The groundhog says that this year will see an early spring, so that means that riding season starts soon! If your horse has had the winter off, he may need some supplements with his feed along with the Eight Week Plan to Condition Your Horse to get back to his best riding condition. These are the four supplements your horse needs to look and feel his best this spring.
Start with Proper Nutrition
Supplements work best when combined with a balanced diet. See Feeding Easy Keepers for Optimal Body Condition and Feeding Hard Keepers for Optimal Body Condition for a foundation diet for your horse. Each horse is unique, and therefore, has unique nutritional needs. If you have questions, consult with your vet.
Keep your horse on a regular worming and vaccination schedule, and, if you live in a sandy area, use psyllium (buy it here) monthly to prevent sand colic.
Cold, dry winter air is hard on your horse’s coat. An Omega 3 supplement will help his summer coat grow healthy and hydrated. As the days become hotter, the Omega 3 supplement will prevent his skin from becoming dry and flaky. As a bonus, Omega 3 also improves hooves (although this takes longer, sometimes up to a year before you see results since hoof growth is so slow).
Omega Horseshine improves coat, skin, and hoof health, and some horses report showing improvement in sweet itch and bug bite sores. It has 10 milligrams of Biotin per serving, so if your horse’s hooves need improvement, this is a good choice. Buy it here.
Manna Pro Simply Flax is an affordable way to add a rich source of Omega 3 to your horse’s diet with ground flax seed. Buy it here.
In 2017, Montana had an exceptionally smoky summer due to wildfires in the area. The air was thick and heavy and my horses struggled to breathe. Both of them developed chronic coughs, and my vet recommended giving them an Omega 3 supplement (I used Manna Pro Simply Flax) along with Vitamin E. After a week, my horses were breathing noticeably better, and within 10 days they were no longer coughing while grazing (I didn’t ride them during this time because the air was so unhealthy).
Vitamin E is an essential nutrient and is especially beneficial to growing foals, pregnant mares, and equine athletes. It reduces exercise-induced muscle damage (tying up), increases colostrum quality in broodmares, and increases immune response.
Choose a supplement that uses Vitamin E-Tocopherol rather than Vitamin E-Tocepheryl Acetate. Vitamin E-Tocepherol is better absorbed and utilized by your horse. Kentucky Research Elevate WS Water-Soluble Vitamin E Supplement (buy it here) contains Vitamin E-Tocepherol and is one of the few products on the market that does. Be sure to read the ingredients to see which form of Vitamin E is in the product you select.
As the temperature and the humidity rises, your horse (and you!) will sweat more. Horses lose essential minerals, including sodium, potassium, and chloride, and this can lead to kidney failure and death if your horse is not properly rehydrated. Before dehydration becomes an emergency, you can add a daily electrolyte to his diet to keep him well hydrated.
Most electrolytes are apple flavored for palatability. I use Farnam Apple Elite Electrolyte (buy it here). As a bonus, if you are traveling and your horse is used to electrolyte in his water, he is more likely to drink on the road since all of his water tastes the same.
Another option is to add quality rock salt to your horse’s grain. Redmond Rock-Crushed Loose Mineral Salt (buy it here) is the same product the company sells in salt block form, but crushed into small, coarse pieces so you can add it to your horse’s grain.
Here in Arizona, I am lucky, and we only have a few bugs here. In more humid areas of the country, bugs are a big issue. I start adding garlic to my horses’ feed about a month before the last freeze (in Montana, I started in April. In Arizona, I start in June before the monsoons). I have used garlic since 2003 and it works really well for my horses. They have very few bug bites and my manure pile is not a fly haven. I eat a lot of garlic during bug season too, and I have not had a bug bite in years (seriously, not one since I was a teenager.) I believe in garlic, and it is an easy way to protect your horses from bug bites and bug-transmitted diseases this summer.
Most horses need garlic slowly introduced to their feed. Start small, with just a pinch if you have to, and slowly increase the amount until you reach a full dose.
I use Springtime Bug-Off Garlic (buy it here) for my horses. AniMed Garlic Powder is another effective choice (buy it here)
Your horse may need other supplements, depending on his workload, age, and overall health. As your horse ages, or of he is a young horse in his first year of heavy work, you may consider adding a joint supplement to keep him moving comfortably. Choosing a joint supplement is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Each joint supplement affects the joint in different ways, and you need to choose the one that best works for your horse. Also, many joint supplements do not contain a high enough dose to be effective, so you really have to read the labels. For my guide to choosing the right joint supplement for your horse, see Does My Horse Need a Joint Supplement? And Why Your Current Supplement Isn’t Working.
Over the winter, you may not have been as attentive to your horse’s hooves as you are during riding season. Your horse may benefit from a hoof supplement to keep his hooves healthy. This is not a quick fix, and it may take up to a year to see results. See Five Steps to Healthier Hooves for ways to keep your horse’s hooves healthy this riding season.
After winter break, your horse is not in the same condition he was when the snow fell for the first time this winter. The right supplements can keep his coat show ring shiny, breathing easy, well hydrated, and free from bug bites. Be sure to read the labels on any supplements you choose to ensure that your horse is getting an effective dose.
What supplements do you give your horse in the spring? Let me know in the comments below!
Welcome! I've been a freelance writer since 2002 and have numerous horse-related articles published in print and online publications. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Rocky Mountain College with a major in Equestrian Studies and a minor in Business Management. My current business ventures include High Plains Arena and real estate investing.