DAC or supplements, comment away!

(I have in no way been paid for this review and have purchased these products myself.)