To Supplement or Not to Supplement

That is the question…. Not really because I’ve decided to refresh PJ’s supplies, but it is a question I thought about before giving my credit card number to the online tack store.

PJ is now on 2 supplements (plus those probiotic treats that could probably be considered a supplement).  The first is Fluid Action HA, a chondroiton-glucosamine product that is supposed to be good for his joints.  I use it as a preventative. I have seen how such a supplement has helped my dog after two ACL surgeries, and I’m hoping it will have the same effects in PJ – delaying his joints from getting arthritis (you can’t really prevent it in any animal or human, for that matter; you can just delay it’s development and minimize its effects).

The second supplement is Red Cell (or similar product). We started it because Barbara’s experience has taught her that if a black horse’s coat significantly fades that his iron levels are low.  We also hoped it would give him some energy and heat stamina.  I’ve heard differing opinions on this one.  I’ve read that it can do harm in a horse who doesn’t need it and that you should really get your horse tested for anemia before starting them on such a supplement.  Through my observation though I’ve noticed something that makes me want to continue it.  I can’t say PJ’s energy level is better than it would have been without it.  But I did notice something interesting this year that made me want to switch to a product called Iron Horse (by Finish Line).  I got three tubs for free this past spring and noticed that PJ’s coat didn’t fade like it had in previous years.  Interesting.  Then I ran out and switched back to Red Cell (because I thought it was cheaper but I was comparing liquid to powder).  I noticed his coat was just not as black as it had been on the Iron Horse.  Interesting again.  Then I ran out of Red Cell but didn’t know it – I have no clue how long he’s been without it, just that when I went into the feed room yesterday, he was out; I’m thinking a few weeks.  And I also noticed that his coat was very faded.  I went home and immediately ordered some Iron Horse. I looked at the difference in ingredients between Iron Horse and Red Cell, and while they are VERY similar, Iron Horse has more VitB (and less of some other stuff – Smartpak has a comparison chart). It will be interesting to see if his coat stops fading.

Ideally, a horse’s feed will give him everything he needs, but without doing analyses on everything we feed our horses plus substantial blood work to see what is missing in their systems, it’s impossible to know exactly what a given horse needs.  Add to that living in a large boarding barn, where individualizing feed more than amount and maybe a couple of pellet choices is next to impossible, and therefore, supplements become necessary for some horses.  Plus the extra work we put on them just adds to the complexity. With all of the research in this area, I’m confident that some day we’ll be able to optimize the equine diet. Until that time, I’ll keep observing my own horse.

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