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Use of Recovery Supplements in HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · January 10, 2017

High-intensity exercise invigorates the mind and body, leaving many of us feeling refreshed, revitalized, and occasionally a bit sore for a day or two. Horses likely experience the same aches and soreness following exercise. Although most equine athletes will quickly recover after exercise, many owners elect to expedite the process through nutrition and nutritional supplements.

Historically, the focus on recovery nutrition has been on providing adequate macronutrients—fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Now, an array of nutritional supplements purportedly help recuperation. Such supplements typically include amino acids (particularly lysine and dimethylglycine), electrolytes, selenium, and vitamin E. Research also shows* that dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids can also help horses recover after exercise.

The premise behind many of these supplements is to either provide the building blocks, like amino acids, to help build muscle or to minimize inflammation and oxidative stress. As recently described by Lindinger and coworkers, excessive oxidative stress that occurs during high-intensity exercise causes an exaggerated inflammatory response in muscles. While inflammation is a natural part of normal muscle healing following exercise, excessive inflammation is detrimental. Thus, dietary supplements that curtail inflammation could potentially facilitate recovery following exercise, hence the use of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

This latter approach clearly differs from supplementing with electrolytes, which are designed to replace specific minerals lost in sweat.

For maximal antioxidant support and recovery boost, consider Nano•E, a nanodispersed natural-source vitamin E product, and Preserve PS, an antioxidant supplement that contains vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, and magnesium. Look for Preserve in Australia.

These research-proven products benefit athletic horses, even the intrepid “weekend warrior,” but before upgrading your athletic horse’s diet, consult with a Kentucky Equine Research nutrition advisor. This will ensure all of your horse’s nutritional needs are being met while avoiding nutrient excesses. An advisor or nutritionist will also ensure you select appropriate dietary supplements that are safe and efficacious while avoiding oversupplementation.

*Lindinger, M. I., J.M. MacNicol, N. Karrow, et al. Effects of a novel dietary supplement on indices of muscle injury and articular GAG release in horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. In press.