Spring Supplements for Horses
Ah, the hint of spring is in the air. Just yesterday, I noticed tiny green buds have appeared on the willow tree in front of my house. And patches of green are appearing beneath the scraggly, brown grass in my pastures too. I think most all of us horse people love spring (minus the tornadoes, that is). More hours of daylight and warmer weather = more time with our horses. Am I right?
But since our pastures will be going through so many changes in the coming months, and our horses have just come out of winter, it’s a good time to add certain supplements into their diet. Here are a few to consider:
Young, growing grasses are notoriously deficient in magnesium, which all horses need a certain amount of. If you don’t already supplement magnesium, consider adding a source during the spring. Your commercial feed may have some added, but it’s very likely not enough. Several different forms of Mg are available for horses, but there is some discrepancy as to which ones are most easily absorbed.
As for the inorganic forms, magnesium oxide is recommended by several equine nutritionists as only 8.9 grams are needed to deliver 5 mg of Mg to the horse. Magnesium citrate is more easily absorbed than Mg Oxide, but since it contains a very low concentration of elemental Mg (11%), you would need to feed 45.5 grams in order to deliver 5 grams of Mg.
Other sources say Di-magnesium malate is the best form to feed. As far as I know, MagRestore is the only option specifically geared toward horses, but you can also buy the plain powder (not sure how palatable it is) off Amazon.
Magnesium found in natural food sources is chelated (bound) to another molecule, which helps with absorption. While the actual amounts of Mg will not be as much, whole food options are always a great way to supplement many other vitamins and minerals as well.
These whole foods are especially high in magnesium and are safe to feed to horses:
- Pumpkin seeds (shelled): 1200 mg
- Flax or Chia seeds: 660 mg
- Almonds: 400 mg
- Split peas: 230 mg
(amounts listed for one cup)
Most forms of magnesium are safe to give to horses and Mg toxicity is rare. But if your horse develops diarrhea after starting a magnesium supplement, you will want to back off on the amount fed.
*Note: It’s recommended to avoid feeding Magnesium sulfate (epsom salt) because of its more extreme laxative effect.
Detoxifying Herbs/ Supplements
Spring is also a great time to consider adding some detoxifying supplements into your horse’s diet. After a long, sluggish winter, it’s the perfect time to ‘clean out the junk’, so to speak and give your horse a reboot. Consider feeding some of the following to aid in natural detox:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- bentonite clay
- milk thistle
- dandelion root
Pro or Pre-biotics
Any time you’re making changes in forage, adding pre or probiotics into your horse’s diet is a good idea. And since moving into spring, we’re often going from hay to grass (and the grass is changing rapidly), the horse’s gut may struggle to keep up. We all know that sudden changes in feed can cause digestive upset, and this is true even with forage. By supporting the gut microbes, your horse will be better able to adapt to these changes.
Pro-biotics are commercial products which contain live microorganisms–the ‘good’ bacteria or yeast. Stress, antibiotics, and other medications can deplete these microbes, and feeding a pro-biotic can help restore their numbers.
- Equine Generator
- ProGuard Probiotics from The Holistic Horse
- Equerry’s Large Animal Probiotic
Pre-biotics are ingredients or commercial products which essentially feed the good gut microbes, helping to maintain their health. Examples include:
There are also some good pre/ pro-biotic combination products such as Equine-Zyme Plus Probiotic Immune Booster from Earth Song Ranch.
Sources and Further Reading