It’s a jungle out there when it comes to feeds and supplements for horses. A simple Google search for ‘horse supplement’ turns up over 67 million results, and ‘horse feed’ shows 485 million! Every ad feels the same, and every company’s representative says their product is the best, so it can quickly feel like a losing battle. When evaluating your options, here are a few good questions to ask.
How transparent is the label? Are the ingredients clearly stated by their true name (such as Rice Bran) or are they labeled collectively (such as Processed Grain By-Products)? Collective labeling allows a company to include any number of ingredients under the respective terms. For example, the term ‘Processed Grain By-Products’ includes 35 different ingredients that can be used in any combination, at any level, at any time. Collective labeling is great for a company who wishes to make the cheapest formula possible while meeting certain nutrient specifications. However, it can create dramatic changes in the base ingredients, and all good horse owners understand the risks associated with abrupt feed changes in horses.
Does the company test raw ingredients for molds and toxins prior to use? This seems like a strange question to ask, but there are many forms of mold and mycotoxins that are invisible to the naked eye which can wreak havoc on a horse and even lead to death. One example is a toxin called fumonisin. Horses are very susceptible to fumonisin poisoning, so mills should test ingredients, such as corn, for this toxin prior to acceptance. Chronic exposure to molds and toxins over time can cause the gut lining to deteriorate. This limits nutrient absorption and can cause a horse to look poor, lose coat condition, develop digestive issues, and even cause autoimmune diseases.
Are the ingredients backed by research? It is not logical, or feasible, for a company to invest in research trials investigating multiple facets on every single finished product they make (outside of normal palatability testing). However, it is completely realistic to expect there to be research which supports the use of unique ingredient technologies. In other words, base ingredients such as alfalfa meal, rice bran, and beet pulp are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA, so there is no reason to run a research trial on a finished feed made of these ingredients. However, if a feed or supplement contains a novel ingredient, such as plasma, we would expect there to be some research to back the benefits of plasma.
Does the company comply with the rules of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC)? Are they compliant with the Food Safety Modernization Act and Good Manufacturing Practices? This is all essential for ensuring safe, clean, quality products for consumers, and a safe work environments for employees.
There are many other facets that go into making a superior feed or supplement which delivers the results you want, but this list of basic questions will help you do an initial sort when you are comparing products. The team of PhD nutritionists and knowledgeable nutrition consultants at Bluebonnet Feeds and Stride Animal Health are always available to fit your horse with the perfect nutritional program to meet his/her unique needs.