Horse Supplements: Your Guide to Equine Supplement Care

Lucile Vigouroux, BS, MSc

Lucile Vigouroux, BS, MSc

. Reviewed by Courtnee Morton, DVM
Updated May 28, 2024
Horse standing in tall grass

Nemyrivskyi Viacheslav/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

It can be challenging to feed your horse every nutrient they need while relying on hay and grain alone. This is especially true if you have an equine athlete who expends a lot of energy and sweats a ton, or if the soil where your grass and hay grow lacks key vitamins and minerals. This is where horse supplements come in.

When strategically added to the diet, supplements make up for nutritional deficiencies and can even be used to counteract problems such as excitability, weight loss, poor hoof quality, and much more.

What Are Horse Supplements?

Dietary horse supplements are part of a horse’s daily routine. These powders, pellets, pastes, and liquids contain concentrated doses of specific ingredients—based on the horse’s individual needs—that enter the body through the digestive system. The goal is for the key nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the intended tissues to benefit the horse.

There are many types of equine supplements to support their health or performance, or to address specific issues.

Practically speaking, horse supplements can be mixed into or top-dressed onto a horse’s feed or administered orally using a syringe or paste. Some supplements, like electrolytes, can even be dissolved and added to drinking water.

Why Do Veterinarians Recommend Horse Supplements?

The goal of a horse supplement is generally to correct a deficiency in particular nutrients. Your veterinarian may recommend adding one to your horse’s diet if they notice abnormally low levels of a vitamin or mineral on bloodwork.

Addressing a deficiency early on can prevent medical conditions such as equine motor neuron disease (EMND), caused by a vitamin E and selenium deficiency.

Some signs of nutritional deficiencies in horses include:

  • Lethargy

  • Reduced willingness to work

  • Excessive muscle soreness

  • Poor coat quality

  • Respiratory difficulties

  • Diarrhea or watery stool

  • Reduced appetite

  • Colic

Keep in mind that supplements are just that: they supplement the diet and prescribed medications without replacing either one.

The Best Horse Supplements

The best horse supplements are safe and effective. While oral supplements generally fall into the “can’t hurt, might help” category, you should still be mindful of the ingredients your horse is ingesting, so it’s important to discuss any potential new additives with your veterinarian. This is especially true if you compete, as it’s easy to skip over the label and inadvertently feed your horse a prohibited substance.

“Supplements are not subject to the same Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and oversight as medications, and often there is limited or no evidence to support their use or safety,” cautions Dr. Jeremy Frederick, DVM, DACVIM, owner of Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley, an ambulatory veterinary practice based in Wappingers Falls, New York. “When selecting a supplement for your horse, it is important to look for a reputable manufacturer who has data to support the use of their products.”

By choosing a research-based, vet-endorsed supplement with solid testimonials from fellow horse owners, you can help your equine companion receive the nutrients their body needs to thrive.

Here are a few to get you started:

Joint Supplements for Horses

There’s no need to wait for old age and creakiness to seep into your horse’s joints to start them on an oral joint supplement. Given as a preventative, reputable horse joint supplements can help preserve cartilage and support healthy synovial (joint) fluid.

  • Cosequin®’s effectiveness is backed by research and contains key ingredients for joint health: glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and MSM. These work together to help protect the cartilage in your horse’s joints by supporting a healthy cartilage matrix and stopping the inflammatory enzymes that break it down. Cartilage and synovial fluid are what keep joints moving smoothly and prevent bone-on-bone friction, which eventually leads to inflammation of the synovium and bones and causes arthritis.

  • Kinetic Vet Conquer® Joint Support contains hyaluronic acid (HA), a natural component of synovial fluid that’s essential for proper joint lubrication and shock absorption.

Calming Supplements for Horses

For equestrians riding “hot,” excitable horses, specially formulated equine calming supplements can help take the edge off. The mineral magnesium is a key ingredient in soothing anxiety, as studies have shown that it gets depleted from tissues faster in stressful situations.

  • Formula 707 Lifecare® Calming relies on magnesium and thiamine (vitamin B1) to help regulate an overactive or stressed nervous system. It also contains tryptophan, an amino acid associated with the production of serotonin and melatonin, two calming hormones.

  • Lifeforce™ Calming is a horse calming supplement that harnesses the powers of magnesium, thiamine, and tryptophan to ease your horse’s stress and enhance their focus.

Vitamin E Supplements for Horses

If the main forage component of your horse’s diet is hay rather than grass, or if your horse is in intense training, they may develop a vitamin E deficiency. Horses lacking vitamin E can suffer from muscle and neurologic problems such as EMND, and muscle weakness or loss.

  • Elevate® maintenance powder is a veterinarian favorite for long-term vitamin E supplementation. It’s made by Kentucky Equine Research©, a reputable, science-based company.

  • Elevate® Se combines vitamin E with selenium, a common deficiency combination in horses.

Hoof Supplements for Horses

Conditions that may have you reaching for a hoof supplement include:

When choosing a hoof supplement for your horse, remember that it can take up to a year for a horse to fully grow a new hoof. Stay diligent about feeding the hoof supplement daily and be prepared to wait months before you see results.

  • Tribute® Tough as Nails horse hoof supplement boasts exclusively 5-star reviews. It contains biotin (vitamin B7), the single most important vitamin for hoof health. Tough as Nails is also fortified with sulfur, a key component of keratin (the main protein of the hoof wall).

  • Farnam Horseshoer's Secret® Hoof Health is a nutrient-rich formula containing biotin, key amino acids lysine and methionine, and important minerals and fatty acids. Horse owners report improved hoof strength and quality when incorporating this popular supplement into their horses’ diets.

Weight Gain Supplements for Horses

Putting pounds on a horse must be done carefully. Feeds high in non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) like starch and sugar can lead to health problems, notably insulin resistance (IR), equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), and laminitis in horses that are overweight. When shopping for weight gain supplements for horses, prioritize fat and protein as safer energy sources instead. Some senior horses or those in high-energy work, however, may benefit from weight gain supplements.

Digestion Supplements for Horses

If your horse struggles with chronic diarrhea, your vet may advise you to turn to a probiotic supplement to help their gut microbiome health. A horse’s intestinal bacterial balance can be easily disrupted due to things like stress, antibiotics, new feeds, travel, and competition. Probiotics are especially helpful if your horse is taking antibiotics, which can deplete the healthy gut bacteria populations and cause diarrhea.

Immune Support Supplements for Horses

Horses with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, also known as equine Cushing’s disease) may have a compromised immune system. This can translate into wounds that don’t heal well and recurring infections or foot abscesses. Horses dealing with chronic infections or respiratory issues may benefit from immune support. Luckily, some dietary supplements can boost immune function in horses:

Ulcer Supplements for Horses

Gastric ulcers are a pain in the gut for many horses and their owners. If your veterinarian diagnoses stomach ulceration in your horse, they may recommend a preventative gastric health supplement after a prescription-strength omeprazole treatment, called GastroGard®, is complete.

  • UlcerGard® is the over-the-counter version of GastroGard®. This paste can be administered daily during stressful events to buffer stomach acid and help prevent the recurrence of gastric ulcers after treatment.

  • Sucralfate is technically a medication rather than a supplement, but it is often prescribed for long-term coating of the stomach lining, which helps prevent the development of ulcers. The powder is added to the horse’s grain, much like a supplement.

Skin and Coat Supplements for Horses

Good nutrition is key to a soft, shiny, healthy coat. You can supplement your horse’s diet specifically with omega-3 fatty acids for skin and coat health. Bonus: skin, hair, and hoof are all made up of the same protein (keratin), so most hoof supplements also benefit your horse’s coat, and vice versa.

  • Omega Horseshine® supports a soft, healthy, shiny coat. It contains key ingredients for both coat and hoof health, notably the omega-3-rich flaxseed.

  • UltraCruz® Skin & Coat improves coat health through healthy fat sources.

Senior Horse Supplements

Just like us humans, horses can experience a wide range of health issues as they age. The most problematic one is usually creaky joints, so horse arthritis or joint supplements often find their way into senior equines’ feed buckets.

Weight loss and a dwindling immune system can also affect your horse in its golden years. Based on your concerns, you can work with your veterinarian to select the best horse supplements for your unique horse.

Another option is to turn to dedicated senior horse supplements that cover all the bases.

  • The Missing Link® Well Blend Senior Powder ticks a lot of boxes: anti-inflammatory, digestive support, and joint support. Key ingredients are varied and include amino acids, probiotics, glucosamine, and MSM.

  • Focus Senior is specifically formulated to help older horses maintain their weight, energy, and overall health in the face of aging.

Lucile Vigouroux, BS, MSc


Lucile Vigouroux, BS, MSc

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