Maximizing the effects of your horse’s supplements

Adding supplements to your horse’s diet is a great way to maximize his health. To take it a step further, choose supplements that optimize the nutrient availability of the food he’s eating.

When supplementing the equine diet, a common challenge is finding and using products that complement the forage currently being used. Grain-based complete feeds may be convenient to deliver additional protein, energy, vitamins and minerals; however, they don’t offer the same benefits as supplements in other forms, such as lick blocks and feed additives.

The benefits of fermentation

The key to effective supplementation is to use supplements that digest and then ferment, in the cecum, at a similar rate to the base diet. An excellent source of complimentary energy and protein is dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) and condensed distillers solubles (CDS). These low non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) ingredients optimize the diet forage fed horses have available.

A non-molasses lick block form of mineral supplementation, such as EquiLix® from SweetPro Feeds, enables forage digesters to consume the supplement in multiple meals or snacks throughout the day. This pattern of consumption optimizes cecum fermentation and nutrient utilization, as it is small quantities multiple times throughout the day, resulting in consistent flow of gut contents. This takes full advantage of all the nutritional components in the supplement as well as the forages being consumed.

Prebiotic fibers

Another key factor in optimizing cecum fermentation is the inclusion of prebiotic fibers. Prebiotics feed the resident good fiber-digesting bacteria of the equine gut microbiome and support their populations. When bacterial populations are diverse they are able to take greater advantage of nutrients in the ration. Prebiotic fibers to look for in the equine diet include AXOS (arabino-xylo oligosaccharide), XOS (xylo oligosaccharide), MOS (mannan oligosaccharide) and Beta-glucan.

The more compatible energy and protein sources are to the equine fiber-based digestive system, the more nutrients and tools from forage the horse can utilize.


Dr. Abe Scheaffer’s interest and passion within animal and human nutrition is the physiology of nutrients – tracking, evaluating and understanding how consumed nutrients are processed and prioritized in the body. Abe’s interests span the spectrum from the microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract to the processing of nutrients to achieve production goals throughout animal agriculture.

Abe completed a BS in Biology from Northwestern College of Iowa, a MS and PhD from North Dakota State University and post-doctoral research fellowship at Colorado State University. His academic experience was structured around the field of metabolic physiology and he continues to pursue that field as Vice-President of Science and Nutrition.

Dr. Abe lives in Sheldon, Iowa, with his family and wife Amy.