Equine Supplements: What to Use, When to Use It
BioStar offers an array of specialized horse supplements, but which ones are best for your horse? We have addressed some common questions to help take the guesswork out of choosing BioStar supplements for specific equine health challenges and conditions.
Quick Links for Specific Concerns:
- Joint Support
- Hydration & Recovery
- Inflammatory Response
- Metabolic Health
- Gastric & Hindgut Ulcers
Read on, and as always, let us know any questions you may have. You can contact us here on the website, or via email (GetFood@BioStarUS.com), or voice-to-voice at 800-686-9554. We’re always happy to hear from you and provide whatever information we can on all things equine and canine!
For the maintenance of healthy joints, BioStar’s Optimum JS 2.0 and Optimum Senior JS 2.0 provide specific ingredients required for the body’s own production of glucosamine sulfate. For the body to make glucosamine sulfate it needs sugar, sulfur, and the amino acid glutamine. Optimum JS 2.0 and Optimum Senior JS 2.0 provide these important components in their whole forms from organic cabbage, organic kale, and green-lipped mussel.
Of course, Optimum JS 2.0 and Optimum Senior JS 2.0 horse supplements don’t just provide joint support; these wellness multivitamin/mineral formulas support the whole horse.
For horses who require more joint support, such as for ongoing joint issues, and for those horses who need support for the wear and tear of training and competition, BioStar’s Receptor EQ is the best choice. It provides green-lipped mussel, which provides chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and the glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). These are the building blocks of cartilage and joint fluid, and can increase the synthesis of proteoglycans, hyaluronic acid and collagen. Receptor EQ also contains the super antioxidant astaxanthin and provides important circulatory support from Capros, a patented extract of Indian gooseberry (or amalaki), long revered in Ayurvedic medicine. Receptor EQ provides support for homeostasis with the inclusion of organic hemp biomass.
BioStar’s Adaptor EQ is formulated to support the HPA Axis with two adaptogenic mushrooms: Reishi and Cordyceps. It is a suitable USEF show safe alternative to Receptor EQ, which contains hemp biomass. It provides green-lipped mussel, which provides chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and the glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). These are the building blocks of cartilage and joint fluid, and can increase the synthesis of proteoglycans, hyaluronic acid and collagen. Adaptor EQ also contains the super antioxidant astaxanthin and provides important circulatory support from Capros, a patented extract of Indian gooseberry (or amalaki), long revered in Ayurvedic medicine.
Hydration is one of the keys to health and performance. Adult horses are 65 percent water and foals are 80 percent. Horses can lose up to five percent of their body weight in fluids before showing signs of dehydration. A four-percent loss in hydration affects performance. Unlike humans, the sweat of a horse contains high levels of electrolytes. These electrolytes are also lost from the body through urine and feces.
BioStar’s Alixir EQ is for performance horses who need recovery support from training and competing. Athletic recovery applies to muscle, GI tract, and connective tissues as well as to hydration, electrolyte replacement, and cellular energy. Alixir EQ addresses recovery by supporting muscle recovery with superoxide dismutase (SOD) from organic barley grass; GI tract support from micro-crystalized aloe; connective tissue support from camu camu (a rainforest fruit high in vitamin C for collagen synthesis); electrolyte replacement from Celtic sea salts and sea vegetables; and shilajit for ATP and COQ10 production essential for maintaining cellular energy. A unique feature of Alixir EQ is that it provides organic tulsi, also known as “holy basil” and used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to support the glandular and circulatory systems under stress. Alixir EQ paste provides additional support including camelina oil with vitamin E, organic freeze-dried lemons, and non-GMO sunflower oil lecithin.
Among horse supplements, BioStar’s Star Lyte EQ is an electrolyte formula like no other. It provides three different sources of electrolytes and trace minerals plus sea vegetables from Himalayan sea salt, Hawaiian black lava salt, Celtic sea salt, and the seaweed Alaria esculenta, making it the most comprehensive electrolyte supplement on the market. Most equine electrolyte supplements use inorganic forms of electrolyte minerals (carbonates, oxides) and the laboratory-created potassium chloride (commonly used for making fertilizer, de-icing products, and included in the “three-drug cocktail” used for executions by lethal injection). Star Lyte EQ can be used year round for daily electrolyte needs.
BioStar’s Cool Star EQ is a body-cooling formula that provides a variety of ingredients that are cooling to the system: cucumbers, butternut squash, parsley, fennel, mango, coconut, sunflower seeds, and chia. Also included are BioStar’s cooling probiotics: Bio Flora, plus Hawaiian black lava salt for additional mineral support. The variety in Cool Star also supports greater diversity of beneficial microorganisms in the GI tract. Cool Star is used as needed when heat and/or humidity requires more body cooling. This is especially beneficial on days that a horse works or competes in hot weather, helping the horse cool from the inside out.
Recovery support without added hydration
For horses needing supplemental support for daily work, competitions, or lay-up then BioStar’s Rebound EQ is an excellent choice. Rebound EQ provides ingredients high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) for muscle building and repair, plus bovine colostrum for immune and cellular support, and smectite clay for adsorption and absorption of toxins. Rebound EQ also includes BioStar’s BioFlora EQ for probiotic support of the GI tract, and hawthorn berries for circulatory support.
BioStar’s Bio Flora combines different strains of active cooling microorganisms from the Lactobacillus family that help cool the “fire” (discomfort) in the GI tract. It is recommended for horses with loose stools or diarrhea, horses in antibiotic or worming therapy, and horses under stress.
BioStar’s Bio Yeast is a warming probiotic that provides two strains of active yeast that work primarily in the hindgut to digest fiber and maintain proper pH. It is recommended for helping horses gain and maintain weight, and is especially beneficial to hard keepers, older horses, and horses on limited turnout or in dirt paddocks.
Chia seeds or flax seeds?
Both of these foods are excellent sources of omega-3, but chia seeds have some noticeable additional benefits. Chia is a high mucilage seed that helps slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, making it an excellent choice for easy keepers and metabolic horses. The mucilage in chia also can replace products like psyllium to help remove sand from the GI tract. Chia also provides the amino acid proline, which is a major constituent of collagen; this is particularly important for horses with connective tissue challenges or weakness.
Both of these oils provide omega-3, 6, and 9. Hemp seed oil is lower in omega-3 than camelina, but also provides gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which camelina does not. GLA is used by the body to regulate the prostaglandins (hormone-like substances involved with the inflammatory response and blood flow). Because of hemp oil’s GLA content, it is an excellent choice for supporting a healthy inflammatory response in the GI tract, and is highly recommended for hindgut ulcers.
Camelina oil is one of the richest sources of vitamin E, making it an excellent choice for horses needing vitamin E augmentation, horses needing the antioxidant support of vitamin E, and horses with EPM, EPSM, or PSSM. One of the advantages of a plant-sourced vitamin E is that it provides the family of tocopherols, not just the isolated d-alpha tocopherol.
BioStar’s Furnace EQ provides ingredients that are high in arginine, which is a substrate for nitric oxide, the master circulatory molecule in the body. By stimulating nitric oxide production, we assist with healthy circulation. This is beneficial for healing connective tissue, providing more blood supply to the feet and joints, and bringing more oxygen to the muscles. Furnace is a convenient bar/cookie, which makes it easy to feed.
BioStar’s Circuvate EQ is the next generation of nitric-oxide-supporting horse supplements that can support healthy circulation and vaso-dilation. We refer to Circuvate as: “Furnace 2.0”. Provides the patented extract from Indian Gooseberry, Capros which has 8 published studies behind it showing its ability to increase nitric oxide production by 54% as well as increased production of the super antioxidant glutathione. The benefits of Circuvate are healthy oxygenation of tissues, assistance with removal of toxins and metabolic waste, normal healing, and reduction of oxidative stress. Circuvate is a powder.
These horse supplements fall under the “Calming” category, as all three address adrenal support and reduction of cortisol.
BioStar’s Equilibrium EQ contains ashwagandha, a sacred Ayurvedic plant classified as an adaptogen. Herbs in the adaptogen category are capable of balancing the endocrine, glandular, and circulatory systems. Ashwagandha also helps stimulate the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Increased serotonin in the brain helps horses focus and feel more relaxed. Equilibrium includes ingredients high in magnesium for muscle relaxation.
For horses that don’t need a traditional serotonin calming supplement, but could use gentle balancing, BioStar’s True Balance EQ is a wonderful choice. With holy basil (aka Tulsi), another adaptogenic plant, it balances cortisol like ashwagandha, but does not stimulate serotonin. True Balance also provides medicinal mushrooms for kidney, liver, and immune support.
Biostar’s Thera Calm EQ is for horses that need increased calming with GI tract support. It is a blend of haritaki and ashwaganda with casein, a protein that increases serotonin levels. Thera Calm also provides whey protein, which is a rich source of the amino acid glutamine that protects gastric mucosa—important for the horses with gastric ulcers. Thera Calm is an excellent choice for horses that are on layup, are over-reactive in periods of stress, or need mental relaxation.
For horses that are stiff, but get less stiff after moving around, Furnace is the best choice. For horses that are stiff and don’t improve with movement, Comfort Zone is the best choice. If you’re dealing with an inflammatory response situation, use Comfort Zone, which provides boswellia and turmeric.
Comfort Zone EQ Ultra is also terrific for sore muscles, or for those days the horse has worked very hard or been competing on difficult footing.
There are situations like hoof syndrome and navicular disease that may warrant using both Furnace EQ and Comfort Zone EQ Ultra—similar to the common veterinary protocol of using isoxsuprine with bute.
There are many hoof-specific horse supplements on the market with the same fundamental ingredients: biotin, methionine, copper, and zinc. What makes Ultra Hoof EQ different is that the biotin, methionine, copper and zinc are bound to yeast, increasing bioavailability and absorption. Ultra Hoof EQ has the added benefit of providing hawthorn berry powder for circulatory support, helping to drive more of the nutrients needed by the foot to the foot; plus bovine colostrum for cellular repair and support.
If you don’t see an improvement in your horse’s feet in 90 days on Ultra Hoof EQ, it may be that your horse’s hooves need deeper cellular support from the mitochondria.
This is where Impulsion EQ becomes an important hoof formula because it provides the bio-resin shilajit, that helps the mitochondria function more efficiently. It has been shown that mitochondrial dysfunction affects ATP, muscles, organs, and tissue repair, as well as inflammation. The mitochondria reside in large numbers outside the nucleus of every cell. When the mitochondria become less functional, hooves may become more brittle, and grow more slowly.
If your horse is metabolic and has foot issues including laminitis, several studies have confirmed a mitochondrial dysfunction in humans suffering from metabolic diseases. Helping to restore healthy mitochondria is particularly important for metabolic horses.
If your IR horse is overweight, then Optimum HW (Healthy Weight) is a great place to start. Optimum HW is a multi vitamin/mineral with Crominex® 3+,which helps to regulate sugar and fat metabolism. We know how critical diet is in managing metabolic disease, specifically the non-structural carbohydrates (NSC). The calculation for NSC is done by adding the starch percentage to the water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) percentage, which should only add up to 10% or less for metabolic horses. If you have your hay analyzed, you will see an additional testing value called ESC (ethanol-soluble carbohydrates), which is a subset of WSC and includes glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, and fructo-oligosaccharides. WSC includes the ESC plus other fructans. BioStar’s Optimum HW has an NSC of 9.8%.
Chia seeds are very important horse supplements because of their high omega-3 content, and their high proline content. Proline is an amino acid that is essential for collagen synthesis. Chia seeds are especially beneficial for metabolic horses and easy keepers because of their high mucilage content, which help to slow the digestion of carbohydrates.
Mitochondria are responsible for cellular respiration and the production of energy currency in the cell known as ATP. For metabolic horses and easy keepers that need more energy for work and training, Impulsion EQ helps the body provide more cellular energy, which also benefits the metabolism of the horse. The NSC value is: 5.1%
BioStar’s Tri Dosha EQ is a great go-to for metabolic horses on spring and fall pasture, because it helps support both the pituitary and adrenal glands with additional liver and antioxidant support. In metabolic horses, including those with Cushing’s disease, the pituitary produces excessive amounts of ACTH, which then causes the adrenal gland to produce excessive cortisol.
Among BioStar’s Aryuveda-influenced horse supplements, Tri Dosha EQ provides chasteberry for pituitary support, holy basil for adrenal support and the Ayurvedic Indian gooseberry (known as amla), which supports healthy metabolism and is balancing to the body system. Horses and ponies prone to laminitic episodes do well on the glandular support of Tri Dosha EQ.
How does BioStar support Cushing’s (PPID) horses?
Diet and exercise are just as important for Cushing’s horses as they are for insulin resistant horses. Keeping the NSC at 10% or less is critical.
If your Cushing’s horse is overweight, then Optimum HW (NSC 9.8%) combined with a low NSC diet is recommended.
If your Cushings Horse is underweight, adding an active yeast such as BioStar’s Bio Yeast EQ helps support the hindgut in the digestion and utilization of fiber, thereby helping the horse gain weight from the hay and forage provided.
You can add coconut meal (such as Stance Equine’s CoolStance) for added fat, protein, and fiber. Cold-processed oils can also be added for additional fat. For Cushing’s horses, I go with Gold Star camelina oil because of its high omega-3 and vitamin E content.
Tri Dosha EQ supports healthy pituitary and adrenal gland functions with the combination of chasteberry for the pituitary, holy basil for the adrenal gland, and Indian gooseberry for metabolic support. Cushing’s horses produce excessive amounts of ACTH from the pituitary gland, which causes the adrenal glands to produce excessive cortisol.
A study published in the German journal Pferdeheilkunde showed that “collected data provides evidence of the positive effects that chasteberry preparation has on the clinical symptoms of horses and ponies suffering from PPID. Quality of life was improved in the study population.” (November/December, 2013, 721-728)
Among horse supplements, Pergolide is the standard medication for Cushing’s, because it controls ACTH. Tri Dosha EQ will not interfere with pergolide, and supports the horse in additional ways by lowering cortisol, providing organic milk thistle for the liver and organic Schisandra berry for immune system support.
Impulsion EQ is beneficial to Cushing’s horses that need more energy and muscle. It provides the bio-resin shilajit for mitochondria support, plus ingredients high in the BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) for muscle building, and beneficial fats from organic pumpkin seed meal and coconut meal. Impulsion EQ contains 19% protein and 11.7% fat with an NSC of 5.1%.
- A note about complete feeds for metabolic horses (IR and Cushing’s): Companies can be clever about how they state starch and sugar content. Some use ESC percentage, not WSC, thus lowering the total NSC value on their labels. Make sure the company you buy complete feed from is using WSC plus starch for their NSC calculations.
If your horse has gastric ulcers they should be treated with omeprazole (GastroGard® or UlcerGard®). Once treatment is completed, the problem commonly arises that the horse starts acting ulcery again a few weeks or a few months later. In some cases the ulcer has actually returned, and in other cases it is more of a ulcer sensitivity — that is, the ulcer hasn’t re-formed but the mucosa is irritated and uncomfortable.
When a horse is working, it is the one time during the day that he/she is not eating. Horses produce more than 10 gallons of saliva per day when they are constantly eating. The salivary glands produce bicarbonate, which buffers and protects the lining of the stomach, and raises the pH. But when horses are working, the bicarbonate protection of saliva is halted and the stomach is unprotected. In the non-glandular region, gastric acid can splash and irritate the mucosa, even causing an acid burn.
BioStar’s Optimum GI provides gastrointestinal and ulcer support with vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, essential fatty acids, and highly digestible protein for whole horse health. Apple pectin (pharmaceutical grade) – helps stabilize mucous in the glandular region of the stomach. Sunflower lecithin (non GMO) supports membrane barriers of the gastrointestinal mucosa. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) provides polysaccharides (with beta-D-glucans) for immune support and may assist in reducing gastric damage. The addition of our proteinated macro and micro-minerals are highly bioavailable, so your horse can actually use them.
BioStar’s Tum-Ease EQ is a unique blend of micro-crystallized aloe (medical grade) that works like the drug sucralfate to coat and protect the stomach and GI tract. This unique aloe is combined with one of nature’s richest sources of the amino acid glutamine: cabbage. Glutamine is used by the body to heal intestinal mucosa.
Because Tum-Ease EQ is in the form of a cookie, you can feed it by hand 30-40 minutes before riding (as you are tacking up) and help protect your horse’s GI stomach from acid burn.
The other component of ulcers is stress. Among calming horse supplements, Thera Calm EQ is a unique approach to ulcers and stress because it targets the brain/gut/adrenal axis.
Under stress, the body releases more cortisol, setting off a chain reaction of neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, which mobilizes the brain and body for action — the so-called “flight-or-fight” response. It also increases restlessness and anxiety, and reduces blood flow to the gastrointestinal system. In addition, cortisol also increases gastric acid secretion which, if un-buffered from salvia, can irritate the delicate mucosa further.
Research has shown that the gut is the “second brain” which can affect mood and wellbeing. If the GI tract is irritated, the adrenal gland is signaled and more cortisol is released, thereby stimulating more norepinephrine. So the cycle can start in the GI tract, in the adrenal gland, or in the brain. The important point is that all three systems are affected.
Thera Calm EQ helps to reduce cortisol, increase the neurotransmitter serotonin, and soothe the GI tract.
What horse supplements do you recommend for hindgut ulcers?
Hindgut ulcers are becoming increasingly common in performance horses. The protocol that I have seen work best for most hindgut ulcer horses includes the medications sucralfate and misoprostol. Changing the diet for 30 days to give the hindgut a rest by substituting hay for soaked hay cubes, Chaffhaye, or chopped hay and plenty of forage if available. For a horse that typically gets six flakes of hay a day, I will reduce it to two flakes and substitute the Chaffhaye and soaked hay cubes throughout the day, giving one flake of hay in the AM and one flake at night. The purpose is to give the hindgut a rest from the high lignin content in the stems of the hay.
To support the hindgut ulcer horse we recommend Empower EQ hemp seed oil, and BioFlora EQ. Hemp seed oil is unique in that it provides GLA, which regulates the prostaglandins that regulate the inflammatory response.
Misoprostol is a synthetic prostaglandin. As the horse starts transitioning in lower doses of misoprostol, the GLA in hemp oil helps regulate the inflammatory response.
BioFlora EQ is a multi-strain probiotic with MOS — mannan-oligosaccharides — which are important in maintaining the correct pH of the hindgut. This is critical, as many hindgut ulcers are the result of a pH imbalance.
Listen to your intuition
When making choices among feed and horse supplements, always listen to your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right for your horse, listen to that little voice; it is your horse speaking to you.
With over 30 years experience in the equine and human supplement industry, Tigger Montague knows nutrition from the synthetic side as well as the whole food side. She started BioStar US in 2006 with formulas she created in her kitchen. Before she started the company, she was an avid rider and competitor with eventing and show jumping, until she got hooked on dressage in the late 1980’s. She has competed on horses she’s owned and trained all the way from training level to Grand Prix.