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Lets Talk Digestive Supplements

Let’s Talk Supplements, Part I

Equine supplements can be a controversial subject, and it seems that every equestrian has their own opinion about them. Some love them, some hate them and others fall somewhere in between. Personally, I fall into that last category: “somewhere in between.” I think that many horses, especially the ones I come into regular contact with at boarding barns and on the show circuit, receive their nutritional requirements from the grain, hay and grass they eat. I also know from my equine nutrition class in college that you can make a horse very, very sick by over supplementing, especially minerals such as vitamin A and Selenium.

However, as a discerning horse owner, I always want to do what’s best for my horse. The first thing I did when I bought Miles was take him off all of his supplements; I wanted to know if he needed them, or if he was on them just because. Now that I’ve owned Miles for six months, I feel like I have a much better handle on what he needs nutritionally, but I still have some decisions to make.

In this short series, I’m going to discuss three areas of supplements that I’m currently using or considering for Miles: digestive, skin & coat and joint. I’d love for you to chime in with your opinion and hear about what supplements have or haven’t worked for you.

Equine Digestive Tract

Digestive Supplements

When I purchased Miles he was on a maintenance dose of SmartGut from SmartPak, and we speculated that it was his previous owner’s way of treating him for possible ulcers. Miles was never scoped by a vet, or put on treatment (such as GastroGuard) for ulcers; so I pulled him off the SmartGut.

After a few weeks I noticed that Miles had loose stool, and it stuck around for a while. It wasn’t diarrhea, but it did get all over his back legs and let’s face it, that’s just gross. So I consulted with my vet, and decided to put Miles on a digestive supplement: ProBios. ProBios contain Lactic Acid Bacteria and other direct fed microbials. In animals, direct fed microbials can restore the normal balance in the gut and improve overall health.

Miles started the ProBios supplement in November 2013, and since then he’s had loose stool twice. Overall, I’m quite happy with the product. I feel confident that this type of supplement was something Miles needed, and that it has improved his overall health, which is always my goal when considering a supplement. Plus, the cost is relatively small. I was able to find the 5lb can of granules on Amazon for $35 plus shipping. Considering the first 5lb tub I bought lasted about four months, that’s only 30 cents a day – not too shabby!

What do you think about digestive supplements? Do you use one for your horse?


Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

18 thoughts to “Let’s Talk Supplements, Part I”

  1. At the therapeutic riding center where I worked, we fed all of the horses a similar digestive supplement called Fastrack (it’s also a lactic-acid bacteria containing probiotic). Most of our horses were seniors (average age was 25) so keeping their guts in good health was a top priority! We had a lot of success feeding a probiotic: everyone’s coat was shiny, loose stools were rare, and instances of colic were very low.

    If it’s working for you and for Miles, I’d say keep it up! 🙂

  2. I am considering adding a digestive supplement for Simon if we end up doing a lot of horse shows this summer. I don’t want him to be stressed during stalling/trailering.

    1. I’ve read that Thoroughbreds (racehorses specifically) tend to be a bit more prone to digestive issues caused by stress

  3. I’m super blessed with a (knock on wood) easy keeper, so have never even consider digestive supplements. I’m surprised at how many horses actually benefit them.

  4. Gatsby definitely has digestive issues, especially when he travels. It has been a constant struggle to keep weight on him. I’ve had him on SmartDigest Ultra for the last year or so and I really like it, it’s a bit on the pricey side but I think it’s worth it.

  5. I give Hampton the paste form of probios at shows because he tends to get the “nervous loose poos” at shows. 🙂 So far, using a tube of this plus ulcerguard, it has totally fixed that problem. 🙂

  6. Does Probios contain prebiotics and probiotics, or just probiotics? If I can find a cheaper alternative to what I’m using now that would be great haha 🙂

    1. I *think* just probiotics. The label says it includes: “Lactobacillus plantarum, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus acidophilus”

  7. My vet doesn’t like ProBios for horses, actually. She prefers ProViable, because it’s geared specifically toward equine needs, whereas ProBios is just for animals generally. She also tells me there’s no research behind other kinds of digestive supplements like SmartGut. Probiotics do the trick, and if you want to treat ulcers, she says use Ulcergard or GastroGard, but other (cheaper, unforch) alternatives don’t do anything.

    I love my vet, and one reason she and I get along so well is that we’re both into evidence-based medicine. I check in with her about any supplements before I make a decision about them and she’s always happy to talk about it.

    1. I should also say: I’ve used ProViable and ProBios. I did notice a difference faster with ProViable. Lex did really well on it when she was on antibiotics during the cellulitis/surgery thing over the summer. My mom uses ProBios for her horses with mixed success but has never tried ProViable.

    2. That’s interesting — I’ve never heard of ProViable before. My vet recommended ProBios, but she did say for ulcers, the only thing that actually treats them is Ulcergard/GastroGard.

      I’m going to have to ask her about ProViable now!

  8. When my old horse, Bugs, always had loose stools this is the exact same thing my vet recommended for us to use and it worked pretty well.

  9. Probiotics are a good choice – but you also need Pre biotics – especially for a horse with loose stool.

    Nothing else is worth the money. The hydrochloric acid in the stomach eats most before it can get anywhere and be used usefully. Most supplements are literally a waste of money.

    Im going to do a long detailed post on this subject and feeding as part of the Viva Carlos blog hop, so tune in for that. I will give a good explanation of what to use and why it works.

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