Sorting Through Supplements

Tips to help owners make well-informed decisions when purchasing equine supplements.

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Sorting Through Supplements
When choosing an equine supplement, look for ethical manufacturers that invest in third-party research and development as part of their business model. | Photo: The Horse Staff

In the complex world of equine supplements, here’s how owners can make well-informed decisions when purchasing these products

One equine product label claims the substance therein will help increase a horse’s longevity; another, his athleticism. Are these, in fact, miracle products, or are the assertions too good to be true? Called “nutraceuticals,” a wide variety of oral health products are available without prescription in feed stores and animal health outlets. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 defines these feed additives as products taken by mouth that contain a supplemental “dietary ingredient.” But in the United States this delineation applies only to products intended for human consumption and does not pertain to products designed for animals, leaving the categorization of some of these products cloudy. 

In this article we will explore why the world of equine supplements is so incredibly complex, and we’ll describe how horse owners can make informed decisions when purchasing these products.


“Supplements can only claim to support ‘normal’ health, body structure, and function and should be from an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved list of additives,” explains Nicola Jarvis, BVetMed, Cert AVP, MRCVS, senior veterinary surgeon for Redwings Horse Sanctuary, in England. “Under the (FDA’s) Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, manufacturers of products claiming to ‘cure, treat, prevent, or mitigate disease or affect the structure/function of the body in a manner other than food’ must apply for consideration as a new animal drug and provide full proof of safety and efficacy

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Written by:

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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