The Evolution of Horse Supplements



My horse needs supplements to prevent joint degeneration, arthritis, and to treat stiffness. Maybe a supplement to make his coat nice and shiny, even enhance his color. What about a supplement that helps digestion, aids in absorption? A supplement that helps him breath better, have more stamina? Or, perhaps a muscle building supplement would benefit my horse?

Not only are there a million different reasons to give a horse supplement, within those different reasons, there are a million different choices. The amount of horse supplements and horse vitamins products available is amazing. What a lucrative market to be in.

I remember when Smartpak was first available, 1999 I believe. At the time, I was working at a large hunter/jumper boarding and training facility. Each horse was on at least three different supplements, some of which were twice a day. We did not require people to pre-bag their supplements. Setting up feed was a tedious process, not to mention the difficult task of training people on the feeding program. Eventually, I gave up. Keeping track each horse’s supplements was a full time job and impossible to keep organized even on a 10’x20’ white board.

When I first heard of Smartpak, I thought it was genius! I mean, not only did they offer supplements pre-measured, sealed, and labeled for easy administering, but it was also delivered monthly, straight to the barn. No more emergency runs to the tack shop, feed store, or expedited delivery from a catalog! As manager, I wanted the entire barn to get on the Smartpak bandwagon. Of course, it was new, and nobody likes to try new things. So, I kept making up feed the old fashion way.

Interestingly enough, I had young horses outside of work at a different barn, and I had been bagging my supplements for my own peace of mind. Smartpak didn’t attract me as a horse owner. I felt better buying a big tub, with the brand’s name, ingredients, and all the other specifications printed on the label. By bagging my own horse supplements, I felt more in control of what my horse was ingesting.

I regress to a time when supplements were simple: powdered milk, corn oil, or salt.

Although I have yet to use Smartpak as a supplement provider, I have used them to purchase many other various items. It is incredible, though not surprising, a company based solely on providing equines pre-packaged nutritional supplements has grown into such an empire.

I regress, to a time when supplements were simple. Does anyone else remember this? Was I just at a barn that didn’t have anyone feeding good nutrition? When I was a pony rider, a long, long time ago, there were three supplements to choose from:

Supplement #1 – Powdered Milk
Supplement #2 – Corn Oil
Supplement #3 – Salt

And then you could always add molasses to cover up the other two grain additions:

Addition #1 – Asprin
Addition #2 – Bute

That was it. Then, the only supplements available were three items you bought from a grocery store or two products purchased from the vet. My youth was spent at an uppity hunter/jumper barn too; it was a big barn that went to the big shows.

After I moved from ponies, (my pony was on all three supplements by the way), I graduated to a small juniors horse. Other supplements became available. I can’t remember them all (and there still were only enough to count on my fingers), but the evolution of horse supplements seemed to explode in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Horses were doing the same things then, maybe even harder work, and they survived with a simple sweet feed, some powdered milk, salt, and corn oil. So today, why then all these supplements?

I’m guilty. I feed a bunch of supplements to my horses. I do my research however, and I feel pretty good about what I’m feeding them. Though on the horse supplement front, my pocket book sure would appreciate a trip to the grocery store for 3 simple items.