We enjoy our horses best when they are fit and healthy and what our horses eat goes a long way in determining how healthy they will be. From time to time, you need to supplement or augment your food intake. Shouldn’t the same apply to our horses? Horse supplements are anything else fed to horses apart from the natural forage. In this context, it refers to extra nutrients that are added to the horse’s feed. This is usually to make up for the deficiencies in their meals.

This article talks about the different types of supplements for your horses needs. You may not need them all at once but you are most likely going to need some of them at one time or another.

1. Vitamins And Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are the most needed supplements. They are meant to further fortify the horse’s diet. They are a must for growing horses or when you feel that the quality of forages is less than ideal. Vitamins and minerals are important to correct any equine nutritional deficiencies. Broodmares in gestation or lactation also need them.

Experts believe that vitamins and minerals can stand in for other supplements. They can prevent or provide some help in cases of injuries and metabolic disorders but you need to be cautious when feeding a horse with these supplements. This is more important with horses fed with commercial products. There is a possibility of toxicity if a horse gets overfed with some vitamins and minerals. So, make sure you need to read the label instructions for each supplement your horse will feed on. Healthy horses should produce certain supplemental vitamins under normal circumstances. Glucose in their liver and microbes in their hindgut supply these vitamins.

Functions of Common Vitamins and Minerals

  • Vitamins B and C are good for stressed or ill horses.
  • There are microminerals like calcium, sodium, and chloride. These and phosphorus are sources of electrolytes. Horses also derive electrolytes from potassium, magnesium, and sulfur. They depend on electrolytes for healthy muscle functions and a better circulatory system.
  • There are also microminerals that are not needed in large quantities. Among these are iron, zinc, copper, and manganese. Others are selenium, cobalt, silicon, and chromium. They are best given as chelates or proteinates, according to experts.

2. Digestive Support Supplements

These are the type of supplements for horses prone to digestive issues or colic. It may be necessary to feed microbes of the hindgut so that roughage can digest quicker. Digestive support supplements are important here. They are also crucial for a healthy balance of microbes in the system of your horse.

Functions of Common Digestive Supplements

  • Digestive supplements include the combination of probiotics, and yeast or oligosaccharides. The presence of these in the horse’s system encourages healthy gut bacteria. Digestive enzymes also thrive in their presence.
  • Among the supplements are active live yeasts or hydrolyzed yeasts. They are usually used for horses with digestive problems.
  • There are probiotics for horses prone to colic. These are harmless bacteria like lactobacillus that produce lactic acid. They aid in breaking down forage fibers. Other probiotics are aspergillus and oryzae.
  • You also have herbs that enhance feed.
  • There are other natural microbes like streptococcus and bifidobacterium as well. These can also be part of a horse’s supplements.
  • Horse owners have fed their horse with mycotoxin binders. Together with mannan oligosaccharides, they can bind toxins and other harmful substances.
  • They protect the horse’s digestive tract from bacteria like salmonella.

3. Gastric Support Supplements

Gastric ulcers are among the most common of equine health problems. It is cheaper to prevent them than cure them. Effective management of certain changes in the body is a sure way of preventing it. Stress reduction, increasing turnout time, and constant forage provision are also important. But gastric support supplements can also be of great help.

Common Gastric Support Supplements

  • Soluble fiber
  • L-glutamine
  • Collagen
  • Aloe
  • Sea buckthorn
  • Licorice

4. Bone And Joint Supplements

Horses may need joint and bone supplements for several reasons. The first reason is age. They show signs of osteoarthritis as they grow older. Younger horses also need these supplements because they are involved in a lot of activities. So, they use their joints and bones more often. There are supplements that help reinvigorate their joints, bones, and hips.

When a horse works too much, you may start to observe clicks and cracks. You need these supplements if your horse’s joints usually stiffen before or after work. You must prevent this before the strain and stress start to show on the horse’s joints. Otherwise, there may be inflammation or an eventual loss of the cartilage.

Uses of Common Bone and Joint Supplements

  • GAG (glycosaminoglycan) helps the horse’s body to reverse damages to cartilage. It’s believed to prevent inflammation in joints and connecting tissues.
  • MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is another joint and bone supplement. It strengthens the joint and reinvigorates its health.
  • Hyaluronic acid and silicon work in a similar way.
  • There’s also glucosamine, a complex sugar molecule. It is a primary constituent of joint cartilage. It can inhibit the enzymes breaking down the cartilage.
  • Horse owners are reporting that chondroitin sulfate supplement repairs degenerative joints. So, flexion, lameness, and stride lengths have experienced improvements.
  • Silicon aids the elasticity of bone density and soft tissue. It can help strengthen a horse’s bones. This is because it increases the uptake of calcium and phosphorus. Silicon supplement can reduce the risk of injuries and it is important to the bone mineralization.
  • Multivitamin supplements that contain vitamins A, C, D, and E also help.

Ingredients Found in Skin and Coat Supplements

  • Omega 3 and Omega 6 can help in the production of oil in your horse’s coat. These fatty acids can also support skin circulation.
  • Flaxseed protects your horse’s skin and coat against bacteria and other infections.

Others are:

  • Chia seed
  • Rice bran
  • Biotin
  • Zinc
  • Soybean meal
  • Yeast
  • Vitamin E

5. Hoof Care Supplements

Imbalanced diets can be a common causes for poor hoof quality. This may cause brittle, shaley feet for horses. Such feet tend to lose shoes. Hoof care supplements will be of immense help to those horses. Many of the supplements are usually marketed through farrier supply companies. Hoof care supplements can be additives while others can be in treat form.

Ingredients Found In Hoof Care Supplements

  • Biotin is the main ingredient and nutrient in most hoof care supplements. Biotin is reputable for promoting healthy growth of the hoof. It is also involved in the growth and division of cells. That is why it can play an important role in all connective tissues’ health. According to studies, the positive effect of biotin on hooves is not immediately felt. You have to feed your horse with them for a couple months before the hoof’s growth is noticeable.

Other ingredients include:

  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Threonine
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Cobalt
  • MSM
  • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids

6. Weight Gain Supplements

Some horses may have difficulty in gaining weight. They may remain unchanged even after feeding them with a lot of high-quality forage. Some may have recently recovered from a serious disease. The vet may have given the horse a clean bill of health. Yet the horse may be finding it difficult to hit the ideal weight. There are weight gain supplements that are high in fat. These will add the needed calories to the horse’s body.

Common Weight Gain Supplements

  • Vegetable fats
  • Amino acids
  • Rice bran
  • Flax meal

7. Performance Enhancement Supplements

The use of performance-enhancing supplements is common to equine athletes. They give the horse an extra vigor and vitality to endure and keep a good pace. This gives them an edge during competitions.

Functions of Common Performance Enhancement Supplements

  • Octacosanol is in wheat germ oil, a lot of vegetable oils, and alfalfa. Octacosanol is long-chain primary alcohol. It increases the horse’s stamina and strength.
  • DMG (dimethylglycine) is another compound helping equine athletes increase the intensity of work. It also helps horses recover faster. DMG is also believed to improve appetite.
  • MSM is also a performance enhancer. It is a product of DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide). DMSO, in turn, is usually used as an anti-inflammatory. It occurs in the bloodstream, albeit in very small amounts. MSM can also be a preventative supplement for muscle soreness. Some horse owners use it to relieve their horse’s arthritis or aid hoof growth. It can be used for a couple of other things besides being a performance enhancement.

8. Calming Supplements

Your horse may have to exercise a lot to use up the energy that has piled up in its system. Horse calming supplements can be of immense help to you here. They have a way of calming horses that tend to be edgy and a horse may have an inclination toward disobedience. 

Functions of Common Calming Supplements

  • Vitamin B1 is a very common calming supplement. According to research, horses with anxiety may be suffering from a deficiency of B1. Such horses may be irritable and have a slight sign of anxiety.
  • Magnesium is another supplement that calms horses with the same condition.
  • L-tryptophan-containing supplements have also proved to be effective in calming horses.
  • Herbal remedies can also relax horses’ muscles and nerves. They include chamomile, hops, and valerian. Other soothing and calming herbs include berries. Raspberry, for example, helps relax a horse’s muscular and nervous system.

9. Senior Horse Supplements

As observed earlier, age exposes horses to certain difficulties peculiar to old age. An older horse can’t work as hard as before without paying for it in some way. There are supplements that take care of this situation. They are classified as senior supplements. You can’t do without such supplements when your horse’s age approaches the 20s or 30s.

Important Things To Note About Senior Horse Supplements

  • There are supplements specially formulated for senior horses. They are an all-in-one formula that helps take  care of the challenges older horses may face. 
  • They may include ingredients that address anything related to joint health.
  • There may also be supplements that boost the immune system as this is likely to weaken with age.
  • Other senior horses’ supplements are for weight maintenance.
  • Some digestive support supplements can also take care of senior horses.
  • It is good to exercise some caution so you do not overfeed your horse with supplements. Some of them may contain what your horse is already deriving from other sources.
  • You also need to watch out for banned substances. Don’t make the mistake of feeding your horse with this in the name of supplements. Some associations conduct blood tests for these. A good understanding of the contents label will help. 
  • Look also for products with a seal of approval form authorized regulators. The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) is one of such. Such a seal provides further assurance that what you are giving your horse is exactly what is listed on the label.

10. Multipurpose Supplements

These are supplements that help slow down the effect of aging in horses. They will help a horse to stay active and agile. They do to horses what multivitamins do to humans.

If your horse feeds on multipurpose supplements, you may not need corrective supplements. This is because their hooves, coat, and joints will be well supported. These supplements will also make up for any equine dietary inadequacies. Your horse’s system will have a big enough supply of vitamins and minerals.

Functions of Common Multivitamin Supplements

  • Vitamins A, C, D, and E combined will make your horse’s coat shiny and smooth.
  • Individual formulation of these vitamins can do this to a degree.
  • Omega 3 and 6 are also capable of doing the same,  as essential fatty acids (EFAs).
  • Glucosamine sulfate can take care of joints flexibility and prevent or reduce stiffness.

11. Health Aids

On a general note, most packaged equine feeds can belong to one type of horse supplement or the other. So, they may be helpful in certain ways. But they may also be harmful. The ones recognized as beneficial are not completely risk-free.

Consider, for instance, a flaxseed meal. It treats the horse’s coat in a nice way and assists an itchy horse or one with hives. But it can increase the risk of bleeding. Another example is vitamin E. It is rich as an essential muscular and neurological equine supplements. It’s important for horses that are not getting enough grass in their diets. Yet, this supplement is capable of elongating bleeding time. Fish oil is yet another supplement with similar features.

Factors Determining the Use of Horse Supplements

It is important to consider the following factors before deciding which of the different types of supplements to give your horse.

Combination Supplements or Single Supplements

As you have already seen, there are combination supplements. They are formulated to take care of so many aspects of equine well-being. Many horse owners find them convenient. You don’t need to carry more containers. You are less likely to forget the prescription or miss dosages. Nonetheless, using combination supplements come with some challenges. Their efficacy in a particular case depends on the amount of each ingredient in them. Some ingredients may be too little in a supplement to make the advertised impact. Others may be too much and cause some serious side effects. In that case, it may be advisable to go for supplements that tackle a particular condition.

Ingredients interaction and stability

You need to consider the stability of each ingredient in the supplement. The physical and chemical environments may impact on certain nutrients. This will reduce their effectiveness. Others change formation when mixed with other ingredients. They can then become even harmful to your horse.


The key things you need to know about different types of supplements and how they affect your horse. You are always going to need to supplement your horse’s food to boost their vitality. The important thing is knowing exactly what type of supplement your horse needs, and in what quantity. This is where the services of a horse nutritionist is crucial.

Table Of Contents

clickable navigation

Chapter 1 – Different Types Of Supplements For Horses

Chapter 2 –  Vitamins And Minerals

Chapter 3 – Digestive Support Supplements

Chapter 4 – Gastric Support Supplements

Chapter 5 – Bone And Joint Supplements

Chapter 6 – Hoof Care Supplements

Chapter 7 –  Weight Gain Supplements

Chapter 8 – Performance Enhancement Supplements

Chapter 9 – Calming Supplements

Chapter 10 – Senior Horse Supplements

Chapter 11 – Multipurpose Supplements

Chapter 12 – Health Aids

Chapter 13 – Conclusion


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