I can’t be the only one neurotically obsessed with my horse’s health. I’m the girl that calls the vet at the first whiff of lameness, the first sniffle, the first anything that makes my heart rate climb. Not kidding. I literally had to be evaluated by a cardiologist for heart palpitations after I bought him. Java is my first horse, and I’ll be damned if he gets ill or injured without immediate care. The prince wants for nothing, and my wallet coughs out dust when I open it.
There’s a lot that goes into horse care, though, and with Java, nutrition is at the top of my list. He was a narrow, undeveloped 5 year old when I got him, and through diet, exercise, and careful supplementation, he’s blossomed into a really lovely 7 year old. But don’t tell him, it’ll go right to his head.
Supplements are naturally part of his nutritional regimen. I know not everyone lives that life, but I’ve spent the last decaderiding and working with people who do. We ask a lot of our endurance horses, and my friends – especially Holly – have always emphasized the need to pay attention to what they need to accomplish those asks. Balanced grain, quality hay, and clean water are the foundation, and from there we build depending on environment and need.
For Java, I didn’t immediately get SmartPaks, even though I knew I wanted them. Early on, it was about settling him into a new environment and helping him grow, and I didn’t put him into work for about six months. Plus, they can really add up if you’re as into the whole thing as I am. So, he went on a muscle supplement at the recommendation of Robin, a trusted friend and trainer, and a probiotic, just to make sure he made the change to his new life safely. Cheap, simple, and good enough for what we were doing at the time (nothing).
Once he came back, though, it was SmartPak time! The convenience is what really sells it for me. Java has lived in four different places since I bought him in fall of 2015, and everywhere we go, his supplements are easy to maintain. Literally anyone can do it, and that’s comforting to me. I also really love their comparison tool on the website, where you can look at the nutritional values of up to five supplements in one handy chart at the same time. It’s easy, straightforward, and all the information is clear. Their customer service reps have even recommended additional programs to help me get his nutrition correct.
After careful weighing of his grain, hay, work, and pasture, as well as considering adjustments for seasons and competition, I’m pretty happy with his current supplementation. I made one tiny change a few days ago to increase his tendon and joint supplement, since we’re hoping to compete this year, but overall, his regimen has largely been the same. Sure, I’ve swapped brand here or there, dropped the muscle supplement once he filled out, and swapped from powder to pellets, but I try to stay generally consistent. I'm including a ton of links here, but none of them are sponsored or affiliate or anything. I just love this stuff, and links make life easier. He gets the following:
SmartDigest Ultra Pellets – Java has done a lot of traveling and changing farms, and this helps mitigate some of the stress on his digestive tract. It covers the hindgut and colon, and includes probiotics, prebiotics, and yeast. All good things. With competition coming up, it’s especially important to keep this as healthy as possible. Plus, ColiCare makes me sleep better at night.
SmartFlex Ultra Pellets – This is the recent change; he used to get Senior Herb Free, since he wasn’t in heavy work, but I still wanted a “maintenance” amount of tendon, ligament, and joint support. Since I am planning to get to at least four rides this year, I wanted to up the doseage accordingly. This has 2,000 mg more glucosamine and 300 mg more chondroitin sulfate, with comparable and/or higher amounts of other ingredients. As he ages, he’ll probably get more comprehensive joint support in various forms, but I want to lay the groundwork now for long term health.
Horse Health Products Vita-E and Selenium Crumbles – Our area of NJ falls slightly below the standard for selenium in the soil, and while our hay and pastures are really quite nice, I want to be sure Java gets the appropriate amount of vitamin E. This combo works together to support his immune system, which is double-important now that we’ll be traveling and meeting other horses. He’s young and hasn’t really gone many places, so he’s essentially that kid in kindergarten who gets whatever is going around (aka he needs all the help he can get). This might change later in the year to the Kentucky Performance Products Elevate Se, since that has natural vitamin E, which is easier to absorb. We’ll play that one by ear, since I didn’t want to change two supps at once.
SmartVite Perform Pellets – Here, Java gets a half of the recommended “maintenance dose” of the performance multivitamin blend. This was decided based on the diet breakdown made by FeedXL, a really awesome service that the SmartPak customer service rep I talked to recommended. I plugged in his information, grain, hay type, pasture type (I gave my best estimation, but you can send a sample), and all the supplements, and FeedXL compiled a report with recommendations of were we were at, above, or below necessary nutritional levels. It let me take control of Java’s health and nutrition, but also make decisions on where I could cut monthly supplement costs based on where we were above. It’s a paid service that I had for one year, and I did let my membership lapse this year, but I would be more than willing to invest again as our schedule and work grows. This supplement is for horses in “moderate to heavy work,” which we’re not currently, but are working up to, so increasing to the maintenance dose may also be in our future.
Right now, SmartPak is doing a really cool contest called the Horse Heath Challenge. There’s a series of eleven challenges, each complete with educational material and a brief quiz. Complete each and get a neat discount code or offer, which can stack with the others in one order, and complete a final survey for a chance at a larger prize. Sure, it’s a marketing tool, but I like a good marketing tool, and the educational angle adds value whether you are a SmartPak buyer or not. We could all do to learn a little more about equine health and nutrition.
Java and I are focusing on the “Inner Peace” Challenge (big surprise; we have no chill), with an extra focus on farrier care to make sure his transition into competition doesn’t affect his feet. I did just order from SmartPak (Hello, Piper tights and spring breech colors! Someday I’ll get around to reviewing these babies.), but we may just have to go for a second order with those discount codes. Doesn’t everyone need a hot pink ,slow-feed hay net and discounted tube of “please stop acting like a crazed kangaroo in the trailer” paste? Of course they do.