Winter can take its toll on your horse in a number of ways. Luckily, you can beat five common causes of the winter blues with the right nutritional choices. Here are some supplement suggestions from our friends at SmartPak.
Tense, edgy, spooky, worried. If any of these words describe your horse, a calming supplement may help him relax and enjoy the ride. These products are carefully formulated to support a balanced temperament and help your horse stay calm and confident, without unwanted drowsiness. Here are two types of calming supplements to consider:
Horses whose diets don’t provide enough of the nutrients necessary for proper nervous system function may be anxious. Nutrient-based calming formulas are designed to bring your horse’s dietary levels into the optimal range for a healthy, correctly functioning nervous system. These supplements include ingredients such as vitamin B1, magnesium, and inositol, which support normal functioning of the nervous system. Another key ingredient, tryptophan, is an essential amino acid that supports the production of serotonin, a hormone that may help increase feelings of well-being and contentment.
Nutrient-based calming supplements are an ideal starting point for horses that are nervous, edgy, reactive, or spooky. Supplements like Magnesium 5,000 (from $15.45) and Quiessence (from $30.78) provide magnesium, making them a smart choice for horses who may not be getting enough magnesium in their diets. For more comprehensive support that includes all of the ingredients mentioned above, consider SmartCalm® Ultra Pellets (from $31.18).
Herbal ingredients can help balance the nervous system and provide soothing support for tense, anxious horses. Supplements in this category provide herbs such as valerian, chamomile, and vervain. Some of these formulas, such as SmartTranquility® Pellets (from $30.95), combine those herbs with the nutrient-based ingredients mentioned above. If you don’t compete, an herbal calming formula may be a great option to consider. Additionally, if you’ve tried a nutrient-based supplement and didn’t see the results you were hoping for, consider trying one of the herbal formulas mentioned here as a next step.
If you’ve got a hard keeper, winter can be an especially tough time of year to keep weight on your horse, particularly if you’re trying to avoid overloading your horse with grain. Work with your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes for your horse’s weight challenge, and consider adding a weight gain supplement. These formulas, like dac
® Bloom (from $24.60), provide “cool” calories from healthy fats, which provide energy without causing a spike in blood sugar, as sugars and starches can. To provide well-rounded support for a healthy weight, consider SmartGain
® (from $25.01). This supplement includes extra calories from healthy fats along with amino acids to support lean muscle development.
Creating the right winter diet can also be tough for horses who have a tendency to be overweight. It can be hard to find the right balance between giving easy keepers enough calories to stay warm, but not so many that they pack on the pounds. If you’re concerned about the amount of fat your horse is carrying, talk to your vet about the possibility of your horse having metabolic issues. You and your vet can develop a plan to help your horse achieve and maintain a healthy weight, which may include an appropriate diet, a structured exercise program, and a metabolic health supplement like SmartMetabo-Lean® Pellets (from $37.12).
Some horses drink less in the winter because of cold water or icy buckets. But proper hydration is essential to your horse’s health and well-being all year long. A dehydrated horse may not have adequate water supplies to successfully pass feedstuffs through his digestive tract, which puts him at risk for GI trouble, including impaction colic.
To help keep your horse healthy and hydrated, make sure he has fresh water, ideally free from ice, available at all times. To keep water from getting too cold, consider using a heated bucket or the SmartPak™ Insulated Water Bucket Cover ($45.95).If your horse is a poor drinker, try adding a salt supplement like SmartSalt
® Pellets (from $11.84) to his diet. These tasty apple-banana flavored pellets provide sodium chloride to encourage normal drinking and help meet your horse’s daily nutritional needs.
Wintertime often translates into more time spent indoors. Whether it’s in a stall with frequently changed bedding or in a crowded indoor arena, increased exposure to dust and airborne debris can irritate your horse’s airways. If you notice a problem, such as a cough, it’s always best to have your horse checked by your veterinarian. Based on this exam, your vet may recommend a respiratory supplement as a beneficial addition to your horse’s program along with other diet and management changes.
Respiratory supplements help soothe and support your horse’s airways with ingredients such as spirulina, N-acetyl cysteine, MSM, and antioxidants. SmartBreathe
® Ultra Pellets (from $50.28) provides all of those ingredients along with DHA, a specific type of omega 3 fatty acid that was shown in a recent study to provide benefits to horses with airway syndromes.
1 Air-Way EQ Pellets (from $40.19) which were designed to support comfortable, normal breathing, are another option to consider.
STIFFNESS & DISCOMFORT
Winter weather often leads to horses spending more time in their stalls, which can lead to stiff, uncomfortable joints. This is often especially true for senior horses, who are also coping with years of wear and tear on their joints. To help your horse stay comfortable this season, try to keep him out of his stall as much as possible. When winter weather limits his turnout time, get him moving with hand-walking, lunging, or riding. If your horse is a senior or prone to stiffness, consider adding a comfort supplement to his diet. Supplements in this category, such as SmartComfort
® Pellets (from $27.89) and Absorbine Bute-Less Pellets (from $19.47), provide MSM and carefully selected herbs to support a normal inflammatory response and help address the discomfort associated with exercise and aging.
Need advice? Ask SmartPak’s Horse Health Experts!
Whether you’re tackling one of the challenges we mentioned here or you have another winter blue to beat, SmartPak is here to help! Their Horse Health Experts receive hours of equine health and supplement training. And besides that, they’re riders and horse owners just like you, so they know what it’s like to be a horse person with a horse problem. So give SmartPak a call at 1-800-461-8898, live chat with them at SmartPak.com, or text* at 26756 – their smarts are at your service!
Go SmartPak and go riding!
1Nogradi N, Couetil LL, Messick J, et al. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation provides an additional benefit to a low-dust diet in the management of horses with chronic lower airway inflammatory disease. J Vet Intern Med 2015;29:299–306.