Researchers probe use of nutritional supplements

October 8, 2011

What nutritional supplements do owners give their eventing and dressage horses and why?

Eventers and dressage riders are being asked to take part in a survey on nutritional supplements. © Al Crook
British researchers are seeking insights into supplements given to competition horses, and in doing so hope to improve understanding of the key health and performance issues in these disciplines and how nutritional supplementation could be improved to support this.

The research team at the University of Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science is appealing for horse riders and owners to come forward to take part in what they are calling a unique new study into equine nutritional supplements.

The research will focus on nutritional supplements for horses competing in dressage and eventing and will aim to discover what supplements are currently used, what riders and owners would like to see available and the best ways of passing on information about them.

Dr Sarah Freeman, Associate Professor and European Specialist in Large Animal Surgery, who is supervising the study said: "Nutritional supplements are commonly used for health and performance in horses and there are a large range of them available on the market.

"Despite their widespread use, there is little information available about which supplements are used and why.

"Research in human athletes has helped to understand what type of supplements athletes want and the best ways of passing on information and advice.

"However, this is the first time that this type of research has been done in horses."

The study is being undertaken by two third-year veterinary students, Charlotte Agar and Rachael Gemmill, in collaboration with Dr Teresa Hollands at Dodson & Horrell, a leading manufacturer of horse feeds, including nutritional supplements.

Riders and owners are being asked to fill in an online survey available here.

The researchers will then follow up with selected volunteers who will be interviewed to explore some of the issues in greater depth.

Dr Teresa Hollands, nutritionist at Dodson & Horrell and a specialist lecturer in animal nutrition at Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: "Nutritional guidelines for horses are designed to support a healthy gut, to decrease chronic disease risk and improve overall performance.

"However, as the research with human athletes has shown, there is often a discrepancy between awareness, understanding and use of food and supplements.

"With the Olympics on the horizon this research is particularly timely. Not only do we want to use the results to support our elite horses but also to provide an information legacy for all horse owners and riders."

The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham is the first new vet school to be established in Britain for more than 50 years.

It took its first intake of students in September 2006. In July, the school celebrated its first year of graduating veterinary surgeons.