Supplements: With a meal? Or before a meal?


Most supplements that you buy are clearly designed to just be tossed in horse’s bucket during mealtime. However, sometimes you receive a supplement that has different instructions. For instance, you receive a package of jiaogulan and it says to feed 20 minutes before a meal. This is problematic in that you have a trainer at the barn feed your horse. Will it still be effective? Does the meal hinder the supplement’s ability to be effective?

How you feed supplements depends on a number of things. These are some common scenarios.

Jiaogulan or Mov-Ease: Recommendation is to feed 20 minutes before a meal or two hours after a meal. This is suggested because you want to be sure that the supplement comes in contact with the intestinal wall. If you’ve ever looked at horse poop, you will notice that there are some small whole pieces of hay in the poop. If the jiaogulan sticks to the hay, there’s a chance that it will pass through the intestine without ever coming into contact with the intestinal wall. The more hay or feed, the greater the competition for absorption. The horse can’t benefit from a supplement that is not absorbed.

Solution: If feeding 20 minutes before a meal doesn’t work for you, there is an easy solution – just increase the amount of the herb by 50-100%. Most herbs have a wide margin of safety, so adding the increased amount is no problem.

Hyaluronic acid: You’ve bought the powdered hyaluronic acid. It’s so much more cost effective than the liquid that it makes sense to use powdered.  However, Dr. Kellon did a field trial with Horse Journal a number of years ago and found that HA given as a gel seemed to be more effective.

Solution: It’s easy to make a gel from hyaluronic acid. Get a large catheter tipped syringe. Remove the plunger. Cover the tip with your finger while holding the syringe. Add a little water to fill the tip. Add the powdered HA. Add a bit more water. Carefully put the plunger in and shake, shake, shake. Add more water, then put it in the frig. Within a couple of hours, you have a nice gel.

If you want to add the HA to their bucket, that’s easy too. Just be careful that it’s top dressed or in the center of the feed. The reason that this is important is that the HA can easily stick to the side of the bucket. If it sticks to the bucket, it won’t have the opportunity to help your horse.

Vitamin E and other oil soluble vitamins: Recommendation is to feed these with oil for better absorption. Oil soluble vitamins are best absorbed when given with oil. At one time, it was thought that the oil in ground flaxseed would be sufficient oil, but it’s been found that in horses that are marginal in vitamin E or need additional vitamin E due to their health status seem to do better when the vitamin E is mixed with oil.

You’ve bought vitamin E as a powder. The solution for better absorption is to add a tablespoon of oil.

Resveratrol, Milk thistle S63: These concentrated supplements are fed at a feeding rate of 1/4 teaspoon per day. With such a small amount, it’s important that you ensure that the supplement isn’t sticking to the side of the bucket.

We spend a lot of time and energy to help our horses with supplementation. It’s important to be aware that the horse is getting the supplementation that we think they’re getting.

Disclaimer: Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.

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