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Part II: Performance Boosters- What are they and do they work?

A quest to organize, review and form opinions about the plethora of supplements on the market promising to boost performance.


In "Part I: Performance Boosting Supplements", I defined a category of nutraceuticals that attempt to make the horse's energy production and waste removal systems work more efficiently. Like I stated in Part I, performance boosting supplements go beyond sound nutritional basics to attempt to a) lengthen the time to fatigue, b) speed recovery, and/or c) decrease the amount of energy used up by the immune system. Performance boosters are to be added on top of a well-balanced diet. It is absolutely critical that the horse's diet be meeting or exceeding its calorie, protein, vitamins and mineral requirements before adding one or more of these supplements. Performance boosters also go above and beyond choosing the right fuel source! You wouldn't put 89 octane gasoline into a performance car, just as you wouldn't choose the wrong blend of protein, fat and carbs for your chosen discipline. In Part I, I discussed the nutraceuticals coenzyme Q10, dimethylglycine, creatine, gamma oryzanol, and branched chain amino acids. In Part II, I will discuss other amino acids (i.e. glutamine, beta alanine, carnitine), B-Vitamins, bioactive proteins, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.


If you have not read Part I, please start by CLICKING HERE.

Here is a list of the performance boosting nutraceuticals that I was interested in.

  1. Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone)

  2. Dimethylglycine (DMG)

  3. Creatine

  4. Gamma Oryzanol

  5. Branched Chain Amino Acids

  6. Other Amino Acids (i.e. glutamine, beta alanine, carnitine)

  7. B-Vitamins

  8. Colostrom and Plasma

  9. Vitamin E

  10. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

As we continue on this journey to better understand these nutraceuticals, please keep a few things in mind.

  1. It is MOST likely, that some supplements will help some horses. It is NOT likely that most supplements will help most horses.

  2. The mention of a supplement containing these nutraceuticals is NOT an endorsement.

  3. If your horse does not already have a robust basic diet plan, these supplements are worthless. Do not consider these supplements if you don't already have calories, protein, vitamins and minerals well balanced.

  4. As you will see from the product comparisons, the amount of each nutraceutical per supplement is WILDLY variable! This is a clue to us consumers that many supplement companies have no idea what they are actually doing.

  5. This is my interpretation of the available research. When we are discussing equine research results, the quantity and statistical power of these studies are typically poor. At some point, we just have to use some common sense and consult our wallet.

  6. I'm basing my interpretation on horses in moderate to intense work.

So, let's dive back in!

 

OTHER ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS (i.e. glutamine, beta alanine, arginine, carnitine, ect.)

-Research by Siqueira et al, 2020 = 30 grams per day of Glutamine

-Research reported by Rivero et al., 2022 = 10 grams of Carnitine

-Stride Animal Health Moving Up = unknown amount of each in 40 grams of product

-Succeed Digestive Conditioning Program = 1.44% of a 27 g scoop is 0.4 grams of glutamine

-Foxden Equine Muscle Mix = Unknown amount of each in a 13.3 gram serving

-Platinum Renew = 4 grams Carnitine in 1 scoop (19.3 grams)

-NupaFeed L- Carnitine: Shockingly poor guaranteed analysis! 17% of 30 ml= maybe 5 grams of carnitine?

  • Cost= Moderate to Very High; $1.08 for 2 scoops Foxden Equine Muscle Mix, $2.52 per day for 1 scoop Platinum Renew, $4.73 per day for SAH Moving Up

  • Research Grade (Quality and Quantity of Peer Reviewed Research) = 2/5

  • Will I try this on my 3 Day Event Horses or Recommend to Clients? Not likely. Considering the opportunity costs of other supplementation, these amino acids would be low on my list to add to a performance horse diet. I would prefer to explore better quality forage choices and other nutraceuticals, first.

 

B VITAMINS (i.e. thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), pyroxidine (B6), cobalamine (B12), ect)

  • Products Containing This Nutraceutical: HorseTech B-Plex, Purina Equine Senior, SmartVite Pellets, Cavalor NutriPlus, brewers yeast, alfalfa and clover hays

  • Theory Behind Its Use: B Vitamins generally act as coenzymes or precursers to a coenzyme in all parts of the body including energy metabolism.

  • Dosage for 1,100 lb Horse: NRC (2007) Requirements for a 1,100 lb horse in heavy work is 2,500 mg of thiamine and 1,000 mg of riboflavin. For the other B vitamins, requirement, toxicity and deficiency have not been described by research.

-HorseTech B-Plex offers 60 mg Thiamine Hydrochloride, 80 mg Riboflavin, 70 mg Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6), and 0.6 mg Vitamin B12 in 2 scoops.

-Cavalor Nutri Plus offers 405 mg of Thiamine (20% of Req'mt), 500 mg of Riboflavin, 100 mg of Vitamin B6, and 2 mg of Vitamin B12. I'm assuming that this is in 100 g, but their feeding directions are so confusing, I'm not 100% sure.

-SmartVite Thrive Pellets has 30 mg of Thiamine, 20 mg Riboflavin, 10 mg Vitamin B6, and 0.06 mg of Vitamin B12 in a daily serving.

-Purina Equine Senior offers 68 mg of Thiamine and 54 mg of Riboflavin in 6 pounds.

  • Cost: Low to Moderate; $0.78 to $2.07 per daily serving.

  • Research Grade (Quality and Quantity of Peer Reviewed Research) = 1/5; According to the NRC (2007), most of these B vitamins do not have a known requirement or level of deficiency. The exceptions are thiamine and riboflavin.

  • Will I try this on my 3 Day Event Horses or Recommend to Clients? Not likely. Considering the opportunity costs of other supplementation, these B Vitamins would be low on my list to add to a performance horse diet. I would prefer to explore better quality forage choices and other nutraceuticals, first.

 

BIOACTIVE PROTEINS: BOVINE COLOSTRUM & PORCINE PLASMA

  • Products Containing This Nutraceutical: ImmuBiome Lean Muscle, Stride Animal Health LIFELINE+ Equine

  • Theory Behind Its Use: Attenuate stress induced inflammation. The idea is that the colostrum and/or plasma will affect the immune system in positive ways that decrease inflammation in joints, reproductive organs, and the digestive system.

  • Dosage for 1,100 lb Horse:

-McClure et al., 2016 Study = 80-210 grams per day

-Fikes et al., 2021 Study = 40-80 grams per day

-Stride Animal Health LIFELINE+ Equine = 80 grams porcine plasma per 2 scoops

-ImmuBiome Lean Muscle = 17.5 grams bovine colostrum per 2 scoops

  • Cost: Very High; $3.87 -5.66 per day for 2 scoops

  • Research Grade (Quality and Quantity of Peer Reviewed Research) = 3/5. Research exists, though for horses, much of it is funded by the company that produces the product. However, there is a wealth of information from studies performed on rats and mice that is optimistic for a range of inflammatory conditions.

  • Will I try this on my 3 Day Event Horses or Recommend to Clients? Possibly, but only in instances of severe stress and myopathy. It is very expensive to feed!

 

VITAMIN E (Hyper-Supplemented Above Requirement)

  • Products Containing This Nutraceutical: Too many to count. You can find a few sources of natural vitamin E that I've reviewed HERE on my website Rate My Horse Supplement.

  • Theory Behind Its Use: Vitamin E is one of the few vitamins that horses do not produce in their own bodies. It is available at high concentrations to horses on good quality grass pasture, but this vitamin is known to deteriorate quickly in stored forages. I consider this nutrient to be a "basic" component of a well balanced diet, but hyper-supplementation over NRC (2007) recommended levels may be helpful.

  • Dosage for 1,100 lb Horse: NRC (2007) requirement estimate is 1,000 IUs per day.

-Fagan et al., 2020 Study = 4,000 IUs/day per horse

-Sicliano et al., 1997 Study = 800- 3,000 IU's per day

  • Cost: Low to Moderate; $0.68 to $2.29 per 3,000 IUs

  • Research Grade (Quality and Quantity of Peer Reviewed Research) = 3.5/5; I believe that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that hyper-supplementation of natural vitamin E is beneficial for horses under high stress loads.

  • Will I try this on my 3 Day Event Horses or Recommend to Clients? Yes, I recommend Vitamin E supplementation whenever the horse is on mostly hay based diet with little to no access to green grass. I recommend hyper-supplementation up to 5,000 IU's per day to horses suffering from myopathy and other performance limitations.

 

OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS (ALA, EPA, DHA)

  • Products Containing This Nutraceutical: Too many to count, but you'll want to look for oil sources such as flaxseed, camelina, ahiflower and fish oils. You can find a few sources of omega-3 that I've reviewed HERE on my website Rate My Horse Supplement.

  • Theory Behind Its Use: Powerful antioxidants that attenuate inflammatory pathways.

  • Dosage for 1,100 lb Horse:

-Lucia (2011) research study fed 15 grams EPA and 20 grams of DHA to 8 horses.

-Kentucky Equine Research EO3 offers 6.75 grams of combined EPA and DHA.

-HorseGuard Flaxen Flow offers 30 grams of omega-3 in 2 ounces of product.

-Most supplements state 2-4 ounces per day on their feeding directions.

  • Cost: Averages $1.00 per ounce of high omega-3 oil which is $128 per gallon, but can range between $37-$185 per gallon.

  • Research Grade (Quality and Quantity of Peer Reviewed Research) = 3.5/5. There have been many attempts to quantify and qualify the advantages of feeding high omega-3 diets to horses with variable success. However, due to the abundance of research in humans and other species to attenuate inflammation, I think that we can feed a high omega-3 oil source with confidence.

  • Will I try this on my 3 Day Event Horses or Recommend to Clients? Yes, I do feed it, and I do often recommend it.

***You may also enjoy reading an article I wrote called "The Perfect Oil for Horses: Fat Chance!". In this article, I deep dive into the many different types of oils, their advantages, and how to decide which one to feed. CLICK HERE.


SUMMARY

Here's what I've learned after reviewing 10 "performance boosting" supplements over the last 2 months.

Some supplements might be worth the cost for some horses. Most supplements won't be worth the cost for most horses.

Every nutritionist, veterinarian and horse owner will interpret research in a different way that depends on a) preconditioned beliefs, b) who they learned the information from, c) what they had for breakfast that day. So, take these recommendations and weave them into your own beliefs, management preferences, and budgets. There is reasonable evidence to believe that some nutraceuticals will improve the metrics around your horse's exercise. For example, immune support (very big deal), slightly better recovery after exercise, and act as an antioxidant during energy production and waste removal. Those are all good things, and you're NOT a bad owner if you choose to incorporate them or NOT! As usual, use OCEN's method for trialing a new supplement should you consider one of the above. Here is an article about "How to Trial a New Supplement".


REFERENCES


de Siqueira, R.F. and Fernandes, W.R., 2020. Glutamine supplementation affects Th1 and Th2 cell populations in endurance horses. Comparative Exercise Physiology, 16(4), pp.259-266.


Fagan, M.M., Harris, P., Adams, A., Pazdro, R., Krotky, A., Call, J. and Duberstein, K.J., 2020. Form of Vitamin E Supplementation Affects Oxidative and Inflammatory Response in Exercising Horses. Journal of equine veterinary science, 91, p.103103.


Fikes, K.K., Coverdale, J.A., Leatherwood, J.L., Campbell, J.M., Welsh Jr, T.H., Hartz, C.J., Goehring, M., Millican, A.A., Bradbery, A.N. and Wickersham, T.A., 2021. Effect of bioactive proteins on gait kinematics and systemic inflammatory markers in mature horses. Translational Animal Science, 5(1), p.txab017.


Lucia, J.L., 2011. Effect of Omega 3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) on Markers of Inflammation in Young Horses in Training (Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University).


McClure, S.R., Campbell, J., Polo, J. and Lognion, A., 2016. The effect of serum-based bioactive proteins for the prevention of squamous gastric ulcers in horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 43, pp.32-38.


Polo, J., Andersen, U.V., Nielsen, J.M., Ródenas, J., Crenshaw, J.D., Campbell, J.M. and Rodríguez, C., 2016. The Effects of BioThrive for Peripartum Mares and Their Neonatal Foals From Birth to 60 Days of Age. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 46, pp.54-63.


Rivero, J.L., SPORLEDER, H.P., Quiroz‐Rothe, E., Vervuert, I., Coenen, M. and Harmeyer, J., 2002. Oral L‐carnitine combined with training promotes changes in skeletal muscle. Equine Veterinary Journal, 34(S34), pp.269-274.


Siciliano, P.D., Parker, A.L. and Lawrence, L.M., 1997. Effect of dietary vitamin E supplementation on the integrity of skeletal muscle in exercised horses. Journal of animal science, 75(6), pp.1553-1560.

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