Horse supplements: It pays to be proactive
As all riders and owners know, eventing asks a lot of its competition horses. They work consistently at higher speeds, adapt to different surfaces, train hard, sweat hard and travel regularly.
As a result, just like many high-performance athletes, they may need additional support. Event horses face pressures they wouldn’t experience naturally, so it’s not a surprise that they may need more support for their wellbeing and performance. As with so many other elements of caring for an event horse, it pays to be proactive rather than waiting for a problem to occur.
Whatever your aim for the season is, whether it’s to return to competition, to improve and progress or simply to embrace and enjoy taking part in the sport, now is the best time to think about how you can best support your horse’s health and wellbeing.
Supplements are an ideal way to balance the horse’s diet for general health, making up a shortfall of micronutrients (such as trace elements, minerals, vitamins and amino acids) and prebiotics and probiotics (such as yeast supplements and specialised sugars) for digestive health.
As with everything in eventing, the starting point has to be your horse – take an honest look at their diet, the level they’re working at and the frequency of training. At every level, your horse will be active and you will be the best judge of whether their behaviour or performance is off.
There are a number of supplements that can provide the ideal support for the event horse. Read on to find out more.
Every event rider wants their horse to have longevity. Alongside good riding
and good management, a decent-quality supplement is recommended to be part of the approach.
There are so many on the market it can be hard to identify the right one for your horse. My advice: go with those that are scientifically evidence based, such as Glucosamine with MSM, Superflex and Superflex Senior. These are all natural formulas, containing the building blocks to feed the joint and will benefit the integrity of the joint.
There are some joint supplements that are herbb ased, which offer pain relief but will not help the integrity of the joint and we would not recommend these for the competition horse.
“Now that Santiago Bay is just into her teens, it is more important than ever to know she has the best support for her joint health and flexibility. Competing at top level, it is vital for me to know that my horse can perform at her best and feeding Superflex provides me with that confidence.”
GEMMA TATTERSALL AND SANTIAGO BAY
As the season gets underway, there are some horses that may get excitable and sharp. Calmers enable the horse to maintain their focus and aid concentration. If you’re starting the season with a fabulous mare, the timing will coincide with their cycle – the horse’s ovaries are just below the spine and behind the saddle and riding can make them feel uncomfortable. To aid comfort and concentration, a calmer can bring great benefit.
“I feed Magic to my event horses, Watergate Bay and Star Fighter. Watergate Bay is an ex-racehorse and I find Magic really helps with his concentration and focus both at home and out at competitions. I can certainly tell when he hasn’t had it for a while.”
HARRIET COLDERICK AND WATERGATE BAY
Working horses can lose litres of sweat per hour, depending on temperature and humidity, and in addition to losing fluids, your horse will also be losing essential body ions, in particular sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium. In just two hours, this could equate to losing 10% of the body’s total chloride – one of the body’s essential nutrients. This, and the other lost salts, needs to be replaced to avoid dehydration, lethargy and poor performance and can be given to the horse in a variety of ways.
Syringes of electrolytes can be convenient but actually carry the risk of further dehydrating the horse, if fed without enough water. Instead, we prefer to mix the electrolytes, either in powder or liquid form, into water or a wet, sloppy feed such as well-soaked sugar beet. Make sure the water is tepid to encourage drinking.
If you’re competing at a higher level and travel regularly, you can train your horse to take the electrolytes in their water buckets. Not only is this effective and time-efficient but it also has the added benefit of masking the different taste of the local water. Start training them at home, gradually, and always remember to offer clean water alongside.
Travel and competition can be hard on the eventing horse and if your horse is showing signs that are causing concern, such as losing condition, tucked up, not travelling well or loose droppings, this suggests that something physical is happening and needs to be addressed.
Anything happening in the gut can also cause the horse stress as horses are controlled by the health of their digestive system. In fact, there is a direct link between digestive stress and mental health called the gut brain axis, which can affect the horse’s central nervous system and behaviour. As a result, digestive supplements, such as GastriAid, are advised to be used routinely rather than waiting for a problem to happen.
These supplements contain microflora, designed to keep the digestive tract calm and relaxed and the stomach happy.
The pressures placed on a working horse can lead to a build-up of free-radical toxins. These are a natural by-product of cell respiration and can cause a horse to be a little stressed. If the early signs are ignored, it can lead to over training, which can impact on behaviour and cause the horse’s performance to plateau or plummet.
If you’ve checked your horse with a vet and there are no obvious signs for this, an option is to give their system a boost with Recover – a five-day course of natural antioxidants – to harmlessly clear out those free-radical toxins.
It is absolutely essential that any competitive rider chooses supplements or general feed that adheres to the requirements of the BETA NOPS code, which sets the standard for the control of Naturally Occurring Prohibited Substances. This will ensure they also comply with the FEI guidelines for Clean Sport.