Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Infomercials for Horses

A couple of weeks ago I received my latest mailer from SmartPak. Not their catalog, but a mailer where it looks like a magazine and was titled something like Guide to Horse Care and Supplements. Obviously as a conscientious horse owner and barn owner I want to read about horse care and try to stay abreast of the myriad of supplements that are available.

Within about 10 minutes I felt like the worst horse mom on the planet. The first article I read was titled something along the lines of "Your Horse May Be Missing More Than You Think." Next up was "Supplement Myths" or something like that. Basically after reading those two articles I was ready to throw all common sense out the window and arrange for each of my horses to have a SmartPak strip of about 20 wells each. Because the basic message in those articles was if your horse isn't on about 5,000 different supplements then they weren't getting proper nutrition. I know better than this but still . . . I was one rash decision away from becoming SmartPak's #1 customer after reading all of that.

Don't get me wrong. I love SmartPak, prefer horses on supplements to be on SmartPaks, and order a good bit of supplies and tack from them myself. However I do think the hype around supplements is grossly overdone, and some of the claims certain supplement manufacturers make are just not possible if one really applies logic to their statements. Often the "research" claimed is a rather pathetic stab at a "study" that involves very few horses and no control group. But the marketing is so powerful it is hard to resist the claims. "If you just feed X all of your horse's problems will be solved." "If you feed Y your horse will never have problems." According to this SmartPak mailer all of your horse's health, soundness, behavioral and training issues will be solved if you just feed the right supplements. No need for proper riding and good training, just get the supplements right!

I will admit there are a few supplements floating around the farm that I wouldn't buy, usually due to a lack of an ingredient list or claims so unsubstantiated I just wouldn't spend any money on them. Most of the supplements that we feed each day are fine, and some we've even recommended. We certainly think supplements have their place but we don't think they solve or prevent nearly as many problems as they claim. However after reading the latest SmartPak magazine I did have a rather significant judgement lapse. After all I had just read about all of the things my horse was missing that I didn't even realize.

Needless to say my bank account is very grateful that I am married to someone who used to design feeds and balance rations for a living. After a few minutes of Jason talking me off the ceiling and going through his spreadsheets where he balances out vitamins, minerals and protein all was well in my world again. I should also point out that all is well, and has been, in the world of my horses as well. But this was before I read about all of the things they were missing that I probably didn't realize. "But Jason, don't you get it, I didn't know they were missing all this stuff and now I do." Picture Jason with his head in his hands during much of this conversation. I should also point out that one of my horses is currently on one supplement, I was just ready to up it to about 20 supplements for each of my horses.

Normally I am one of those people that can watch infomercials and laugh at them. When it comes to "infomercials" for horse products it would be an understatement to say that I am a marketer's dream.


Stormy, Clayton and Largo grazing and Rocky having a good roll

Toledo and Kennedy

Not that you can really see them but that is Maisie, Lily, Calimba and Traveller with their heads buried in the hay

Alex and Darby

Faune enjoying a good roll with Gus and George in the background


Chimano and Silver love to play

Asterik, Romeo and George


An American in Tokyo said...

Love that picture of O'Reilly!
Made me laugh out loud at work!

Anonymous said...

Love the O'Reilly nose and tongue!

I think very few supplements are worth the money. It's all about marketing. Equine nutrition should be about forage - plentiful and of good quality - and some vitamin/mineral balancer pellets if needed, after hay analysis please.

The ones I've found of use are pure raspberry leaves for marish mares (no controlled studies that I know of so the evidence is anecdotal - me), and the custom magnesium/chromium/selenium/vitamin E (vet designed and based on a study) for horses that show signs of insulin resistance (there's a commercial supplement - D-carb Balance - that's close).

Lauren said...

I'm pretty sure that Anita and Jason are long-lost relatives.

And me and you, too.

raphycassens said...

Dr David Ramey DVM has a lot to say about supplements as well as alternative therapies. He's really funny to boot: http://www.doctorramey.com

Love Love Love the photo of O'Reily!

Vivian, Apollo's Mom said...

I feel your pain! When I had Apollo here he was on every supplement for every condition in the book. When I sent him up to you and you told me that he would not be on any supplements except maybe sea kelp, I went through supplement withdrawal. I also went through trauma when we removed his shoes. Anyway, he seems finer than ever and with the good forage and feed that he gets, he is in top condition (for an EPM horse who can't be ridden). Anyway, I enjoyed the post and love the O'Reilly pic.