Equine Feeds (& Supplements)

See also: www.naturalfeeding.co.uk

The horse feed market is massive. With an estimated 1.35 million horses in the UK, there's a lot of money spent on horse feeds and supplements. Our rough estimate is £70 million on compound feeds alone, in 2001. That's a nice commercial niche. Around the UK, acres of shelf space are devoted to the display and sale of this type of product.

Caring horse ‘owners' do their very best for their equine charges. They are inevitably susceptible to up-beat advertising, extolling the virtues of a certain feed product or of a certain supplement. There may even be a health claim or implied health claim on the label or incorporated in the product name, alluding to a certain disease or syndrome, persuading folk to buy it for a horse who may suffer such a problem. Some feeds have badges of endorsement emblazoned upon them, as if they represented something very special and beneficial. Sadly, this can be meaningless, as money or other inducement can change hands. ‘Owners' will willingly forego a luxury for themselves, if the extra money provides a benefit for their horses. This is therefore a very fertile field for commercial interest.

We can only counsel caution in such purchases. Very often supplements are, at best, a waste of money and unnecessary for your horse's health and well-being. The word ‘natural’ is often misused. The claims are usually quasi-legal. The ingredients are often unsuitable for horses (e.g. milk, gelatin, molasses, beef peptones, dried liver, blood meal, chemical anti-oxidants, fish oils, cod liver oil, artificial colourants (colorants), artificial flavourings, artificial anti-oxidants – we have seen all of those). Why put colouring in an electrolyte product, as I saw recently? What sense does it make to feed an animal product to a herbivore? Herbal products are pushed onto the customer, often by companies with no herbal tradition and certainly with no personal knowledge of the ‘patient’ or what other treatment it may be receiving. Often, no warnings are given that certain herbs may add dangerously to the action of certain drugs. If buying a garlic supplement, why would you want to pay for and feed carrier material too? There are garlic products on the market, which only have some garlic oil added to a carrier base! Certain patented yeast products are very vigorously marketed, with no statement that the medium in which the yeast is cultured is also added to the product (it is inseparable from the yeasts). No information is obtainable from manufacturers, on the ‘secret formulation’ of such growing mediums. There is a so-called ‘natural’ sulphur compound available, known by a three-letter acronym, which is an ingredient in many herbal-type supplements. It is purported to be anti-inflammatory. It is usually a by-product of the wood-pulping industry. It appear to counteract the effects of homeopathy, however, despite the ‘natural’ tag, which means that we cannot recommend it.

This brings us on to ‘trade secrets’. We advocate never buying any product (food or otherwise) for which the manufacturer is unwilling to provide a full and explicit declaration of ingredients. You have a responsibility to know everything, which your horse takes in. In general, it is much safer never to buy manufactured products, relying instead on ‘straight’ feeding stuffs along with mineral or herb formulations, made up individually for your horse by a suitably experienced vet, who integrates it into the overall program.

While some products may be perfectly acceptable, others may be downright detrimental. We advise that you should always run a product, with its full list of ingredients |(and sometimes source-material) past a suitably experienced vet, who has personal knowledge of your horse and who has the best possible care of your horse at heart.

Clients of the AVMC are given deeper advice on this vital topic, with explanations, on request. We are also willing, as a service to clients, to ‘vet’ any ingredient-lists of products, prior to them being fed to a horse. Unless a great deal of extra work is involved, we don’t charge for this essential work. Feeding horses is vital work and can be fun, once free of the yoke of advertising seduction and vested interest.

We advocate feeding of natural alternatives to this commercial enterprise.

Other pages of related interest:

Make no mistake, this is big business:

The horse food industry (2009) is possibly about £1billion but is not accurately researched or monitored.