The No Supplements Experiment

Jan 14, 2010 - 12:04 PM
Charlie is hopeful that the barn will be finished this summer.

Feeding time feels a little strange these days. I scoop out the grain, add a little oil for Joshua, my hard-keeper, and that’s it. I head out to the field to feed.

I like to think of myself as a minimalist when it comes to my horses’ feed. They live out 24/7—which would be my preference even if I did have a finished barn—and they have plenty of access to water and hay or grass depending on the season.

But as your typical horse person, I’m prone to always wanting to do a little extra.

My horses have received every oral joint supplement on the market over the years. It couldn’t hurt right? It might even help.

When someone at the office offered me a tub of vitamins, I cheerfully fed those, and then when someone else commented on how shiny my horse’s coat looked, I was afraid to stop.

I had a lot of fun with supplements when I had Stewart, a very high-strung horse who was prone to tying-up. He enjoyed magnesium, two different fat supplements and a calming supplement for a while. Unfortunately, no matter what I fed him, Stewart was still incredibly difficult to ride. What made the biggest difference for him? Selling him to a professional—she doesn’t have any of the issues I had!

My current horses are both young Thoroughbreds—Charlie just had his seventh birthday while Joshua turned 5.

I made the decision to stop feeding joint supplements to Charlie after a vet explained that we have no idea how to prevent arthritis. I kept thinking it might be doing some good for his future, but the vet convinced me I’m better off saving the money for when he actually has a joint issue.

I had been feeding both boys an amino acid, and I might go back to that when the weather warms up and they’re in steady work again. But as I went online to order and realized that the shipping and handling cost almost as much as the product, I decided to skip that too this winter. I haven’t seen any ill effects yet.

For now my horses are supplement free. I feed them plenty of good quality grain from a reputable manufacturer and add a little canola oil and salt. Feeding time feels deceptively simple.

So last week I added in soaked alfalfa cubes to their diet. Because, you know, you can always do a little more…

Sara Lieser


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