Are Supplements Really Needed?

Odds are the answer is yes.

As the term implies, supplements are nutrients added to supplement those already present in the horse’s base diet.  At the most basic level, supplementation is done to provide nutrients that are not present in adequate amounts (deficiencies) or to correct imbalances.

A vibrant coat, healthy hooves, high energy and freedom from diseases are outward ——————————indicators of a solid diet.—————————————

It’s important to realize that nutritional problems are not necessarily a matter of life and death – although when severe they can be.  The most common scenario is a horse that is not functioning in optimal health.  This can manifest in many different ways including skin/coat issues, hoof quality, muscling, fertility, performance, bone/joint/tendon health, disease resistance and more.

The wide spectrum should be no surprise since the horse’s body does not function on air.  Growth, strengthening and the maintenance of all body systems depends on nutrition.  The horse’s body is equipped with mechanisms that allow survival in the face of nutrient issues but surviving is not the same thing as thriving.

Supplementation is more important for the horse than for you or I.  The reason is simple.  We eat a very varied diet that incorporates different foods on a day to day basis.  The horse on the other hand typically eats the same meal every meal, 24/7 for months on end.  In contrast, a feral horse will have a range of hundreds of miles, roam over as much as 20 miles a day, consuming a variety of vegetation growing on widely divergent soils and nutrient contents.

At least 50% of the horse’s diet is hay or pasture.  It is the major source of protein, vitamins and minerals.  Nationwide surveys of different hay types performed by the USDA has revealed widespread mineral deficiencies and imbalances.  Protein levels also have a wide range.  It is clear that supplementation is in order.  The question is what and how much for the individual situation.

If you  need help in deciding what you may need, use our Ask The Vet feature.

Eleanor M Kellon, VMD

About Dr. Kellon

Graduate of University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions,, industry and private nutritional consultations, online nutritional courses. Staff Veterinary Expert at Uckele Health and Nutrition .
This entry was posted in Equine Nutrition. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Are Supplements Really Needed?

  1. bgmitt says:

    This is all such good information and I wish I’d been better educated earlier in my horse adventure. Changing my mustangs nutrition over the past year has made his health so much better. I think it is too late to make enough difference for his elderly companion but frankly he also has had 15-17 years without enough variety while she is at 23-25. The amino acids of hemp pellets seem to have really turned the corner though the right hay, Uckele VM and other additions like Jiogulan, spirulina, flax, kelp and lots of slow experimentation got us this far before I added hemp too. It’s complex. It will change. It takes a long time to find what works for which horse. Dr Kellons research and sharing and all her followers too, is time well spent to read and take action.


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