Is it time to consider an all-in-one multi-system supplement?
Do you find yourself adding scoop after scoop of specialty nutritional supplements to your horses daily feed rations? Is your feed room storage solution bursting at the seams? If you are using 3 or more supplements, perhaps it is time to consider a multi-system supplement for your horse.
Not to be confused with multi-vitamins or ration balancers. All-in-one supplements are nutritional supplements that are formulated to cover more than one of your horses specialty needs. The greatest benefit is being able to feed a single supplement that contains all of the ingredients for joint support, gastric health, strong hooves, a shining coat and more! No matter if you keep horses for business or pleasure, any change in your supplementation routine should be met with facts and figures. Will the change be of benefit to your horse, your wallet or both? Let’s take a look at how to evaluate a change in supplements with some choices available at Big Dee’s Tack.
Can and all-in one supplement work for my horse?
My horse is in full work and eats a well balanced feed that provides optimal levels of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. He is on grass turnout a minimum of 14 hours per day. Due to his unique needs his vet recommended a joint supplement and digestive aid that contains saccharomyces. In addition to joing and digestive health he gets a daily calming supplement, wheat germ oil in the spring and electrolytes in the summer. This summer he has been experiencing some significant chipping and cracking in what has historically been super healthy hooves (A lot of local horses are struggling this year). Both his vet and farrier have recommended adding a hoof supplement. Adding a hoof supplement this late in the summer will not show visible improvement for months to come, starting now could ensure better hooves for next year. However, adding yet another scoop to my horses feed has caused me to pause and rethink my strategy. Is it time to switch to an all-in-one solution? Is there one that will meet my horses unique needs? Can I do so affordably?
A Strategy for Comparison
I begin my evaluation by taking a look at the active ingredients in my current year-round supplementation routine (not considering the electrolyte and oil). For this comparison I focus on the the base items plus those that I would like to add. It may not be possible to get everything, but I list those key ingredients that I find most important. I also list some that I feel are a bonus but not absolute deal breakers. Keep in mind that there is A LOT science to this and sometimes the labels are not easy to decipher. The supplement companies put way more time, effort and research into this, They also have expert nutritionists on staff to advise what ingredients in what amounts are optimal for both proper absorption and utilization. Take what you know and feel with a grain of salt and be open to a bit of compromise.
TIP: It’s not about how much of the active ingredient per ounce – it’s all about how much per daily serving! Don’t be surprised if your all-in-one supplement choice has a whopping 4 ounce serving size – you are after all, attempting to combine all of your other supplements into one. Focus on comparing how much is in the daily total serving, not which has more or less per ounce.
I find the easiest way to sort all this out is to draw a table – or if you are handy with a computer go ahead and stick it into a spreadsheet program! Either way the goal is to organize what you want and compare to what you can get. Place your wish list ingredients down the left side, pick a supplement to compare and list that across the top. You can make this as simple as just check marking whether or not the ingredient is present or as complex as actually calculating out the daily dosage and comparing if the new supplement has more or less to help you decide. I’ve done both so you can see how my decision process looks.
TIP: Crunching the numbers – some manufacturers will use different units that require conversion before you can compare a product apples to apples. Take advantage of the web or the conversions app on your phone to help make this a bit easier. I used these two to sort out the parts per million equation on the Formula 707 labels:
Narrowing Down the Results
For the purpose of this comparison I started with 6 different multi-system supplements and narrowed it down to just the ones that covered at least 3 out of 4 systems. After organizing my comparison table, I counted the number of wish list ingredients and gave each option a score out of the total ingredients I was hoping for. I then compared my current dose to the amounts that were in the new servings to confirm my scores. The products that made it into my final evaluation were the Exceed 6-Way by Med Vet Pharmaceuticals, Horse Logic Training Packs by Formula 707, and Pro VM by Peak Performance Nutrients.
When calculating cost per day I chose the smallest package size which often comes with the highest price per day due to increased packaging costs. Buying in larger volume can yield a savings of up to 14¢/day.
TIP: what about the loading doses? If you are already feeding supplements with similar ingredients you can forego the loading dose. If you are adding one or more new supplement classes to your existing program, it is probably best to follow the manufacturer’s loading suggestion for best results.
What does it all mean?
So it turns out with a little bit of compromise (mainly in the calming department) I can get away with feeding the Exceed 6-Way for just a few pennies more at $2.90/day as compared to my current heap of buckets which is $2.84/day. If after allowing some time, I felt that my horse was really just to “high” and actually does need the levels of calming ingredients that he is currently getting, we have identified some valid alternatives. I could either add the calming supplement back in for a total of $3.90/day or consider switching to the Horse Logic Training and then adding back in my digestive supplement for a total of $4.06/day. When comparing labels both of these options have some added ingredients that are a bonus, however at that point the convenience may not be worth the cost since I do my own feeding. If I were in a situation where my horse had a caretaker, I would feel strongly compelled to spend the extra dollar to ensure he was getting his supplements in the easiest way possible.
The financial outlook
Supplementation most definitely comes with an associated cost. My current heap of buckets with 4-5 different scoops costs around $1036.60 for the duration of the year. If I spend an extra $21.90 per year I can get it all into one bucket with the Exceed 6-Way. I personally feel like getting it down to one bucket at that cost is well worth it. If my horse needs the extra calming we could be looking at as much as $1481.90/year on the high end. Unfortunately at that rate sticking with my current supplementation and feed room organization plan is well worth putting $500.00 into other improvements to my horses quality of life.
Once my buckets start running out I am going to put my new supplementation plan to the test with the Exceed 6-Way. There is an added bonus to feeding all-in-one supplements. Even though I recycle many of my buckets and tubs for other uses; by cutting the number of containers I consume, I will ultimately be helping the environment in some small way!