Supplements? We all read the marketing hype and then will ourselves into believing that this is the next miracle cure and off we troop to the local tack shop or the internet to avail ourselves of the magical elixir. Sound familiar? Yes, me too.
I never thought to stop and to look at the labels. Who does? To really understand what is in this amazing formula and how it is going to help. My mistake.
Learning the hard way
My hat goes off to a person, who shall remain nameless, who bit the bullet and sat me down one day and took me through the contents of my latest expensive miracle cure, a daily supplement that would change my world.
Let me explain, I have a whopping over 18 hand KWPN which in itself is a challenge but my chosen discipline of Eventing ensures there are big tests for us! Dressage on uneven grass in a 20 x 40 arena, the ability to shorten Show Jumping not to mention working out step-ups and downs in Cross Country that are not designed for such a colossal horse! I have brought him on very slowly to allow him to mature without pressure, it doesn’t help that his flight reflex is very close to the surface, that he is a head shaker or that he has had to have a hobday due to a collapsed larynx – getting the picture? Yes, I was that person that would fall for any line in the hope that this next great supplement would help my horse.
Back to the plot, this particular daily supplement actually had less than 20% of its contents that would be useful to my horse. On further investigation, the actual amounts of the active ingredients listed on the tub were incredibly small and the quality of them dubious. To the uninitiated all of the active ingredients have impressive names but then you find that there are different derivations of these ingredients. Some are cheap and some are not - You can guess which ones were in my tub!
Iron? Its all the same - not!
Let me give you an example. Iron. There are multiple ingredients used to supplement iron. Ferrous Sulphate (not recommended as it is quite toxic to the liver, inhibits protein digestion, is mostly unabsorbed and can irritate the gastrointestinal mucosa), Ferrous Gluconate, Ferric Citrate, Ferrous Fumarate and other Iron Amino Acid chelates which tend to be the least toxic and have decent absorption.
The most effective of these is Iron Phosphate, you guessed it, more expensive and consists of mainly Ferrous Phosphate, Ferric Phosphate and Ferrous Oxide. Why is it the most effective? It is absorbed well by our horses but more importantly it is tolerated having beneficial uses in iron-deficiency anaemia, has an obvious anti-inflammatory action, reduces fever and local hyperaemia when fed in frequent, repeatable small doses.
So, tell me how many riders, amateur and professional alike understand this type of information off the top of their heads?
Research & Due Diligence
My investigative nature has led to my sharp learning curve. I am not an expert but I am listening to people I know and trust, who are. I now understand the difference that trace minerals and salts make and I also understand the code for fillers, balancers and ingredients that really have no place being in supplements for herbivores.
I had given up on supplements entirely, weaned myself off the hype and desperate need to make my horse a superstar with some additives and focussed on being the best rider that I can be. I learnt that many of the perceived problems were entirely me (that is a whole different can of worms) but my beautiful boy does have issues that are not me related.
Research done. Many people spoken to.
My new supplement criteria: clean, human grade ingredients, no fillers/colours, nothing alien to a herbivore, quality ingredients with high absorption rates.
And the results.............
Checked out by my coach, physio, farrier, vet (who were all unaware of the test that was in play, no placebo effect for me) who all were staggered by the changes in my horse.
Not content with my findings alone, we have worked with Jessie Kirby, one of the UK’s leading young dressage riders and her pony, Ginge (Grayswood Orlando). Within 3 days of use, Ginge was doing stretches he had never been able to do before. Subsequently, he calmly did a beautiful freestyle test in Le Mans, a first as Jessie will tell you, every single test before he blew up as he hates noise and commotion. The improvement in elasticity and his way of going has been marked and commented upon by her trainers both at home and on the British Dressage Pony Prime Squad.
Jake Myers, the amazingly talented Devon based 13-year-old show jumper, who placed 2nd at HOYS this year with his fabulous veteran 25-year-old Eddy (The Agent), has also made the change. The Myers’ have seen significant enough improvements in both Eddy and his mare Mirah’s, confidence, concentration and performance, that all of Jake’s jumping ponies now benefit from the new supplements.
There are many more examples I could give but space in Equestrian Life is at a premium!
Now available in the UK
So impressed am I that I have put my money where my mouth is. Hi Form is now available in the UK and Ireland through Hi Form Equine UK for the benefit of all equines and through the shop of Just Horsing About.
Article published in February 2018 Equestrian Life
With thanks to Rose Lewis at Daydream Equine Art