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10 Equine Supplement Red Flags To Watch Out For

In a recent supplement comparison article, I reference OCEN’s Supplement Sins, but without any context. So, I thought I’d put them all together in one spot for you. Most of the red flags can be found in the feeding directions, which is yet another reason why I teach the FeedFLIP method; though shall read the feed label backwards! 

Red Flag #1: Same Serving Size

The most cringe-worthy red flag is when supplements instruct the owner to give the same daily amount no matter the size of the horse; one scoop for a 400 pound mini and one scoop for a 1,400 lb warmblood- a situation where simplicity is NOT admirable. I want the feeding directions on my supplements to be complex! Why? Here are my assumptions. The more we know about how an ingredient is going to behave in the horse, the more we dial in the dosage. Take vitamins and minerals for example. Most of them have been very well studied. If you look at a well formulated trace mineral product, you’ll find instructions for every size horse divided by activity level, and that’s because researchers have completed enough experiments to know the line between too little, too much, or just right. On the flip side, I assume the less we know about how an ingredient will behave in the horse, the less complex the feeding directions, because it’s a bigger guessing game. I don’t like to play guessing games with supplements when they cost as much as they do every month. It’s like they are screaming in your face “we have no idea what we’re doing!”

Red Flag #2: All-In-One

The worst equine supplement that I have ever come across bragged about having 49 ingredients, mind you all-natural of course, in a 0.5 oz scoop! How, in the name of Mary Poppins, does one fit 49 meaningful ingredients for a 1,000+ lb animal into half an ounce? Is that supplement bucket a magic Mary Poppins bag? Half an ounce is only 14 grams or 1,400 milligrams. The following is dumb nonsense math, but we'll do it anyway. A 1,400 mg serving size leaves less than 28 mg on average for each ingredient. Does 28 mg of all 49 ingredients do anything in my horse? Well, I’m certainly not going to buy it to find out. Did I mention that this supplement ALSO committed sin #1? The moral of the story is to be VERY careful of products that promise to be all-that in one scoop! More often than not, when they try to be all-in-one, they fall short in all-of-the-above.

Red Flag #3: Stay in Your Lane!

If you’re a joint supplement, just be a joint supplement. If you’re a fat supplement, please for the love of all the horses, just be a fat supplement! Supplement companies are madly competing for your attention and there’s a new one every week, so in order to “one up” their competition they will add a buzz-word ingredient even if it doesn’t support their primary purpose statement. There was a trend for a while when lots of supplements across many categories just added selenium willey-nilley, because it was the key nutritional buzz word of the day (today it’s magnesium). I’ve seen fat supplements dabble in a trace mineral or two, muscle supplements grow an extra arm of joint support, and calming supplements offer to do your laundry. Ok, just making sure that you’re paying attention. Companies with decent products would do themselves a favor by just staying in their lane, because it’s easier to create simple effective diets that way. Products that veer out of their lane make it super duper easy to over-extend your supplementation into duplication, so be super duper careful and choose wisely. 

Red Flag #4: Can you Guarantee That? 

The ingredient or nutrient that you’re interested in should be guaranteed, right? No? Then, why feed it? For example, the product claims to be low-carb, but doesn’t guarantee maximum dietary sugar and/or starch. I also see this in omega-3 supplements. Sometimes omega is in the name, yet they don’t guarantee a minimum amount. Why should we trust the product’s quality if they don’t even have a good understanding or faith in their own product? 

Ok, so I’m aware that state and federal labeling laws are complex, and that companies have a hard time navigating them when selling product across the country. In addition, some nutrients are very expensive to test for, but should we really let them off the hook when they are charging us hundreds of dollars a year to feed their product? We need to be more demanding people. Why would a supplement company bother testing regularly if you’re not asking for the results?

*The product below calls itself a complete feed including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, digestive aids, and even tryptophan which is very odd yet has the shortest guaranteed analysis that I've ever seen!

Red Flag #5: Crickets

You send the company a question via email and you never hear from them. I rarely get responses back when I ask really easy questions like "how do you support your claims" or “what third-part entities guarantee the quality, consistency and safety of your product?” Or “what are the credentials of your product’s primary creator?” Maybe, we don’t really want to know! If I have to read one more ABOUT page that describes the supplement company owner as “having horses her whole life”, I might just throw up. How or when does owning horses qualify you for anything? 

Red Flag #6: Can’t Support Their Claims

They say "backed by science" in their marketing pitch and then can't produce a peer-reviewed article that a career scientist wouldn’t laugh at. Exhibit A: Have you ever sourced and fully read the studies that 100X Equine lists on their website!?! It'll make any scientist chuckle and then pour themselves a shot of tequila! *Read more at RATE MY HORSE SUPPLEMENT GutX Review CLICK HERE. Don't take my word for it. You can search for peer-reviewed articles for free at Google Scholar or, better yet, contact the company for them.

Red Flag #7: Promising to Cure Cancer or Diabetes or BOTH

Several times in my career, I’ve thought “did that supplement company just promise to cure cancer?” More recently, I thought“did this supplement company claim to have the answer to insulin resistance”? Human researchers pouring millions of dollars a year into research haven’t been able to solve insulin resistance, but somehow this equine supplement company has!

Red Fag #8: Using milligrams when they should use grams

Ok, I admit that this is more of an annoyance than a red flag, but something that I often have to do in comparison articles is to convert the guaranteed analysis from milligrams to grams. It’s like popping a proverbial balloon when you realize that 12,000 milligrams is really just 12 grams and your horse needs 35! Most…let me repeat…MOST of the nutrients that your horse needs, he needs in amounts that are best described in pounds or grams. Milligrams, or parts per million, should be limited to ingredients that make a literal one in a million difference like zinc or copper. Major minerals and amino acids should be reported in grams otherwise I have to convert them and it's annoying.

Red Flag #9: Active VS Inactive Ingredients

Ok, I’m getting really nit-picky here, but I have been known to roll my eyes at the use of “active” versus “inactive” ingredients for supplement products. Shouldn’t that be reserved for pharmaceuticals? By using the phrase “active” are we are to assume that the ingredient has actually been studied in horses like a drug? By now I’m fresh out of laughs and just want to cry. 

May I also note that NOT listing the "inactive" ingredients isn't fair either right, because we want to know what the "active" ingredient carrier's are especially if our horse has allergies.

Red Flag #10: Perfect Reviews

Have you EVER seen a supplement company review that wasn't 5 out of 5 stars? Where do these 10's of thousands of perfect scores come from? I know from talking to a lot of you for the last 18 years that you're not that excited about these supplements! If we’re being honest, you're not really sure that they are working either.

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