choosing equine supplements
As horse owners—general consumers, even—we see our fair share of product claims. Some are accurate, and some are hype. So what steps should you take to decide if a product is right to try on your horse? Let’s look at an advertisement for a fictional supplement and break it down.

New on the market: A pioneering supplement that guarantees the complete digestion and absorption of your horse’s diet. Through its unique mode of action, Foolzyme ensures that each of the six nutrient classes (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and water) are broken down so they’re more easily absorbed in your horse’s small intestine. This ensures these vital nutrients enter your horse’s blood stream and are available for transport to the tissues that need them most.

Foolzyme has been carefully developed using a proprietary technique. First, enzymes are removed from the fool berry using “cold-temperature extraction” to ensure that the important protein structures remain undamaged. Then, they’re spun at moderate speed in a specially designed centrifuge to separate the Foolzyme enzymes from the fool berry juice. From here the enzymes are placed into chambers and subjected to a patented dehydration process, yielding a bioactive, ready-to-feed powder.

Thanks to the full dietary utilization, horses fed Foolzyme no longer suffer from chronic hoof, immune, digestive tract, or metabolic conditions. In fact, in-house studies have shown that horses with a history of laminitis show remarkable improvement when fed Foolzyme. Foolzyne has been also shown to prevent recurrent colic in at risk horses.

Are you worried that maybe your horse’s diet is letting him down? That he may suffer from colic at any moment or fall foul to lamintis? Foolzyme will save your horse from these debilitating conditions and put your mind at ease. Try it now, your horse will thank you!

It’s not hard to take what is said about supplements at face value. It sounds like science that’s way over our heads, and maybe some of us never really understood biology or chemistry in school anyway, so we’re not the best judge, right? However, I don’t think you need to be a scientific protégé to look at what is being said critically. If you have questions or don’t understand something, call the manufacturer—they should be happy to discuss their products and the science and research that went into creating them.

First, complete dietary digestion and absorption would mean no manure production—everything would be absorbed so that there would be no waste left to form manure. Certainly, it would make our barn chores a lot easier, but is this realistic? I don’t think so!

How exactly is this enzyme going to ensure complete digestion of fats, protein, carbohydrates, and more? This is a question I would ask the manufacturer. Also remember that the horse’s digestive tract secretes the specialized enzymes needed to break down each of these nutrient classes and make them available for transport. So, in this case, this enzyme is not doing anything new in this regard. And, if you have questions about particular body processes a supplement is designed to aid, ask your veterinarian or equine nutritionist for their thoughts.

Take a look at the ingredients. Have you actually heard of a fool berry? Now, there are lots of berries you might not have heard of—I’d not heard of lingonberries until I came to the United States—and that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. But if you do a quick search on “fool berries,” all you’ll find is berry fools (which, by the way, is a fabulous English summer desert that I highly recommend!).

When you encounter ingredients you’re not familiar with, do a little digging and see if you can find a reputable source of information. Do as quick PubMed search to see if there’s any peer-reviewed research on it.

Speaking of studies and research, technically there’s nothing wrong with in-house studies except that, in most cases, they haven’t under gone peer review. This means the study hasn’t been scrutinized by an unbiased third party to ensure that the methods used were sound and the findings are, in fact, legitimate. Some in-house studies are a very good quality, but be cautious. Ask to see the results and the experimental design, which are a required part of a peer-reviewed publication. The manufacturer should be happy to provide these to you.

Next, we have the claims. In the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) eyes, supplements fall under a class of drugs which are only allowed to have supportive roles—they can help support, maintain, and promote health—but they may not treat, prevent, cure, or mitigate any condition. So, the manufacturer cannot say Foolzyme will prevent colic unless it has undergone specific FDA research trials. Manufacturers’ claims might, in fact, be true, but even if they are, they’re not playing by industry rules.

Finally, if you’re not convinced about Foolzyme by the last paragraph, they’ll take one last shot on an emotional level. If you don’t feed this supplement, you might be putting your horse at risk. Don’t let the emotional pull part you from your cash until you have done your due diligence.

The Bottom Line

When reviewing advertising for supplements be what I like to call an “open-minded skeptic.” Set aside your emotions and think critically. Call the company and get answers to any questions you have. At the end of the day listen to what your gut instinct is telling you.