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Horse Supplements: Should you use them for weight gain?

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As a horse owner, my neighbor recently asked me if he should be feeding his horses supplements. I explained that while supplements may seem like a good idea to keep your horse well-nourished or prevent health problems, they may not actually need them.

Most horses don’t need supplements. However, they serve an integral role for horses that work hard, are pregnant, and don’t get enough nutrition from hay or grass. Supplements also help skinny or sickly horses as well as those with joint issues.

Not all horses have the same diet or energy requirements, so knowing what your horse needs to be healthy and fit is essential. In this guide, I discuss horse supplements, when they are needed, and how they can benefit your horse’s overall health and well-being.

Picture of three thoroughbreds looking over a fence.

Here are some of the topics covered:

  • Horse supplements for weight gain
  • Horse supplements for gut health
  • Horse supplements for joints
  • Natural horse supplements

Horse supplements for weight gain

Horses need to maintain a healthy weight to perform their best and prevent certain health problems. Weight gain supplements can help you get your horse back on track if they start losing weight.

A young horse I have in training is eating good but stays thin. Her condition could be genetic; however, more likely, she needs to consume additional calories because of the energy used during training.

A vet did blood work on her and said she was healthy and fit, although he agreed she needed to put on some weight. To do this, I started giving her more alfalfa and will monitor her body condition.

If increasing the amount of alfalfa given daily for a few weeks does not put some weight on her, my next step would be adding a weight gain supplement to her feed which should help get her where she needs to be.

Here is what you need to know about these horse supplements for weight gain:

  1. Horse supplements for weight gain are available as liquids or powders that can be mixed into feed or given by mouth.
  2. It’s important to consult with your veterinarian before giving any new supplement to your horse.
  3. Horse supplements for weight gain often contain high-calorie ingredients like corn syrup, molasses, soybean oil, and sugar beet pulp which provide more calories.

Most high-quality horse supplements for weight gain add calories in a healthy manner. They should ideally be rich in proteins and not just starch and sugar alone.

How do horse supplements for weight gain work?

I’m often asked how horse supplements for weight gain work, are they loaded with sugar, and what else might help get a horse to put on the pounds.

First, it is important to note that weight gain supplements are not meant as a cure-all solution. It would be best if you worked with your veterinarian, equine nutritionist, or experienced equestrian to formulate a healthy diet for your horse.

Typically you can put on weight on your horse quickly and safely by using supplements. Horse supplements come in several forms, including grain concentrates, protein products like soybean or cottonseed meal, molasses products, beet pulp, and other high-calorie items.

The best horse supplements for weight gain can help a skinny, underweight horse in the following ways:

  • Heal horse’s gut health by adding healthy probiotics and prebiotics. This can help enhance nutrient absorption.
  • Provide a horse with minerals and trace minerals.
  • Enhance immunity to prevent illnesses
  • Reduce stress in injured, sickly horses.

Ideal for

Horse supplements for weight gain can benefit:

  • Neglected horses
  • Growing horses
  • Performance horses
  • Hard keepers
  • Stallions

What to look for in horse supplements for weight gain?

Horse owners need to know what their supplement contains to ensure they don’t give their horse anything that could cause it harm.

All horse supplements contain active and inactive ingredients. Active ingredients are the beneficial ingredients that do what the supplement claims to do. Inactive supplements are the ones that are added for flavors and taste.

A good-quality horse weight gain supplement should contain:

  • Flaxseed meal or full-energy, full-fat soybeans. These provide healthy proteins, fibers and also help build muscles and add weight.
  • Vitamin E and selenium – to reduce stress in neglected or sickly horses.
  • Probiotics/prebiotics – for improving gut health and balancing intestinal microbiome. They are also beneficial in resisting diseases and improving digestive health.
Picture of a racehorse at La. Downs Race track.

Best Horse Supplement for Weight Gain

Horse Guard Super Weight Gain Equine Vitamin Mineral, Probiotic & Weight Gain Supplement

Features

Ph.D. Equine Nutritionist Kelsey Johnson Nonella recommends the Horse Guard Super Weight gain Supplement for its following features:

  • Contain soybeans that keep horses cool while providing healthy fats and proteins to build muscles and add body mass.
  • It has helped thousands of skinny horses, stressed because of over-work, older horses, and those recovering from surgery.

 

Best Calming + Weight Gain Supplement:

Adeptus Nutrition Gleam & Gain Supreme

The best part about Adeptus Gleam And Gain supplements is the pre-measured packs that help horse owners accurately add them to their horse’s feed. They are also calming supplements that reduce stress in sick horses.

It is also a highly palatable, apple-flavored, high-calorie supplement that has been helping thousands of horses build muscle, gain healthy weight, and develop energy since 1946.

Features

  • Made in USA, show-safe formula
  • Contains calorie-rich vegetable fat, protein, and fiber for accurate absorption.

Supplements for your horses gut health

How do horse supplements for gut health work?

Vets recommend gut health digestive supplements for horses that show occasional digestive distress. These work in the following ways:

  • Support healthy gastric tissue and GI tract
  • Aids normal digestive function and bowel function
  • Maintain balanced gut microbiome
  • Help healthy acid formation and pH-balance in the stomach.

Ideal For

  • Horses with ulcers and frequent gastric issues
  • Horses that kick their stomach
  • Are on antibiotics
  • When there are changes in horse’s hay or pasture
  • Horses with gas or diarrhea
  • Sick, under-nourished, or neglected horses  
  • Horses with poor immune function and digestive or bowel problems

What to look for in horse supplements for gut health

Look for supplements that contain at least 20 billion CFU (colony forming units) (per 8 grams supplement) of probiotics like lactobacillus and yeast. Avoid supplements with too much sugar.

  1. Winner! Best Horse Gut Health Supplement: Equa Holistics HealthyGut Probiotics for Horses Dietary Supplement, All-Natural Digestive System Maintenance Formula

Best supplements for gut health:

Equa Holistics Healthy Gut Probiotics has helped prevent diarrhea in hundreds of horses – no more wiping tail and hindquarters!

The following features make this horse gut supplement a winner in my books:

  • GMO-free, all-natural, human-grade ingredients
  • Contain 24 billion viable Colony-forming units of healthy probiotics.
  • Veterinarian recommended formula

Best Soy and Aluminum-Free Gut Supplements:

Uckele Gut Supplement

Uckele Gut supplement contains probiotics and prebiotics that balance the gut-flora and maintains pH balance and acid formation in the horse’s stomach.

Features

  • Soy and Aluminum-free
  • Made especially for horse’s stomach, foregut, and hindgut
  • Even picky horses love it

Best Natural Supplement for Horses Gut Health:

REDMOND Daily Gold Stress Relief, Natural Healing Clay for Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Redmond daily gold is an entirely natural digestive aid supplement made with bentonite clay. Bentonite clay provides relief from ulcers, and other ingredients deliver key vitamins and minerals to your horse.

Features

  • Entirely natural – no fillers, grains, colors, sweeteners..
  • It helps increase appetite, reduces diarrhea, and detoxifies
  • Soothes and repairs equine ulcers
  • Vet-approved

Best Horse Supplements for Joints

Did you know there are many benefits and drawbacks to giving your horse joint supplements? Horses can benefit from them, but it’s also important to research them because some can create problems.

I wrote an article with some good information on which joint supplements are most effective and when they’re needed; if you would like more specific details, I encourage you to read it.

How do horse joint supplements work

  • They reduce arthritis and joint pain and may help improve the quality of life of horses with degenerative joint disease.
  • Maintain joint health and flexibility
  • Slow down wear and tear of cartilage

Please note that horse joint supplements are NOT a cure for joint-related ailments.

Ideal for

  • Old horses
  • Lame horses that lay down often
  • Arthritic horses
  • Horses with degenerative joint disease
  • Performance horses

What to look for in horse supplements for joints

High-quality horse joint supplements contain MSM, Glucosamine HCl, Chondroitin Sulfate, Vitamin C, and Hyaluronic Acid. Also, look for herbs like yucca root, alfalfa, Devil’s Claw, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. These are all anti-inflammatory in nature.

Best Horse supplement for Joints:

Manna Pro Rapid Flex

Manna Pro is a fast-acting complete joint supplement for maintaining joint health and flexibility. It is also easy to feed, and that makes things simpler for horse owners.

Features

  • Rapid, clinically proven formula
  • Great taste- anise flavor which horses love
  • Unique blend of herbs and joint-strengthening ingredients like MSM, chondroitin, and glucosamine.

Best Liquid Joint Supplement:

Acti Flex Veterinary Lab Joint

Acti Flex supplement lubricates the joint by increasing the synovial fluid in it, and it helps reduce the stress that running exerts on the horse’s joints.

Features

  • Relieves pain
  • It has an excellent pina colada flavor that most horses love
  • It contains glucosamine, MSM, and chondroitin.
  • Vets recommend it as one of the best horse joint supplements.

Best Natural Supplements for Horse Joint Health:

RJX Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM

RJX is a non-steroidal pain relief supplement for horses with painful joints; Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM contain Manganese, which enhances hoof and joint health.

Features

  • Natural pain relief; no steroids, no chemicals, no fillers.
  • Horses love the apple-cider flavor
  • Three times fast-acting and faster absorption
  • Vet-recommended
  • Made in the USA in an FDA-approved facility

Conclusion

Horse feed supplements are nutraceuticals (a food containing health-giving additives and having medicinal benefits) fed to the horse in addition to forage.

Caregivers and horse owners often use supplements for joint care, gut/digestive issues, and weight gain for skinny horses. Always consult your vet before feeding any supplement to your horse.

FAQs

What are horse supplements for?

Horse supplements can do several things, depending on their ingredients. Most are used to improve a horse’s performance, boost stamina, or relieve conditions like painful joints or digestive ulcers.
Some horse supplements also provide natural fly control. Still, some are used to calm a horse, provide stress relief, and increase weight in skinny or sicky horses.

How do you use supplements for a horse?

One of the best ways to administer supplements is by adding them to your horse’s feed. Another option would be mixing small amounts in water and gradually working up the quantity over time.
It’s important that you test out different doses before committing completely to one method, as dosage can vary from animal to animal depending on age, body weight, and current health status. Always check with your vet before using supplements.

Are horse supplements a waste of money?

It is crucial to research the supplement and read all that you can about its ingredients. It would be best if you also chose a supplement based on your horse’s specific needs. Otherwise, random supplements can be a waste of money.