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To Buy or Not to Buy: The Opportunity Costs of a $1,332 Supplement

I bought a new digestive aid supplement today, and then the buyer’s remorse set in. It was only AFTER clicking “Confirm Order” that I calculated the daily cost- $3.65. Holy supplement! Has it been blessed by a priest? That’s an outrageous daily cost for ANY supplement! I had failed to take my own professional advice to calculate and consider the cost:benefit ratio. Was a marginal improvement in any performance metric worth spending $1332 per year? In this article, we attempt to define the opportunity costs of this supplement. Perhaps you can learn from my mistake when considering the next performance enhancing promise.

I bought this supplement, because I was curious about its ingredients- particularly the beta-glucan. I literally spent weeks researching the use of beta-glucan in horses. I won’t bore you with the details in this article (this is not a supplement review; more of that to come later), but the gist of what I found was…the research is indeterminate. What about beta-glucan mixed with other digestive aids? The product that I purchased has a four prong approach; oat beta-glucan, seed oils, yeast products, and amino acids. I support the use of yeast products and amino acids for a host of reasons, but needed personal experience with beta-glucan to form an opinion. Having just begun my mare’s conditioning plan towards the 2021 season, I decided to take them up on their 60 day challenge and refund guarantee.

What could I lose besides $1,332 per year? This supplement has been on the market for quite some time and boasts a pretty positive reputation. Their online marketing is full of convincing scientific terms and references, and they promise a long list of benefits for the “serious horse owner”. Yes, I have an upper level event horse. Yes, she has shown behavioral symptoms of gastric ulcers despite a recent negative scoping. Yes, I consider myself a “serious horse owner”, but does my horse really need this supplement considering the enormous cost? My mind went to all the other things I could spend $1,332 a year on.

List of Opportunity Costs

  • 3-4 horse show entry fees

  • Buy a new horse

  • 5 ton of horse hay

  • 74 bags of whole oats

  • 37 months (>3 years) worth of my favorite digestive aid supplement

  • 20 riding lessons

  • 6 very fancy bits

  • Horse shoes with studs for the next year and a half

  • House remodel projects

  • All inclusive week long trip to Cabo!

  • I could go on…and on…

Having already spent the money, I HOPED that this product will work to improve my horse’s “ease of bending, collecting, or extending”, “sensitivity to touch or girthiness”, “hair/coat condition”, and “temperament” (claims made on the product website). If it can do just one of those things, could it be worth $1,332 per year? Is 25% improvement in my horse’s girthiness adequate? Would a 5% improvement in suppleness be worth the cost? Is 100% eradication of all issues possible and worthy? I for one will be keeping a close watch on my horse’s behavior in the next 60 days and journaling it on the supplement’s provided paperwork. The answer is most likely a resounding, NO, for me, and I don't think this makes me a bad horse owner.

How you answer the above questions for each supplement will be determined by the strength of your opportunity costs. Here is my suggestion- make a list. [Who doesn’t like list making!?!] Before you buy that next supplement, calculate your annual cost and then make two columns- one for opportunity costs and one for possible supplement benefits. The more tangible and measurable the supplement benefit, the better. Ask yourself “what else could I use that money towards” and put that in the opportunity costs column? This is a better indication of worthiness than asking your trainer, horse friend, or random people on the internet for their opinions.

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