Look closely, and your supplement might not be needed
It seems these days that there’s a supplement for every ailment, and for every species. While our own cupboards are overflowing with vitamins and herbal extracts, you almost can’t escape the ads in print or online for supplements for your horse.
Nearly every horse owner has some particular product they swear by, and sometimes more than one. But how do you filter out the best from “the rest” when there are so many products on the market?
Unlike drugs, the production of supplements (both human and equine) is not overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While a new prescription or over-the-counter drug has to go through a rigorous, federally-mandated testing process to make sure it is both safe and effective, supplements do not.
Makers of equine supplements may choose to do independent, blind testing of either the key ingredients in their product or their complete product to make sure they work…or they may test by themselves without such controls to ensure good quality data.
Makers of supplements are also not subject to the same kind of requirements as drug makers on the sourcing for their ingredients. That means they could have strict standards about the purity and safety of their product’s ingredients—or, they might not.
Supplement companies are not, per FDA definitions, permitted to market their product as though it can be completely responsible for curing or totally preventing a diagnosable disease.
If you see a supplement that is being marketed that way (as a cure for an illness), that should raise a red flag. A responsible company should view a supplement as something that enhances a horse’s diet or health regime, not something that replaces the need for actual medical care.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Ask the tough questions
So, how can you decide whether to buy that supplement you’ve been considering?