Competition Supplements for Horses – All You Need to Know

Competition Supplements for Horses – All You Need to Know

Horses are incredible athletes. Whether they're racing on the track, competing in dressage, show jumping, or engaging in any other equestrian discipline, their performance demands strength, agility, and endurance. To support these magnificent creatures in reaching their full potential, many horse owners turn to competition supplements. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the world of competition supplements for horses, exploring the types available, their ingredients, and how to use them effectively.

The Role of Supplements in Equine Competition

Equine competition is more than just a sport; it's a symphony of power, grace, and partnership between horse and rider. Achieving peak performance requires meticulous care, and that's where competition supplements come into play. 

These supplements are specially formulated to address the unique needs of sport and competition horses, promoting their overall well-being and optimizing their performance.

While a balanced diet forms the foundation of equine nutrition, competition horses often need more than what forage and grains alone can provide. Competition supplements offer a targeted approach to meeting the specific nutritional requirements of high-performance horses. 

They help fill the gaps, ensuring that these equine athletes have everything they need to shine in the arena.

Types of Competition Supplements

Performance Enhancers

  1. Muscle Builders

Building and maintaining lean muscle mass is crucial for competition horses. Muscle builders often contain essential amino acids, such as lysine and methionine, which support muscle development. Creatine and gamma oryzanol are also common ingredients that aid in muscle growth and strength.

  1. Energy Boosters

Competitive events can be physically demanding, requiring bursts of energy and stamina. Energy-boosting supplements may include ingredients like ribose, which helps improve endurance, and omega-3 fatty acids, which provide a readily available source of energy.

Recovery Aids

After a strenuous competition, horses need efficient recovery. Supplements with antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium can help reduce oxidative stress and support muscle recuperation. Additionally, ingredients like branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) assist in reducing muscle soreness.

Calming Supplements

The show ring can be stressful, leading to anxiety in some horses. Calming supplements often contain magnesium, B vitamins, and herbs like chamomile or valerian root, which help soothe nervousness and improve focus without sedating the horse.

Joint Support Formulas

Maintaining joint health is vital for any competition horse. Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) are common ingredients in joint support supplements. They help keep joints lubricated, reduce inflammation, and support overall joint function.

Electrolyte Replenishers

Sweating during strenuous exercise can lead to electrolyte imbalances. Electrolyte supplements replace lost minerals like sodium, potassium, and chloride. They're essential for preventing dehydration and muscle cramps.

Understanding Ingredients

Protein Sources

Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. Look for supplements that provide high-quality protein sources like soybean meal, linseed meal, or alfalfa meal. Amino acids, particularly lysine and methionine, are critical for muscle development.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins like A, D, E, and the B-complex, along with minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and selenium, play vital roles in overall health and performance. Each has a specific function, from supporting bone health to improving muscle function.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the precursors to proteins and are essential for muscle growth and repair. Lysine, methionine, and threonine are often included in muscle-building supplements.

Herbal Extracts

Some supplements harness the power of herbs like chamomile, valerian root, or Devil's claw for their calming and anti-inflammatory properties. Always consult with a veterinarian before using herbal supplements.


Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride are essential for maintaining hydration and proper muscle function. They're especially crucial for horses in intense training or competition.

Tailoring Supplements to Your Horse

Assessing Your Horse's Needs

Every horse is unique. Consider factors such as age, breed, workload, and any specific health issues when selecting supplements. A veterinarian or equine nutritionist can help determine your horse's individual requirements.

Consulting with a Veterinarian or Equine Nutritionist

Don't embark on a supplement regimen alone. Seeking guidance from a professional ensures that you make informed choices and avoid over-supplementation, which can lead to health problems.

Considering Age and Activity Level

A young, growing horse has different nutritional needs than a seasoned competitor. Likewise, a horse engaged in high-intensity competition will require different supplementation compared to a pleasure horse.

Administering Supplements

Dosage and Frequency

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for dosage and frequency. Overdosing can have adverse effects, while under-dosing may not provide the desired benefits.

Mixing with Feed

Many supplements come in powdered or pellet form and can be mixed with your horse's daily feed. This ensures they consume the supplement consistently.

Considerations for Picky Eaters

If your horse is a picky eater, choose supplements with palatable flavors or forms. Mixing with molasses or applesauce can also make them more appealing.

Monitoring and Adjusting

Tracking Your Horse's Progress

Keep a journal of your horse's performance and any changes in behavior or health. This will help you gauge the effectiveness of the supplements.

Recognizing Positive and Negative Effects

Be attentive to both positive and negative effects. While you hope to see improvements, any adverse reactions should be addressed promptly.

Making Informed Changes

Based on your observations and consultation with a professional, you may need to adjust the type or dosage of supplements to better meet your horse's needs.

Common Myths and Misconceptions

Instant Results

Supplements are not miracle workers. They may take weeks or even months to show noticeable effects. Be patient and consistent in their use.

One-Size-Fits-All Supplements

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to supplementation. Each horse has unique requirements, and their needs may change over time.

Replacing Good Management Practices

Supplements should complement, not replace, good management practices. Proper nutrition, training, and veterinary care are the cornerstones of equine health.

Safety and Regulations

FDA and Feed Supplements

Supplements are regulated as feed products by the FDA. Ensure that the supplements you choose are produced by reputable companies that adhere to quality and safety standards.

Quality Assurance and Third-Party Testing

Look for supplements that undergo third-party testing for quality and purity. This ensures that what's on the label is what's in the product.

Reporting Adverse Reactions

If your horse experiences any adverse reactions to a supplement, report it to your veterinarian and the supplement manufacturer. This information is crucial for monitoring product safety.

Final Thoughts

Competition supplements for horses can be powerful tools for enhancing performance, promoting recovery, and supporting overall health. However, they should always be used judiciously and in consultation with professionals. 

Remember that while supplements play a role, they are just one part of the equation. Proper nutrition, training, and care are equally essential. Through a holistic approach to your horse's well-being, you can set the stage for success in the thrilling world of equine competition.

If you’re looking for high-quality supplements for your horse, consider exploring the range of products offered by us here at Equine America NZ. Our extensive selection of products along with performance-enhancing supplements provide you with suitable options to support your horse’s overall health and performance.

Please give us a call at Equine America NZ today at 0800 440 888 to learn more or leave an enquiry.