Are natural additives in horse supplements worth the hype?

When it comes to horse supplements, the term “natural” can raise mixed feelings. For some, “natural” means a product is safer for horses than an artificial counterpart. For others, “natural” feels less effective or less based on hard science. The truth really depends on the ingredient!

As Australia’s foremost provider of equine nutritional solutions, HYGAIN® is generally considered to be at the very cutting edge of feed and digestive technology. Boasting some of the world's most advanced and modern processing techniques and ingredients, HYGAIN® is proud to be a world leader in equine nutritional science. However one of the secrets to our success is a willingness to embrace both new and old principles and to perfect the partnership of scientific breakthroughs and traditional remedies. This article provides a brief background on ‘natural’ vs ‘artificial’ and then explores some of the more traditional, naturally derived substances that HYGAIN® has found to be of sufficient nutritional merit to be included in a variety of our products

What’s in a name? Natural horse supplement ingredients

The ingredient list on a product label isn’t always easy to navigate. Take for example, Pantothenic Acid –It sounds like an ingredient that will cause your horse a digestive upset, but it’s the alternate name for Vitamin B5 and is naturally occurring in certain foods.

Other ingredient names are not so innocent and deserve closer scrutiny. As always, it pays to be armed with a little knowledge when navigating the supplement aisle at your local feed store and to buy from a reputable brand. 

Are natural ingredients in horse supplements old fashioned?

A common misconception is that natural ingredients are unproven by science and outdated. It’s easy to assume that surely, there must be a modern replacement that’s more effective. But just because an ingredient has been around for a long time, it doesn’t mean that it is less fit for purpose.

Slippery Elm, for example, is a remedy that’s been used to aid digestive issues for thousands of years. In humans, Slippery Elm has been traditionally used to treat wounds, boils, ulcers, burns, skin inflammation, coughs, diarrhoea and digestive upset.

The beneficial properties of Slippery Elm are found in chemicals that naturally occur in its bark. That’s right, chemicals. Everything is made of chemicals (including us and our horses!) In the case of Slippery Elm, some manufacturers have taken the original source product and concentrated it through specialized processing techniques to refine the ingredient into a more active form. In this way, a natural ingredient can be made more powerful and effective.

Slippery Elm in horse supplements for digestion

(Image above: While it looks like an ordinary tree, Slippery Elm holds beneficial properties in its bark)

tumeric in horse supplements

(Image above: Tumeric is a renowned natural ingredient that is popular in equine supplements)

Fast forward to modern times and much of today’s medicine has its origin in natural sources. Take the example of Penicillin, which is chemically synthesized from naturally-produced Penicillins. It’s a good example of a potent ingredient that is artificially produced but has its beginnings in nature.

HYGAIN® uses naturally derived herbal ingredients in selected supplements. Curcumin (from Tumeric), Concentrated Slippery Elm and Red Seaweed are just some of the ingredients that are used to support horse health in HYGAIN® supplements.

Is a natural ingredient safer for your horse?

You’d be forgiven for assuming that natural ingredients carry less risk. But anyone who’s had a close encounter with Capsaicin in chili peppers will tell you that natural ingredients deserve our respect. As with most things, they shouldn’t be ingested above a recommended rate. At best, over-supply is wasteful – at worst, over-consumption of a natural ingredient can be deadly.

Another consideration for natural ingredients is that they are not necessarily something that our horses have coexisted with in nature. Therefore, it can’t be assumed that the horse can tolerate an ingredient just because it’s natural (A wide range of toxic plants demonstrate this point!)

Natural ingredients rely on studies to determine their effectiveness, safety and the quantities required.

The case for artificial ingredients

Just as natural ingredients need to be assessed on an individual basis, so too do artificial ingredients. Many are heavily studied and are deemed safe for a particular use.

Others serve a critical purpose to protect the shelf-life of the active ingredients or to keep a product from settling so that you get a consistent product per scoop. “Artificial” doesn't mean “unhealthy,” but there are certainly some artificial ingredients that should be avoided or limited where possible.

Looking for food

(Image above: Some ingredients are easier to access than others!)

HYGAIN® sources quality ingredients through a robust supply chain. State of the art manufacturing facilities produce consistent formulations that many horse owners depend upon for their horse’s wellbeing.

HYGAIN® DIGEST & PROTECT® is a digestive supplement that is primarily herbal. It provides complete digestive support in a palatable blend, formulated to stimulate digestion and promote the health of the digestive tract.


The formulation of DIGEST & PROTECT contains:

RED SEAWEED EXTRACT (Lithothamnion calcareum), is rich in a specific, highly effective source of calcium, known for its superior acid buffering properties.

DIGESTIVE ENZYMES support the breakdown of feed which improves digestion and the absorption of nutrients.

GLUTAMINE & THREONINE, amino acids assist with digestive health. Included to ensure adequate supply to support mucin synthesis and cell regeneration.

CONCENTRATED SLIPPERY ELM traditionally used for gastric challenges. Slippery Elm contains mucilage factors which act as a coating agent.

CURCUMIN, is the active compound in Turmeric known for its powerful antioxidant action.

PREBIOTICS have a defined mode of action, promoting a healthy gut and supporting natural defences essential for optimum health and performance.

PROBIOTICS enhance fibre fermentation and stablilise the microbiome, stimulating activity of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

MYCOTOXIN BINDER traps and expels mycotoxins to protect and support healthy gut function.

ANISEED flavour is highly palatable for horses.

Equine digestive supplement
 


Take away points on natural ingredients in horse supplements

In an ever-expanding field of equine nutrition we can expect to encounter new ingredients in the future (Both natural and artificial in origin). Keep the following points in mind when choosing the supplement that’s right for your horse.

  • Know your ingredients - Ingredients need to be backed by research to prove efficacy and safety
  • Buy from a reputable source
  • Know when to consult a vet -Some ailments require products that only a vet can prescribe

Lastly, once you’ve selected a supplement, it’s a worthwhile exercise to document your horse’s experience by taking photos or measurements so that you can reflect and decide whether the product is right for your horse.

Next steps for your horse’s health

If you want to explore ways that you can improve your horse’s health, reach out to the Nutrition Advisors at Hygain. They offer a comprehensive full diet analysis at no cost. Visit nutrikey.com.au or email nutrition@hygain.com.au



References:

Gupta, S, Kismali, G, & , Aggarwal, B, 2012, ‘Curcumin, a component of turmeric: From farm to pharmacy’, BioFactors, pp. 1- 12.

Mahattandul, S, Nakamura, T, Panichayupakaranant, P, Phdoogngsombut, N, Tungsinmunkong, K, &, Bouking, P, 2009, ‘Comparative antiulcer effect of Bisdemethoxycurcumin and Curcumin in gastric ulcer model system’, Phytomedicine, vol.16, pp. 342-351.

More articles

Are natural additives in horse supplements worth the hype?

Library | 01.03.22

Are natural additives in horse supplements worth the hype?
When it comes to horse supplements, the term “natural” can raise...
Read more
The benefits of micronized and extruded feeds for your horse

Library | 23.02.22

The benefits of micronized and extruded feeds for your horse
Do you know the difference between micronized and extruded horse feed?...
Read more
Prebiotics & Probiotics – Are these just fancy additives in horse feed?

Library | 17.01.22

Prebiotics & Probiotics – Are these just fancy additives in horse feed?
There are many digestive supplements for horses on the market that...
Read more