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With good-quality forage and nutritionally-adequate hard feed, you should not require additional supplementation. However, even with good forage and hard feed, there may still be nutritional gaps.

To discover what those gaps might be, you can:

  • Put your hay through laboratory analysis which will provide information about levels of protein, fibre, minerals and nutrients. Hard feed can also be analysed this way if necessary;

  • Evaluate your horse’s body condition score (BCS) to address any energy imbalances;

  • Check the contents of your packaged hard feed;

  • Also, consider the horse’s age and activity, and whether it might need targeted supplementation. For example, the energy demands of sports horses might need to be met with more carbohydrates, fats, and sometimes additional protein in their diet, while young horses have specific nutritional requirements that will support bone development, muscle growth, and overall growth rate. Environmental factors such as soil quality can also affect the nutrient composition of forage.


As ever, it is crucial that you evaluate each horse's dietary needs on an individual basis. That said, let’s take a closer look at what’s out there:


Vitamins and Minerals

As with people, vitamins and minerals are involved in processes such as metabolism, immune function, bone development, muscle function, etc. However, don't assume that your horse is deficient; speak to your vet or equine nutritionist.


  • Vitamin A. Supports vision, immune function, and reproductive health. (Green forage and synthetic form.)

  • Vitamin C. Horses can actually synthesize their own vitamin C. It’s a long story but it stems from evolution and a mutation in the gene responsible for producing L-gulonolactone oxidase. Anyway, it also means that vitamin C it is not typically supplemented in a horse’s diet though it might be needed during times of high stress or illness, such as liver dysfunction. (Fresh forage and feed additives.)

  • Vitamin D. Important for calcium and phosphorus metabolism and bone development. (Sun exposure and supplement form.)

  • Vitamin E. Helps protect cells from damage, and supports muscle function and the immune system. (Fresh forage and supplement form.)


  • Calcium. Essential for skeletal development, muscle function, and nerve transmission. (Good-quality forage and supplement form.)

  • Phosphorus. Works with calcium to support bone development, energy metabolism, and various physiological processes. (Forage and hard feed.)

  • Magnesium. Important for nerve function, muscle relaxation, and energy metabolism. (Forage and supplement form.)

  • Zinc. For skin and hoof health, immune function, and enzyme activity. (Forage hard feed and supplement form.)

  • Copper. For iron metabolism, connective tissue formation, and coat pigmentation. (Forage, hard feed, water and supplement form.)

  • Selenium. An antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from oxidative damage. (Forage and supplement form.)

  • Iron. Important for oxygen transport and energy production. (Forage and hard feed.)


While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these are a few examples of the vitamins and minerals your horse should have for optimal health.



Targeted Supplements



A huge must for horses, especially sports horses or those living in hot climates, is electrolytes.

Electrolyte supplements replace essential minerals lost through sweating and, as such, they play a crucial role in maintaining fluid balance, helping to regulate nerve and muscle function, maintaining proper hydration, and aiding in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Commercial electrolyte supplements are typically available as a powder, paste or liquid. They contain varying combinations of sodium, chloride, potassium, and sometimes additional minerals like calcium and magnesium. They can be mixed into feed or water, or administered orally.

The frequency and amount of electrolyte supplementation should be based on your horse's needs, workload, sweating rate, and environmental conditions.

Again, electrolytes should be part of an overall balanced nutrition and management programme. Access to fresh water, forage and feed, and proper cooling measures in hot weather are also essential for maintaining electrolyte balance and preventing dehydration.


Joint Supplements

These supplements typically contain ingredients – such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate, and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), and omega-3 fatty acids – that help maintain the integrity of joint structures, reduce inflammation, and support overall joint function.

Joint supplements are commonly used to support joint health in active or aging horses, and they come in various forms, including powders, pellets, liquids, or treats. These suppements are typically used as part of a long-term management strategy for joint health.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids can provide additional support for coat health, joint function, and overall well-being.

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and are often used to aid joint health, manage respiratory conditions, support the immune system and promote skin and coat health.

Common sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil, and (as all good vegans will know) flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed and chia seeds.


Probiotics and Prebiotics

As with humans, this double act plays an important role in supporting digestive health.

Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria that work to improve digestion, and nutrient absorption, while supporting a healthy gut environment. Probiotics can be particularly beneficial during times of stress, such as dietary changes, transportation, illness, or antibiotic use, which can disrupt the natural balance of gut bacteria.

Prebiotics are the food source of the good bacteria, and therefore enhance digestion, improve nutrient utilisation, and contribute to good digestive health in horses.

Remember, always consult with an equine nutritionist or veterinarian before embarking on probiotic and prebiotic supplementation, or indeed any form of supplementation.

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