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Supplement Etiquette in a Boarding Barn

Update at the end:

Putting this here to help me and whoever else needs some guidance! I fully admit, I am probably a bit extra when it comes to supplements for my horse but I can explain and justify every single one😅. I will give a bit of a rundown for the sake of full picture and I hope people that run boarding barns or do feed for barns or have some experience in any of this and those who have been in my shoes too chime in to help me out because I need to know how much, is too much to ask a barn to feed. Anyway, this is what he gets (not including grain) and a short why:

Magnesium (liquid pump): had major deficiency causing behavioral and physical problems, probably will always be on mag, grass/hay very low in mag in my area
Cal Trace Plus: on it for his feet, he is barefoot and has had huge improvement in hoof quality while on this, also will probably always be on it
Chia Seeds: on this for the Omega 3 anti-inflammatory power and maintenance metabolic regulation (he’s an easy keeper and this has been great for his condition, topline, and also his feet)

So this is pretty manageable IMO and no one has said anything however, some things have come up with my boy that I want to address. Namely, he really should be on a joint supplement and a gut supplement. He doesn’t have anything so drastic that injections or full treatment is needed, but should have some preventative care for his joints at this stage and he has Fecal Water Syndrome, can be quite gassy/bloated and overall isn’t super happy to work and be forward, nothing overt but its not him. Nothing screaming ulcers like girthiness, kicking, lots of bucking, being nappy, etc but baby hindgut ulcers maybe there and horses are good at hiding so I want to see if it gives him relief to be on something for gut support.

So my bottom line question is: Is 5 supplements overkill, should I not do that to the barn worker, or is it a reasonable ask. Unfortunately these are all separate containers, no handy smartpaks. For reference, I board at a “small” (14-16 horses) show barn, the board hits just about at 2k a month, the horses get loads of turnout and plenty of hay to keep tummies happy. I just don’t want to be THAT boarder that takes up the entire feed room (that’s an exaggeration and I don’t want to be a nuisance but I want my boy to be feeling better and I would hope that adding the 2 supplements helps him). I would just like to know if I am unreasonable by asking this or if I am being paranoid about offending or being a pain. Thank you!

Edit: Instead of replying individually I wanted to put it up at the top. On recommendations from replies (thank you!) and some suggestions of bags v Tupperware or twist containers I asked the people that feed at the barn and what they had for suggestions as well as what was suggested on here and they were very grateful for the simplification for their job, and said that they prefer the structured twist top containers and the pelleted mag is definitely an improvement! They certainly are not the type to ask the owner to simplify the supplements, they will bend over backwards to get it done, so I am glad I was able to make this easier for them and I really appreciate all the advice!

I am also replacing his Nupafeed Magnesium with the Mag Pellets from Performance Equine Nutrition (anyone have luck with this brand?) so I hope it is an easy transition and doesn’t aggravate the FWS. The Nupafeed Mag hasn’t changed it as he has been on it for 9 months now with no change in his FWS which he had before starting the mag. Looking for a gut supplement with the Bio-Mos and YeaSacc to try to help his FWS and I also joined an FWS Facebook group. Apparently healing FWS is a trial and error situation, so far less hay and more grass/turnout has helped ease it a bit. He is now out 24/7 with shelter rather than out 14 hrs and stalled the rest getting more hay than just grass. I will certainly update if I find something that really heals his FWS and what our final magic potion ends up as😅

Can you pack your own “smartpacks” for the barn staff? I bought to-go condiment containers from Amazon and I pre-dose out about a month at a time. I don’t think it would be easy to do for the liquid supplement, though.

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I agree. Put all the dry supps in a DIY smarpack and limit to one pump liquid supp

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Where I board, boarders are requested to either use purchased or DYI Smartpaks. I prepackage baggies with all my supplements so it’s one baggie with feed in the morning and no more than one liquid supplement.

And yes, I think expecting barn staff to dish out all the supplements you’re talking about is unreasonable.

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Just want to throw this out there because I thought of it the other day but don’t have the need to try it:

Milk collection bags for breast milk would make pretty handy supplement containers, I think. They’re basically just sturdy ziplocs and you could reuse them.

Might be a totally terrible idea but I thought I’d put it out there anyway!

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I would be looking at the diet as a whole, not just top dressing what he’s eating currently.

  1. Is he getting free choice hay? Or close?

  2. What commercial feed is he eating and how much? (weight, not volume)?

  3. What has your vet said about the FWS? (I wouldn’t do anything regarding the FWS without talking to your vet first, but trying BioSponge may help.)

  4. What is making you think hindgut ulcers?*

  5. Why do you think he needs to be on a joint supplement? Most don’t work nearly as well as they claim, so you’re stuck using a tried and true like Cosequin, or an injectable like Legend and/or Adequan.

Not only do I board, but I ran a 25 horse facility for 4 years… No liquid supplements. They are a mess, they go rancid quickly in the inconsistent temps, and unless the staff is hand mixing this all together, the liquid supplement will be in a big ball somewhere in the feed, making it less palatable.

If you can’t change his forage and/or commercial concentrate, I would swap out the liquid Mag for Mag 5000 pellets by MVP, keep the Cal Trace, and Chia. You can bag these up a week or two at a time instead of having a bunch of containers in the feed room. If you really want the joint support talk to your vet about Adequan/Legend injections. IMO they work better for longer. A lot of oral supplements don’t even make it past the stomach.

*Colonic ulcers would be flaring like nutballs on free choice or large amounts of long stem forage. It would definitely be more than just some bloating and sucking back. I’m talking colicky behavior, anorexia, weight loss etc. I will say, however, that colonic ulcers do present with diarrhea, but it should ebb and flow, unlike FWS, as the colon walls repair and ulcerate. *I really don’t suspect colonic ulcers from what you’re telling us. Good coat, feet and easy keeper… none of those things are associated with colonic ulcers.

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I think asking anyone to scoop five supplements a day is unreasonable and will lead to noncompliance or a lot of resentment. For me, I pack my mares feed and supplements into tubs. A one quart container holds her ration balancer plus gobs of what likely ends up as expensive pee. One lid to pop and dump per meal.

If you pack feed and grain the only caveat is being neurotic about never letting it run out since that’s a headache for staff and leaves someone guessing on grain. I have a 7 day supply and refill every five so if I get hit by a bus on day five there’s a 48 hour buffer.

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I would not ask any barn to scoop that many supps. Best practice (if you want the horse to actually get its supps daily!) is to do smartpaks or DIY packs. Baggies or little containers work best, do a month at a time and refill at week 3 so you don’t run out.

Bonus features of this method are you KNOW if he’s missing supps (you’ll have extras), and you can fiddle with them without having to update the feed board and confuse staff.

Unless I’m very mistaken, there’s not a specific reason to feed Mg in liquid form vs a pellet. Unlike vitamin E, Mg is very bioavailable in dry form, it’s the type of Mg that matters. Switch to pelleted Mg (I like quiessence because it’s the “better” form, but MagOx is fine too) and make everyone’s lives easier!

Feed through joint supps don’t really do anything clinically. Cosequin has some research, but honestly just do Legend or Adequan. They’re ultimately cheaper and more effective. I’d be talking to your vet if you’re suspecting those types of ulcers and gut issues - those are serious medical issues that can’t be easily solved with just “a gut supplement”. I’m a fan of GUT (pellet or powder) for basic peace of mind, but not for what you’re talking about.

Edited: grammar

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Please do not put this in actual smartpaks. They will be a foot long and a real pain in the butt to feed without spilling it all over while you tear the strip off.

Get the Tupperware to DIY a couple weeks at a time. Threaded ones are easier to open with winter gloves on.

Ditch the liquid stuff. It never gets administered consistently because it’s nasty.

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I’ll echo everyone else - do your own premixed containers. I have my own at home and still can’t be bothered to scoop several supps each day per horse. Instead they get put into Tupperware a few weeks at a time with the grain.

I’d switch from liquid Mag to pellets or powders. As another poster mentioned, I can’t think of any reason liquid would be preferred over powder or pellets and powder/ pellets is easier on the barn staff for sure.

I also agree with the others who vote Legend or Adequan over any oral joint supp. I’ve never seen any actual difference in my horses with oral supps but do notice a difference with the injectables and they are not much more expensive (in some cases cheaper) than the orals.

I’ll also add I have had very limited success with gut supplements (Gut by Uckele, GutX, U7, SmartDigest Ultra, etc). With your horse having a diagnosed gastric issue, I’d talk to my vet about management changes or drugs before dropping money on any more supplements.

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Pre-mix containers are good.

As someone who can fall down any rabbit hole …

Do give SmartPaks a phone call and ask to speak to a supplement expert. Tell them what you want, the complete list, exact portions, etc. Let them figure out which mix they already have on hand that will work.

I did that and it has been far more time and cost efficient than when I was making my own little pre-mixed containers, spending hours in front of tv doing that. (I used to pay my niece to do it (while I was there with her), but she grew up and got a real job. So then I called SmartPak and fell on their mercy.)

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I’m arguably worse than you, OP, and here’s what I do:

  • Dry supplements in a 1/2 cup twist-top container, identical for AM/PM so that it doesn’t matter which container is grabbed. My horse is on SmartHoof Ultimate (had him on CA Trace but it just wasn’t cutting it), ground flax, Vitamin E powder, and Platinum skin and allergy (this last one is only during the late spring/summer, he’s allergic to something at my barn and will get hives without it once things start growing). Everything but the flax is two scoops per day, so one per meal, and then I do a half-scoop of flax in each container so he gets the full scoop daily. I make up five days at a time unless I’m going on vacation because I’m usually at the barn five days a week anyway.

  • Liquid supplements: two 1-gallon jugs with pumps. These sit in a small(ish) plastic bin on the supplement shelf with the dry supplement cups in the bin in front of the jugs. I feed Alimend for gut support (honestly liquid gold, if I could only keep one supplement it would probably be that) and Lubrisyn HA + MSM for joint support. We write the pump instructions (i.e., how many pumps and which meals) on the bottles with sharpie and then they’re also up on the giant whiteboard feed chart as well.

It sounds like a lot but my trainer (who hates fuss) has no problem with it because it’s just twist, dump, two pumps, and she’s done. She’s told me she hates having little plastic bags for DIY Smartpaks because they can be hard to open (especially with gloves) and they end up tearing, but the containers are easy. Her rule for supplements is that she’ll feed whatever we give her but if it’s not prepped and in the feed room for her to just dump and go, she’s not feeding it. I could feed twelve supplements if I wanted to if they were all in one container. I’ve never had an issue with the liquid supplements but he’s not the only horse in the barn that gets one and every horse has their own labeled feed bucket to prep and dump grain so we’re not mixing things by accident.

(I’ve done grain prep when my trainer is out of town and my strategy with my supplements is genuinely more straightforward than a lot of others in the barn, and not just because it’s my own horse. As long as you’re reliable with making up your cups/bags and make it as straightforward as possible I don’t think you’ll have an issue.)

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Clearly your mileage may vary with peeling smartpaks.

I have no problem peeling them into either a feed container or a small bucket that feed is delivered in.
Peel upside down, one cell at a time.
I can not imagine trying to peel off the whole cover and then dumping all the cells, that is for sure a way to a mess.

This makes a good point. Before buying containers, ask the barn what type of container they like best.

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That sounds like a lot of time taken for a boarding barn operation, when instead it could be one container, open dump done.

Some people don’t care if they inconvenience other people though, when they’re “paying for the service”.

I care. Foot long smartpaks are a pain in the ass. The barns I’ve been at feed through the door, not in a little bucket. Trying to get that thing opened and dumped through the door opening takes wayyyy too long.

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BO here…I love Smartpaks. No liquid supps! Hate hate hate them.

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You do you. Allow others to be happy with how they choose to do things.

The 40 plus horse boarding barn loves them. They too use feed thru window in the stall front. The horses stand and wait for the feeder to be done.

In this case it has nothing to do with the boarders insisting the barn do it. The barn prefers them. It keeps their feed room tidy because all they need is a recycle bin for the cells, which easily stack as they are emptied, no sorting owner’s containers or dealing with the time and mess of screwing a lid back on. Bonus, no having to remember which container goes with which horse in the feed cart, because the Smartpaks are all labelled. The Sharpie labels on the owner made containers rub off and are eventually not readable.

In my case, my horses are at home. I find my supplements are cheaper in Smartpaks and I have no problem feeding them.

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So I tried to go down this rabbit hole recently, and then starting poking around smartpak to see what was in all their different supplements and ended up getting creative by making combos of things to get where I wanted to be with the min levels.

I too have one who needs magnesium… wouldn’t you know that the smartvite perform senior has 5,000 mg mag in addition to 1,000 iu vit E, plus biotin and a bunch of other good things. Added cocosoya to one and omega 3+e to another to get those omegas in, and then GUT pellets that have collagen and silica (great for the joints) in addition to things for happy tummies.

Add in a pump of joint flex or gut-x and you are getting a hefty dose of HA from either. There’s a lot of overlap between things that are good for ulcers and joints, like HA.

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I use ziploc bags with the slide tab for supplements. I add all the supplements to the baggie at home (convenient as they change over the seasons) I put at least a week’s worth in a empty small supplement bucket. Then I add another empty bucket that is on the floor of the feed room. BO dumps supplement when doing grain and throws the baggie into the empty bucket. I collect the empties and refill as long as the zip closure works!

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I write the name on masking tape, and it has never rubbed off.

The boarding barn does not sort owner containers. All empties go into one bin, and the owners are on the hook for fishing theirs back out.

No barn around me recycles. Those things go straight into a trash bag, where the different sizes do not stack well so they’re just crammed in. We used old feed bags for trash bags, so the weird shape of the mega-long strip makes it where you have to shove the trash down over and over.

Yes, I’ll do me. I’m saving the barn staff time by making it one container instead of 10+ small ones.

Smartpaks are great if there’s 1-3 supplements. Anything more than that - no.

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They stack easily if you just put the thought into doing it.

I admit that I stack mine on the corner of a table (next to the drawers) and the boarder barn just keeps a stack in the recycle bin. Easy to do.

I am glad you found a way that works for you.

Like I said above, the OP should ask the boarding barn what they prefer. I have no doubt they have an opinion on how they would most like it done.

I have fed at a boarding barn where some boarders use Smartpaks, some make their own in various containers.
I stand by my thought that the peeling of the Smartpaks is not using more time or energy.

But for the third time, it is important to discuss with the barn about what THEY like best because what I like, what you like, neither matters. What matters is what the barn would like best.

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