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Getting a Horse to Eat Supplements

My pony takes five supplements. I cannot get him to eat them without adding too much grain to his diet. Is there something I could put in to make it taste better without making him too “up?” PB, New York

Dear PB,

Most horses and ponies will eat their daily supplements when mixed with sweet feed but I understand why in your case—and in Cushing’s, EMS and PSSM cases where the horse is supposed to be on a low-sugar diet–that might not be desirable. However, there are still quite a few things you can try with your pony that might make him gobble up his supplements.

First, I assume your supplements are all powders. Have you tried changing over to pelleted versions of the same products? There’s also a separate supplement that can be purchased called Yummy Flavored Pellets for Picky Eaters that comes in carrot flavor or apple flavor and is specifically designed to encourage picky eaters. Adding alfalfa pellets is another option, as most horses find them very tasty. You may also want to research the supplements you’re giving your pony to see if you can find the active ingredients in three or four products instead of five. That would cut down on the volume or bulkiness of his supplements.

The next simplest thing to do is add water or vegetable oil to his meal (I’m assuming he gets some sort of pelleted multi-vitamin/mineral supplement or ration balancer or low-starch grain as a base). A tablespoon or two of oil shouldn’t give him too many calories or too much energy but may make his supplements more palatable. Traditional add-ins to mask bad tasting medicine are apple sauce or apple juice, molasses, or flavored gelatin. Have you tried any of them? Another idea: some horses absolutely love beet pulp and it only takes 15 minutes of soaking for it to “fluff up” and be ready for feeding. I use it to soak up all the oil my horse gets, but it could also be used to soak up powdered supplements.

Finally, I want to share with you research done a few years ago in the UK on preferred flavors in horses if you need still more help. The study started with 15 flavors and narrowed it down to 8. Then they compared these 8 flavors to each other and come up with this ranked order:

1 fenugreek
2 banana
3 cherry
4 rosemary
5 cumin
6 carrot
7 peppermint
8 oregano

Word of caution: I know some people feed wheat or rice bran daily to get their horse to eat supplements or medication but this can be a dangerous practice. Unfortified bran is naturally very high in phosphorus and low in calcium. Feeding an inverted calcium:phosphorous ratio for a long time can lead to a condition called nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (also known as Big Head Disease or Bran Disease).

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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5 comments on “Getting a Horse to Eat Supplements
  1. Melissa Lonh says:

    I have 3 quarter horses and my vet recommend I give them farriers formula for their hoofs. 2 of them will scarf it down. The one that needs it the most will not touch it. I feed sweet feed and the supplement is pellets. I’ve tried molasse and applesauce. He will not touch it. Any suggestions?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for your question! Along with molasses and applesauce, some horse owners have had luck mixing in carrots or even just water to make the meal into a bit of a “mash.” If you’re still having trouble getting your horse to eat his supplement, please feel free to give our Customer Care Team a shout at 1-800-461-8898 or and they can look into other options that your horse may find more palatable.

      – SmartPaker Lexi

  2. Jeanie says:

    I have the same problem. Someone please help….

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Jeanie,

      Thanks for your comment! As mentioned above, some horse owners have had luck mixing things like applesauce, molasses, carrots, or even just water into their horse’s feed and supplements. What works for your horse will of course depend on his preferences! If you’ve tried adding tasty things to your horse’s feed and he’s still not eating his supplements, feel free to reach out to our Customer Care Team at 1-800-461-8898 or and they can help you look into other options that your horse may find tastier.

      – SmartPaker Lexi

  3. Lori Johnson says:

    I have a 30 year old appendix QH. He has insulin resistance and is on a diet of high quality grass hay and 1/4 lb. beet pulp which he gets 1X/day. I feed in hay nets 3X/day.. He has been off of his supplements (Gramd Meadows Grand Digest ) for some time (6 months). He now has chronic diarreah from lack of good gut enzymes. I can now give him his Grand Digest again (major financial difficulties and personal medical bills prevented me from affording it). The problem now is, he will NOT eat his supps even in his plain beet pulp-VERY unlike him, as he will even eat antibiotics, etc. I cannot give him any sugar. Last evening, I took a scoop of his Grand Digest, watered it down, put it in a large 60cc tube, and gave it to him that way. My vet has no answers, so I am asking everyone if they have any other ideas of how I can get this down him without going through all of the above. He is so good about it and I can even deworm him without a halter! Thank all of you very much!

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