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Supplements - A waste of money?

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  • Supplements - A waste of money?

    A Facebook Post has had me pondering (and scrutinizing) the supplements I feed. I would love thoughts. It's an interesting topic since we spend so much money on supplements. Are we just wasting our cash? And I say supplements in general as I'm now scrutinizing and researching the effectiveness of all given. And by supplements, I mean non-prescription.

    Joint supplements - I have read conflicting research on the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin. My general option is that it's likely just expelled from the body. But the other part of the joint supplement I feed is Hyaluronic Acid and Reservatrol, along with collagen and other soft tissue supplements. Effective? I'm starting to doubt.

    Am I better off just sticking with Adequan as my sole joint protection? Giving it every 28 days is less expensive than most joint supplements... But someone (reputable, and with extensive knowledge of Adequan) recommended giving it WEEKLY to help with the strain we put on the joints of our competition horses. Is too much a waste, or is more frequency really effective?

    Digestive Supplements - Currently I'm feeding the supplement that was scrutinized in this Facebook post (this is why I started thinking). The supplement I feed is the equivalent of Rolaids. Which I believe, has a better short term effect than giving omeprazole infrequently (i.e. for travel, at horse shows). The downside to this supplement, is that it does inhibit the absorption of drugs, medications, and other supplements. So it's given in the evening feed without other supplements and medications. But I am now wondering the effect that has long term, and after the supplement has worn off. Am I ultimately causing an increase in acid production? It seems that those humans who chew tums or rolaids frequently are often plagued with chronic indigestion. Is one caused by the other?

    And calming supplements - Magnesium. I don't doubt that magnesium has some sort of effect on the horses, as it helps humans as well. But at what amount does the body just expel excess?

    ETA: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/metab...ary-supplement
    Now I'm wondering if my horses aren't just pooping and peeing away the money spent on magensium?

    Other calming supplements... I'm starting to wonder about the effectiveness of herb based supplements. Aside, many of the herb based supplements I am not afraid to feed in fear they may result in an off the wall positive drug test with the USEF.

    Just my thoughts written out. Anyone else want to chime in?
    Last edited by scrbear11; Jan. 7, 2020, 10:01 AM. Reason: Magnesium article

  • #2

    Well, two thoughts come to mind.

    One is, the *amount* of substance X required to produce the desired response in an animal as large as a horse is usually cost prohibitive. So, while "studies" may claim a positive response - how much was actually fed, and how much is actually in the product *you* bought? Think about the cost of Cosequin - the one with studies behind it - vs other products that "claim" to do the same thing.

    Second, what has been said to me (by someone with far greater knowledge than I) is "how do these supplements even make it past the GI tract to get where they need to go?" --in regards to joint supp's.

    Some of them I think are "can't hurt might help makes the owner feel better", some are just plain witchcraft, and some really work. (but which ones are they???, LOL).

    Funny I was reading something last night and saw an ad for yet another supplement, and it got me thinking that perhaps if we were able to keep our horses in a more "horse normal" environment there wouldn't be such a "need" to supplement every single thing.

    Sigh. I don't think there's a good answer but somebody sure is convinced we need all this stuff!!

    Comment


    • #3
      My rule about supplements is simple: If I see a difference after giving the supplement, then it's of benefit. You can tweak down if you think there's a risk of over supplementation becoming wasteful. But that's a personal opinion.

      Each animal is different. Each supplement is going to be absorbed differently.

      Buyer beware. And observant.

      Comment


      • #4
        I feed a basic vitamin supplement with some beet pulp to the pasture horses daily. It's the Purina Free Balance 12:12 loose mineral to balance out forage based diets.

        Other than that, I think 24/7 turnout is the best supplement there is. They live out in a large pasture in a herd with 24/7 access to forage, shade, water and herdmates. Sometimes that means the show horses get shown with some bite or kick marks but I've never had a judge mark that down in a halter class after the explanation.

        I think living in a herd environment is one of the best things for them mentally and physically. They move around, have a social heirarchy, constant food. It keeps their tummies happy and anxiety to a minimum.

        I know it doesn't work for everyone but it works for me.

        Comment


        • #5
          IMHO, most people use most supplements to make them feel like they're doing their best. They add a supplement because of what marketing says, and have no idea how balanced, or not, the base diet is, let alone what might need to be improved.

          Additionally, they start chasing symptoms - my horse is sore, he needs a joint supplement - and then either declare the supplement useless (and it may be), or fully effective because it "worked" and they only see correlation, not causation, not realizing that the soreness was due to a muscle spasm which worked itself out. I see lots and LOTS of "I started this supplement and these things changed therefore that supp must have done it it's the best", when they ignore that it's a different season, new batch of hay, or not admitting they also changed the feed altogether.

          Supplements that are touted as a great product because they contain X ingredient, and X ingredient does actually have valid science in horses, but that contain such a small amount of x ingredient, are a waste of $$, period.

          Supplements as a whole are not inherently useless. Nutrients needed to get the forage balanced and high enough in amounts are supplements that are needed and useful.

          Supplements that are trying to do in 1-2oz, what can really only be done by fixing the base diet, are useless and a waste.

          Each case really has to be evaluated in context, not just of the supplement itself, but the rest of the horse's life.

          ______________________________
          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree with most of the responses above. The human and animal supplement market has boomed in the last 10 years and still growing. We are all desperate for the magic pill. Yes, I believe 98% of them are a waste of money, and that's if the supplement you are feeding contains any of the ingredients it claims to have - let alone if those ingredients are effective.

            I watched a Frontline documentary (PBS Television) about the human supplement industry last year. A true eye opener! If you/your horse is deficient in a certain vitamin and has been tested as such, then administer that high quality vitamin. However, if your barn buddy says "try SuperLift Z, I think it made my horse feel 10 years younger", don't fall for that. I've known 2 vets for 35+ years. They can honestly say they've never seen horse health improvement based on a supplement, tho if a client insists on trying one they'll fall back to, "Well, it can't hurt".

            If all these supplements were as effective as their marketing claims, there would be double-blind studies/empirical proof and the prices would be even higher than they already are. This goes for human supps and the animal trade.
            Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...

            Comment


            • #7
              Honestly.. there's very little regulation WRT feed-through supplements and efficacy.

              In my time with horses, I've only seen a few (oral) joint supplements truly work, with these ingredients: chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid.

              I don't bother wasting my money with oral joint supplements other than MSM or Cosequin. I think you get far more proven results with joint injections and/or things like Legend / Adequan.

              Magnesium... I think a lot of it is a placebo. A better alternative if you need calming supplements is turnout. Cheaper, and way better for the horse. None of my horses have ever needed magnesium or had a deficiency, and I've had horses of all types of nutritional needs.

              A bulk of supplements, I think, make the owner feel better without having much impact on the horse. A better way about it is to make sure you are providing everything the horse needs diet-wise/nutritionally, as well as providing the best management you can for the horse: as much forage as possible, as much turnout as possible being paramount in improving a horse's condition overall.

              Fix the management, and a lot of those small, niggling things disappear.
              AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

              Comment


              • #8
                My guess would be that the majority of equine dietary supplements being consumed are not doing much of anything other than exerting a secondary placebo effect on the owner.
                There are exceptions, but it has been interesting to see the development of an entire market that attempts to shame owners into thinking they're negligent if Weedwhacker isn't on 17 different Smartpaks.

                I suppose, what with horses making the move from livestock to pet, that it was to be expected that this would happen.
                Though in both the large and small animal department, it is odd that some of the most fanatical proponents of micormanagement appear to pay relatively little attention to their own diets...

                And there are so many people trying to micromanage their horses' diets without even taking the basic step of doing a hay analysis, thus rendering their efforts useless.

                My only hard and fast recommendation (for my region) i Vitamin E/Selenium.
                "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have always figured the majority of supplements were for the human not the horse. I do have some standbys that I personally have seem work well for horses in conjunction with proper feed and turnout management.

                  - An antacid for fore-gut ulcery horses works well if you feed it consistently and manage their diet to minimize acid production. I keep my horses on it as a precautionary and always feed to minimize acid.

                  - Recently (about 10 months ago) I started feeding biotin at the recommendation of my farrier and vet. They told me to just give him enough and it didn't matter the brand. That is what I did and his hoof has improved drastically plus he is growing a tail. Again he has a proper balanced diet that also helps with hoof wall growth but he had that before I started the biotin and very little has changed with it.

                  - Magnesium when all other options are exhausted for anxiety. The horse in question had almost 24/7 turnout, herd buddies, proper diet, in a quiet barn but had a traumatic event that occurred before I got him that caused him to be very worried all the time. His behavior was predictable to a point but he was a challenge. I started feeding him magnesium on the recommendation of his vet to just see if there was improvement. Once I figured out the appropriate amount (which was close to 5 table spoons a day of MgSO4) he was less worried and reactive. Again nothing else changed in his life. The same diet, herd, turn out and work schedule but the addition of magnesium to his diet acted like a pill to take the edge off his worries. When I took him off all supplements as a pasture pet he did go back to the same worried behavior. Most horses I don't think it does much for and my current horse is not on it.

                  - And like Ghazzu Vit E/Selenium or any other critical micro/macro nutrient you need to feed to make up for the lack of it in your forage is the only other supplements I feed.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I tried to avoid the supplement bandwagon with the horse I got 3 years ago. Then he was diagnosed with Navicular changes, DDFT disruption, and a good bit of inflammation in his feet. While he was on stall rest and was getting very little grain, I added a vitamin/mineral supplement. I also added in MSM for a cheap anti-inflammatory, as it had seemed to help my previous horse. As his rehab ramped up I did a round of Adequan and will do a round every six months. Finally I asked my vet if any feed-through joint supplements were worthwhile and he recommended that I try one with resverotrol (if I wanted to do one) as it seemed to have some research and he had seen some good results.

                    So far the horse is sound and happy. Since we are trying to prevent reoccurance or progression, it is really hard to tell what is working. But it is reasonable financially and management-wise. So if it is providing a placebo effect for me, I will continue to enjoy it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It's been my experience that most folks (myself very much included, though not as much now!) toss supplements at our horses that are well intended but ill-informed. For example: horse has crappy feet, and I - as a good and caring horse owner - research hoof supplements and put my horse on one that seems good. If it doesn't work, I probably resign myself to my horse just having crappy feet (or whatever the issue is). If it does work, I think the supplement is great and continue to buy it.

                      In the case where it works (and it;s not actually a change of season, footing, shoeing/booting, farrier etc.) likely I got lucky and the supplement I chose balanced or corrected an issue/deficiency in my horse's diet. Likely I don't actually need to feed 90% of what's in the supplement but to analyze the rest of the diet and figure out what ingredient(s) are making the difference.

                      In the case where it doesn't work - the solution is kind of the same. Analyze the diet and balance it. In the case of feet or other physical issues, that's pretty well guaranteed to yield results (assuming all other management of the issue is appropriate - hoof care, living conditions, medical care if necessary etc.). In the case of a behavioural issue, a balanced diet will 100% set you up for success, but it may very well not be the magic bullet depending on the horse's history, training, and lifestyle (i.e. the best diet in the world can't make up for inadequate turnout, or inappropriate handling). I see a lot of horses whose owners try magnesium supplementation for calming, and it it doesn't work they assume their horses are batty and that's that, without looking at the rest of the diet for high-energy, high-sugar feeds that could be an issue - or without assessing the horse's need for more turnout.

                      I save a lot of $$ on various supplements that I've tried over the years by just analyzing my hay and getting a custom blend made for me that actually addresses gaps in my hay/ imbalances in the soil/water.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Sansena View Post
                        My rule about supplements is simple: If I see a difference after giving the supplement, then it's of benefit. You can tweak down if you think there's a risk of over supplementation becoming wasteful. But that's a personal opinion.

                        Each animal is different. Each supplement is going to be absorbed differently.

                        Buyer beware. And observant.

                        ^^^^^This

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by scrbear11 View Post
                          A Facebook Post has had me pondering (and scrutinizing) the supplements I feed. I would love thoughts. It's an interesting topic since we spend so much money on supplements. Are we just wasting our cash? And I say supplements in general as I'm now scrutinizing and researching the effectiveness of all given. And by supplements, I mean non-prescription.

                          Joint supplements - I have read conflicting research on the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin. My general option is that it's likely just expelled from the body. But the other part of the joint supplement I feed is Hyaluronic Acid and Reservatrol, along with collagen and other soft tissue supplements. Effective? I'm starting to doubt.

                          Am I better off just sticking with Adequan as my sole joint protection? Giving it every 28 days is less expensive than most joint supplements... But someone (reputable, and with extensive knowledge of Adequan) recommended giving it WEEKLY to help with the strain we put on the joints of our competition horses. Is too much a waste, or is more frequency really effective?

                          Digestive Supplements - Currently I'm feeding the supplement that was scrutinized in this Facebook post (this is why I started thinking). The supplement I feed is the equivalent of Rolaids. Which I believe, has a better short term effect than giving omeprazole infrequently (i.e. for travel, at horse shows). The downside to this supplement, is that it does inhibit the absorption of drugs, medications, and other supplements. So it's given in the evening feed without other supplements and medications. But I am now wondering the effect that has long term, and after the supplement has worn off. Am I ultimately causing an increase in acid production? It seems that those humans who chew tums or rolaids frequently are often plagued with chronic indigestion. Is one caused by the other?

                          And calming supplements - Magnesium. I don't doubt that magnesium has some sort of effect on the horses, as it helps humans as well. But at what amount does the body just expel excess?

                          ETA: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/metab...ary-supplement
                          Now I'm wondering if my horses aren't just pooping and peeing away the money spent on magensium?

                          Other calming supplements... I'm starting to wonder about the effectiveness of herb based supplements. Aside, many of the herb based supplements I am not afraid to feed in fear they may result in an off the wall positive drug test with the USEF.

                          Just my thoughts written out. Anyone else want to chime in?
                          I think I liked just about every post on this thread so far.

                          The title says it all. If your horse is getting plenty of roughage and you are feeding a premium quality concentrate, he is probably getting all he needs. Since your horse is probably eating 15-20 lbs of roughage a day, your whole diet analysis begins with a question mark. Unless you are weighing all the hay your horse gets every day, you really don't know how much he is eating. And it gets worse if he has pasture - they are not going to tell you how many pounds of what species of grass or whatever they ate that day. So if you are doing the best thing for your horse, which is lots of turnout, then your roughage consumption is always a question mark. You can try to spreadsheet everything, but without the roughage component being correct, the results are not correct.

                          Technically, most concentrates are supplementing the roughage.

                          Joint supplements - if you don't go WOW I really feel a difference, it is not making a difference. Try stopping for 30-60 days and see if you notice any change. I do know a few race trainers who have just about everything on the barn on cosequin or on a legends/adequan/pentosan schedule, however, if the rider does not notice a difference and there is no difference in performance, the supplement is stopped.

                          Calming supplements - makes me laugh. They are a useless crutch for poor horsemanship. You change behavior with training.

                          Digestive supplements - pick a good premium concentrate and they are already in there. Ditto coat supplements, etc.

                          LOL I texted my vet for adequan for my competition horse the other day and autocorrect changed it to "I need more adequacy from you when you have a chance."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            IMHO, the easier keepers, who get little to no concentrates because of too many calories, are the ones who benefit the most from 'supplements". But even then it all depends on your definition of "supplement". If they can't have a regular feed, they aren't getting any "digestive supplement", so one may really be necessary, and depending on the situation, may need to contain things not typically found in premium feeds.

                            We typically say a "vitamin mineral supplement", but not "ration balancer supplement", yet they are more or less trying to accomplish the same thing - fortify the diet.

                            That's a whole separate category from, say, a joint supplement.

                            And while hair/coat/hoof supplements are also considered different, they are still only fortifying the overall diet from a nutritional perspective, not a "medical" one, and may still be needed on top of a good quality fortified feed if that feed cannot make up for what's lacking in the hay/grass.

                            Calming supplements are tricky. Some are magnesium or B-1 based, and absolutely if a horse is deficient they will likely help, no amount of training can take the place of a poor diet causing behavioral issues. But the ones that claim to work via valerian, or tryptophan, or a variety of herbs, often don't make the horse feel any different, but the owner thinks they will work so their behavior changes and the horse changes accordingly and voila, that supplement "worked"

                            The worst thing to do is try to out-supplement a high sugar, low quality forage diet - it's costly, and it doesn't work (well).
                            ______________________________
                            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I seem to be able to keep horses healthy and improve their health.

                              Know your hay. Feed an appropriate amount (weighed out for the easy keeps, all they can eat for anorexic OTTB). Good vitamin mineral supplement in beet pulp mash (RB would do the same). Alfalfa if needed. Flax and salt in the mash.

                              Don't let your easy keeper get obese and founder.

                              Then good care for the feet. Turnout and riding on schedule. Correct work so they don't break down. An eagle eye on any leg anomalies. I know a number of people who have missed the warning signs of soft tissue or joint problems.

                              Apart from that, I do have a good probiotic that I pull out when a horse has diet induced diarrhea ( typically coming off pasture back to the barn). Really stubborn cases can use some Yeassac. But pointless to feed this ongoing.

                              I should add that my VMS has a small amount of joint support built in. Has that kept my mare healthy,? I don't know. She is prone to rear ankle puffs but they are triggered by her feet being unbalanced and needing a trim. So it's management not supplements.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I will just say WRT calming supplements - I recently put my mare who has been on stall rest/controlled exercise for over a year on Tranquility. She was getting totally unmanageable on oral Reserpine, even with Ace on top of it this fall. The Tranquility has been a total game-changer, and I plan to keep her on it as until she has been re-introduced to turnout in the spring. She is way more in control of her emotions and doesn't have hair-trigger reactions to small noises like when she was on pharmaceuticals.

                                Maybe save the judgement about use of calming supplements. And let's think about the trickle-down effect of an effective supplement in a rehab situation. I'm able to ride on a longer rein, mare is not tense every moment of the day, and it's possible to ride her with better biomechanics instead of just trying to survive through each ride. Therefore, she is redeveloping muscle in a much healthier pattern, better suppleness, etc. She's less likely to re-injure because she isn't climbing the stall walls.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Another Poster View Post
                                  I feed a basic vitamin supplement with some beet pulp to the pasture horses daily. It's the Purina Free Balance 12:12 loose mineral to balance out forage based diets.

                                  Other than that, I think 24/7 turnout is the best supplement there is. They live out in a large pasture in a herd with 24/7 access to forage, shade, water and herdmates. Sometimes that means the show horses get shown with some bite or kick marks but I've never had a judge mark that down in a halter class after the explanation.

                                  I think living in a herd environment is one of the best things for them mentally and physically. They move around, have a social heirarchy, constant food. It keeps their tummies happy and anxiety to a minimum.

                                  I know it doesn't work for everyone but it works for me.
                                  We used to think that bolded also, but had to learn over decades that is not quite so simple.

                                  Some horses, more than we think, are stressed when living with others.
                                  Especially the older ones that feel they have to keep everyone in line or the ones that are being picked on if not the boss.
                                  Those are many times obviously relieved when they have alone time.

                                  An older horse trainer friend and I were talking about just that as he sold down to one horse only.
                                  I asked him how he was doing alone and said he seemed very happy with all the resources to himself, never nickered or fretted about any other horse.
                                  He goes to help neighbors work cattle, where his horse sees other horses at times, but doesn't care about them.
                                  We also had other horses that really stressed without other horses around.
                                  Horses come in all kinds, up to us to help make their lives comfortable, for who they are, not what we think they should like or do best.

                                  We had a new horse that, once turned out with others, spent all time driving them to water in the pens, then back out to graze, all day and night long.
                                  Our older horses were getting footsore, all that walking was too much for them, plus they were hardly getting enough time to drink that the boss would again drive them out.
                                  We put that horse alone across the fence and guess what, he didn't care and went on to graze alone.
                                  The others, his herd, they would stand by the fence, waiting for him to come tell them what to do, barely going off a bit to graze or drink and back to the fence.
                                  After a while, we sold the boss horse to someone that kept horses by themselves.
                                  He was very happy there for years, with his own stall and pen and pasture and not having to worry about keeping his herd guided the way his instinct told him to when with them and in charge, a big source of stress now gone.

                                  I will say, we can't make rules of thumb about horses when we look at the individuals.
                                  Every horse is who it is, not what we think they should be according to their species.
                                  Especially with our domestic horses we manage their lives so closely.

                                  Too bad it took us so long to learn that.
                                  We could have kept some nice horses we sold if we had not insisted they had to live with others in a herd, but been a little more flexible.
                                  Best to always question what we so firmly believe.
                                  Some times, in some situations, it just may not be quite like we think it is.

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                                  • #18
                                    I used to blow tons of money on various supplements until I sat down and calculated how much I spent each year on just supplements. It was sickening and forced an instant change. Now my horses are simply on a basic reduced supplement routine.

                                    They're all on a joint supplement (actiflex) because I'm a sucker and notice a difference when I skip my own glucosamine.

                                    Then they all get a hoof supplement (hoof secret) because my ASB has terrible feet and I noticed a huge difference when I started her on it.

                                    The final one they all get is a bug supplement recommended by my vet (Solitude) because my ASB is highly allergic to bugs and my small pony has chronic summer sores. To make it effective all horses on property must be on the supplement to disrupt the bug production.

                                    The ASB does get SmartItch which I expected to be a waste of money but it has worked surprisingly well for her, then my large pony gets Purina Outlast because it seems to have decreased her cribbing tendencies significantly.

                                    They all get high quality hay and a ration balancer so I'm not worried about vitamins and minerals outside of what is above.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by outerbanks77 View Post
                                      Maybe save the judgement about use of calming supplements. And let's think about the trickle-down effect of an effective supplement in a rehab situation. I'm able to ride on a longer rein, mare is not tense every moment of the day, and it's possible to ride her with better biomechanics instead of just trying to survive through each ride. Therefore, she is redeveloping muscle in a much healthier pattern, better suppleness, etc. She's less likely to re-injure because she isn't climbing the stall walls.
                                      I think you're bang on, there - and in your particular case, it sounds like you have effectively used a dietary additive to manage your horse through a tricky time period in a way that supports her being healthier and happier. That's a huge win! Honestly, I would count usage like that as a little bit different than typical supplement use. Your horse has a very specific reason for needing something to help her be calm, and you've found something that helps.

                                      To me, that's different than someone with a horse who tends to be "up," or nervous, or spooky, or too hot, etc. who then puts them on a mag or a B1 supplement without investigating whether they are in fact likely to be deficient in either of those things, or analyzing their overall feed program to see if it's too high in sugars or overall calories, and/or assessing the horse's lifestyle to see if that is contributing to the issue rather than diet.

                                      When it comes down to it, if your horse has a magnesium deficiency for example, giving them appropriate magnesium supplementation isn't a "calming supplement" it's providing them with a nutrient that is essential to proper functioning of their nervous system. It's balancing their diet, which gives you the proper foundation to actually move forward. If your horse's diet is appropriately balanced, adding mag (or B1) isn't going to help, because a deficiency isn't driving the behaviour you are trying to address. So then one needs to look at other factors - is the diet balanced but still too high in calories? Does the horse need more turnout? Is their training and handling appropriate, etc.

                                      So truly, there's no judgement from me either way. Horse on stall rest/limited exercise needs help being chill? Find something safe that works and use it!

                                      Horse acting wingy and you're tempted to toss mag or B1 into their diet? Go for it, but you'll save yourself a lot of guesswork by simply getting your hay tested and going from there, along with making appropriate lifestyle adjustments if necessary.



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                                      • #20
                                        I think most of the time supplements are a waste of money. I don't feed any, other than TC30 ration balancer (not sure if that counts as a supplement or a concentrate). My horses stay sound, have good feet and no skin issues. I have dabbled with probiotics and a calming supplement but didn't notice a difference. I have one horse who gets nervous poops at shows, but supplements so far haven't helped at all.

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