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Supplement Etiquette in a Boarding Barn

For what it’s worth, this vet shares great information on her podcast. She has saved me a lot of money Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth: Supplements


I would dig into this more with your vet and a nutritionist so you aren’t just making expensive pee. That many supplements seems excessive and may be unnecessary, depending on what you are feeding. Both of mine are fatties and don’t get a full feed serving, so they also get ration balancer to make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals. That is in a big can with a scoop. I added in Vitamin E as my older guy isn’t on good grass in his turnout, on the advice of my vet, and both horses get biotin for their feet.

The supps go in little tupperware containers that I make up and keep in old SP drawers for both horses. The barn staff were really happy with this when I proposed it- we have a 20-25 horse barn and they prefer Smartpaks or the sort of thing I do. Some people have liquid supps and I know this is a PITA.

When we were scoping my younger guy for ulcers I asked about hindgut ulcers and my vet said they are not detectable except through an autopsy, so supplements that purport to treat them may or may not be effective, we just don’t know- so, expensive pee! As someone else has said feed-though joint supps aren’t super-effective for horses, so that might be something to cut out. My older guy gets Pentosan IM every three weeks or so, again on the advice of my vet, who said not to bother with feed-through.


I make my own smartpaks at my barn and have for a few years now. It’s a lot easier on the barn workers and makes it pretty fool proof.

I also pick up chores there and feed. Most folks with horses on supplements do smartpaks but for those that don’t, they’re all prepackaged in some sort of container. Some are in food prep containers, plastic bags, reusable silicone bags, recycled containers, etc.

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On the same page as everyone else, the more you can condense the work of the staff, the happier they’re going to be. When I subbed in feeding, bags were my least favorite of the DIY options but manageable (the worst was some were evening and some were morning and you could only tell by a little letter in the corner that rubbed off sometimes). To separate my morning and evening supp cups I have a basket for the evening ones (just fat and salt) and a smartpak drawer for the morning (the more light-sensitive ones). Just tupperware knockoffs from the dollar store.

For those with smartpaks we have a bag for strips to be stuffed in and I take them home a couple of times a month (I live in a different county with better recycling services)


Another vote for providing the supplements in a daily package, not bulk containers, and switch the Magnesium to a solid form. Even if your BO doesn’t ask or require it, it’s just simply polite. I do this for my BO even if my mare is only getting two supplements. Anything more than one goes in a baggie. I have no problem with regular ziploc bags, have reused the same ones for months without issue. I can’t imagine needing something more “sturdy” like a milk collection bag. But, I only get granules or pellets, as my mare won’t eat powders. If there are powders, I’d go for a tupperware container or something, so that the powder doesn’t get all stuck and gunk up the inside of the bags.

When I was a BO I required, and when I’m a BO in the future again I will require, that any boarder with more than two supplements for their horse provides them as daily pre-rationed baggies or tuppers (or Smartpaks). Actually, I might require it for more than one supplement in the future. Depends on how many horses I decide to have on the farm. It’s not just about the annoyance of scooping a billion scoops a day, it’s also about storage space.


5 isn’t too many if you pre mix them yourself. Rubbermaid makes all sizes of small, cheap easily stackable 1/2 to 3+cup containers with screw on lids.

Switch to a pelleted Mag supplement and mix up a weeks worth of supplements for workers to feed.

As long as you get rid of liquid and powders and go all pellets you don’t even need to wash containers between using…


I baggie all grain and supplements/meds together so the barn only has one bag to open with a complete meal in it. No liquid supps. They freeze in the winter, go rancid in the summer and generally leave an annoying sticky mess everywhere. I try hard to be a low maintenance boarder!

I do get my supps in smartpaks, but I dump them in with the grain at home and recycle the paks rather than expecting barn staff to wrangle them.


Agree with others - pre-package the dry stuff (and also agree that magnesium should be fine in a pellet or powder form.) Use ziploc or similar containers with twist-off lids. The pull-off lids crack more easily.

For pelleted Magnesium, I swear by Quiessence. It also contains B vitamins and Chromium and has been a game changer for my horse and quite a few others at my barn.


Another option is the small zip baggies you can get at crafts stores. They’re in the jewelry section and have various smaller sizes than zip locks, and super cheap.

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I don’t feed the barn grain. So, I use larger tubs from Rubbermaid (https://www.walmart.ca/en/ip/rubbermaid-takealongs-food-storage-containers-set-of-2/6000202127455). These hold both enough “grain” (Gro N Win and Purina Digestive Balance, at the moment, probably Step 8 once it’s colder) and all the supplements I could want (AT+ always and pelleted Vitamin E once the grass is gone).
Barn staff seem quite happy with this, as I think it’s even easier for them than scooping the regular grain… rip lid off, dump feed in tub. I do a week+ at a time, and keep all my feeds in two 60lb VIttles Vaults (https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/gamma2-vittle-vaults-stackable-60-lb-4360). Tidy, don’t take up a ton of floor space, and mouse-resistant.

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Either switch to SP or make DIY Smartpaks in 30 day batches then buy a SM drawer and put them in that.

As a BO I HATE liquids, especially during winter. As a former barn employee I hated dishing out multiple supplements and you’re just asking for them to be missed or the dosage to be wrong.


I believe you are in the minority on your opinion of SmartPaks. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, and to feed supplements however you prefer in your own barn. But the whole reason SmartPak was a wildly successful start up business is that the founders recognized an unmet need and designed a product to meet it.

"Becky Minard got the idea for SmartPak in 1999, after recognizing that the stable where she kept her horse was having trouble keeping up with feeding and supplementation… When she discovered that her horse’s supplementation was inconsistent, the stable manager explained how it was a challenge for workers to feed and keep track of multiple supplements for 30 horses. In response to this problem, Minard invented SmartPak, creating a way to preselect, premeasure, and prepackage medications and supplements for individual horses.

In October 2005, Inc. Magazine named SmartPak Equine the 106th fastest-growing business in America in its annual list of America’s 500 fastest growing private businesses, marking the first time an equine business was named to the list. SmartPak has been named to the Inc. 500/5000 list nine times."

They have received four rounds of venture capitol funding, and Henry Schein acquired 60% of it in 2014. It’s essentially still privately held, so no value is available.

It’s taught as a business case in business schools and is mentioned in a couple of books.

Also, in my barn manager experience, I had a lot of clients who would not have complied with the tupperware or zip lock bag thing, and a couple of good ones who would’ve asked if they could pay me or the barn staff to set up the tupperware or baggies.


I work where I board, so I’m the one making up the feeds. We keep the suppliments in an old filing cabnet, and each horse gets its own slot on the shelves, seperated by dividers. Scooping each supplement is easier, and any liquids are lined up on the feed cart and added to the bucket right before feeding. The part that takes the longest is cutting and making a hole in a carrot for Previcox or Prascend tablets.


I feed my own supplements daily to my two mares; I’m just not willing to risk having meds/supplements/grain fed improperly by barn staff. However I provide the staff with baggies of alfalfa/bermuda hay pellets to soak and feed in the morning. It’s fool proof. If staff somehow misses doing that, the mares get hay 3x a day as well, so they’re happy.

The OP is feeding a lot of supplements to one horse, and it sounds like she’s taken care in choosing which ones she believes her horse needs. So it would only make sense to continue with being careful with what/how he gets them, and prepare the feedings herself and give them to staff, to minimize the possibility of a mistake. I understand the concern about barn etiquette, but it’s a safety issue first.

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I’m not against smartpaks. I’m against ones with 15 wells of supplements. 2 or 3? Great! A foot long plastic thing I have to dump in a 10" plastic bucket through a square on the front of the stall? Pass.


Agreed. The barns around me were all about them initially but a lot now ban them. They don’t recycle, it’s a ton of plastic waste, and many “doses” are multiple wells so it’s surprisingly easy for 5 supplements to be 7-10 wells.

Great for some barns/horses and not for others. I love doing supplements weekly because it’s rapid cycle feedback on compliance. For a supplement not the end of the world but if I also pop medication into my supplement cup I don’t want to be counting a month of strips and calculating when they arrived and missed ones from the month prior to figure out my accuracy that month from the barn feeder.


Way too many supplements. If you need that many, get a vet out, do bloodwork and get a professional assessment.


I would make Rubbermaid containers with supplements already mixed and labeled am/pm (if different) and had those ready to go outside the stall. It worked well at multiple barns and I would just make a week’s worth at a time.

I would limit it to one pump and have a station outside the stall that makes it super easy and brainless for the feeder. Otherwise, look at the premade packs.

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This post is a great example of how different things can be at different barns (and not be wrong, just be different) and why it is so important for the OP to ask this barn what they would like her to do, what is their preferred method.

I have never been at a barn, and no barn anyone I know boards at has had supplements kept right outside the stall in the barn aisle. (I am not saying there is anything wrong with it, I am simply pointing out that I have never experienced it.)