nutrition · supplements

The Supplement Dance

I’ve talked before about Tristan’s nutrition and diet, and the ways I’ve tweaked that.

For many years, I’ve been a faithful user of HorseTech supplements. I still love them. I still think they’re the best quality, best customer service, best availability/combination of ingredients you can get.

But.

(Of course there’s a but – otherwise there would not be a blog post.)

Tristan is very slowly – incrementally – almost imperceptibly – becoming a pickier eater. I don’t know if it’s age, Cushings, or what. The fact remains that my little rescue horse, who used to hoover up everything in his immediate vicinity – edible or not – is just a touch fussy now.

though he still gets mad when he has to work instead of eat dinner

For some time now, he doesn’t eat his morning grain until he gets back from turnout. When you toss him his breakfast he spurns it in favor of hay. Granted: he does not get much (about 1.5 cups at a time) and it’s a really bland grain (Blue Seal’s Carb Guard). Still, two or three years ago, Tristan turning away from grain would have been a sign of the apocalypse. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, call the vet immediately.

HorseTech supplements are typically a powder, and Tristan started actively leaving the powder behind. I added flavoring. That worked for a little while. I switched his supplements – High Point Grass/Mixed Hay and ReitHoof – to pellets from powder when that became available. That worked for a little while. Then it didn’t. The barn manager thought that he was sniffing through the pellets carefully, picking out the grain, and in the process smooshing the pellets back into powder with his nose, guaranteeing he would not eat them.

In the last few weeks, we have arrived at an impasse. I knew I wanted Tristan on an overall vitamin/mineral package, but I just wasn’t excited by anything the barn already offered or I could purchase locally at Tractor Supply.

Last week during yet another SmartPak 50% off sale, I made a choice. I started Tristan on SmartPak supplements. First, I added SmartVite Senior Perform as his basic vitamin/mineral supplement.

I also spent quite a bit of time thinking about muscle supplements. In the past, I’ve added some alfalfa for extra protein to support muscle growth, but I never saw a huge difference. I looked at a few different muscle supplements, and then I looked more closely at how they matched up with SmartPituitary Senior Pellets.

One of the key symptoms of Cushings is muscle wasting, and it’s one of Tristan’s biggest indicators, so any Cushings-oriented supplement would have plenty of muscle support. It fit my bill, was a bit less pricey than the other supplements I looked at, and I’ll be curious to see if it helps support him in any other way. He is a very, very low-symptom Cushings horse, responding well to the pergolide with few (if any) spikes in his bloodwork, even seasonally, so I felt like a little bit of support would help but not that I would be crushed if it didn’t help him.

We’re about a week in, and he’s eating both of them just fine. It’s obviously way too early to see any clear results, but we’ll see!

13 thoughts on “The Supplement Dance

  1. I put Dino on the SmartPituitary Senior a couple months ago! So far so good.. his coat is coming in BEAUTIFULLY with loads of dapples this year, and he is maintaining his muscle mass quite well. So, if anything it's helping a bit, and it certainly isn't hurting. I also feed alfalfa when working hard/showing/traveling for a little extra “oomph” and to keep tummies happy.

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  2. I'm glad I ran across this post. I've been considering tweaking my horse's supplements as she gets older and is slightly Cushing's. I realize that horse owners are often looked down upon for jumping on the SmartPak bandwagon, but many of their supplements are good quality and I believe there does come a point where you need to supplement your horse with something. Do you think the pergolide may be having an effect on his appetite at all? Hope he keeps eating – keep us posted!

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  3. I think adding the lysine in the pituitary supp is a great move. It is an amino acid that helps with protein uptake and muscle development. I usually buy it via Amazon and add it to Ashke's bag. I love the effect it has on his build.

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  4. Have you tried beet pulp? The wet mush soaks up all the powders and pellets and other supplements. Then they can't leave it behind. Unless they don't eat the beet pulp. But ours always eat the beet pulp.

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  5. Great to hear another positive report, thank you!

    I may still add in alfalfa for him – we get it in pellet form, so it might add some bulk and some interest to his grain.

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  6. I've used SmartPaks before, years ago, before they were such a big deal. I've always liked them, and their convenience, but haven't always been in a position to afford what they provide.

    I don't think the pergolide is really what's impacting his appetite – and I'm actually not sure it's appetite. He's been on the pergolide for 2 years now, and this is a more recent problem. He still goes for hay, treats, anything with flavor. I think a lot of it has to do with the Carb Guard he's on. It's an extremely bland grain, and adding in powdery supplements on top of that just crossed the line.

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  7. Yes, for a while I had him on a custom HorseTech supplement that included lysine and a few other amino acids. Most of those are doubled in the pituitary supplement, which was a huge reason I liked it.

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  8. oh picky horses…. my poor mare is on like… a LOT of powder right now in her feed between treatment for lyme, and secondary supps for that, and then her regular supps. it's a bit of a nightmare. she seems to clean it up better when it's dressed with aloe juice as a mixer tho.

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  9. Another thing you might want to try is soybean oil… our donkeys get powdered thyroid meds with their ration balancer that they don't always love to eat, and a drizzle of soybean oil often does the trick to get them to clean up!

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