How to get a horse to eat supplements

How to get a horse to eat supplements

Understanding Your Horse's Taste Preferences

Horses are known to have extremely sensitive senses of tase and smell. In fact horses have around 25,000 taste buds, this is more than twice the amount humans do. Their acute sense of taste has many benefits with research suggesting it helps them to determine the nutrient levels in their food as well as being able to differentiate between high and poor quality feedstuffs. Horses tend to favour sweet and salty flavoured foods and will often avoid anything with a bitter taste. Their advance sense of taste will even prevent them from eating anything that may be poisonous so long as their appetite requirements are being satisfied.

Just like us, horses will have flavours and textures of foods which they prefer. Some horses have even  been known to ‘sort through’ their feeds leaving behind the components they do not wish to eat. It is important to remember that dietary supplements can often alter the smell, taste or texture of your horse’s feed, something to keep in mind if your horse is a fussier feeder.

Practical Tips for Fussy Eaters

Whilst many horses will eat supplements without an issue, a small number of horses can be particularly fussy - this can make feeding time difficult and is certainly not ideal if your horse requires the nutrients and health benefits offered from these supplements. Horses who frequently leave feed and supplements can also end up wasting a lot of money - not ideal considering how expensive keeping horses can be already.

Here we are going to discuss some of our top tips for encouraging even the fussiest of horses to eat their supplements:

Introducing Supplements Gradually

If your horse is particularly fussy to new additions in the diet, we would recommend introducing a supplement very gradually starting with just a tiny amount (no more than one teaspoon) and build this up to the full maintenance dose over a period of several days, this way they won’t be overwhelmed with the full amount being fed at once.

If your horse finds the full dosage of a supplement to be overwhelming, it may also help if the daily dose is split between multiple feeds instead of trying to feed the full daily dose all at once. For the vast majority of supplements, this will not affect the efficacy of the product, however if you do have any concerns regarding this we would recommend reaching out to the manufacturer directly.

Some horses can feel overwhelmed if their daily ration of hard feed is offered all at once, if this is the case you may be able to make their feed more welcoming by offering it in several smaller portions throughout the day instead. It is important to remember that horses should not be given any more than 2kg of concentrate feeds at any given time as this may contribute to starch overload and can disrupt the good bacteria colonies within the hind gut leading to digestive upset and other issues.

If you need to feed multiple supplements a day, it may also be worth splitting these between meals, as the addition of multiple products in one meal can be overwhelming for some horses.

Trying Different Forms of Supplements

As mentioned earlier, horses will have personal preferences in regards to the flavours and even textures of feed. If your horse is opposed to a powdered supplement, it may be worth offering it in another form such a herbal, pelleted or liquid. Many companies now offer their products in a range of different forms to suit personal preferences.

If your horse will not eat their food with the addition of a liquid supplement, it may be worth syringing the required amount directly into the mouth instead. Whilst this method may be a bit more demanding it is a sure fire way to ensure your horse is getting the full dose of their required supplements. Many powdered supplements can also be mixed with water and administered directly into the mouth using a syringe.

Dampen feed

If not already doing so, it may also be worth dampening down your horse’s feed as this will make it much easier for supplements to be mixed in and disguised. For this reason, mash feeds such as Speedibeet act as great carriers for supplements. Mash feeds tend to be very palatable and horses are unable to sort through these like they would with a textured mix.

Mash feeds can also be extremely beneficial for older horses or those who are dentally challenged and require a supplement. These horses may struggle to consume traditional chaff and concentrate feeds if used as a carrier for their supplements.

Feed as an infusion

Herbal supplements can also be fed as an infusion - kind of like a herbal tea! To do this simply add the required amount of herbs to a small amount of boiling water and allow this to cool before adding it to the feed. This should help break down some of the larger particles and make it easier for the herbs to be thoroughly mixed in.

Enhance flavour

A small amount of sugar free fruit juice, some shredded apple or carrot can be added to the feed containing the supplement as this can help entice a finicky feeder . Other flavours horse’s tend to favour include peppermint, fenugreek, garlic, cherry and banana. It is a good idea to experiment with additions based on your horse’s personal flavour preferences.

Whilst it is often recommended for encouraging fussy eaters, don’t be tempted to reach for molasses. Whilst its sweet taste can be appealing for even the most fussy of horses and can disguise the taste of virtually any supplement, it is essentially pure sugar making it unsuitable for a large number of horses including those who are prone to ‘heating up’ and those who require a low sugar and starch diet for the management of metabolic conditions such as laminitis.

Keep it consistent

Horses are routine animals, any changes to this routine can cause stress which may result in them going off their food. Aim to feed your horse at the same time every day, by keeping a consistent feeding routine your horse is more likely to be accepting of their supplements.

Don’t Give Up

Sometimes when it comes to feeding supplements to a fussy eater, persistence and patience is key. Many horses will eventually become accepting of their new supplement in time. If your horse is absolutely adamant that they will not eat a supplement, it may be worth looking into adjusting the diet in other ways so that the same benefits that the supplement would provide are still being offered. In many cases, dietary amendments can eliminate the need for a supplement saving money and hassle in the long run. If you’re unsure about what supplements may or may not be necessary in your horse’s diet you can contact us at any time and a member of our knowledgable nutrition team will be more than happy to help.

At Equinutritive we want to ensure that all of our supplements are suitable even for the most finicky of your four legged friends. This is why we make our products using only the finest quality natural ingredients that horses would naturally forage for in the wild, resulting in highly palatable, delicious blends. We also know that supplements can be expensive, this is why we have a comprehensive money back guarantee - if your horse objects to the supplement you buy, don’t worry we have you covered, just get in touch stating the issue and we will be more than happy to offer you a full refund for the cost of the product.


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