Understanding Key Terms When Considering Supplements & Feeds for Your Horse

by Holly Atkinson May 22, 2024 2 min read

Understanding Key Terms When Considering Supplements & Feeds for Your Horse

Written by Briony Witherow MSc RNutr. FHEA

This month’s blog focuses on defining some key terms that you may come across when considering supplements and feeds for your horse. Understanding what each of these terms refers to will help to make informed decisions when it comes to your horse’s ration.


The following terms are broad terms used to categorised feed types or nutrients within a feed:

  • Compound feed – the mixture of at least two feed materials, containing feed additives that are formulated for feeding to animals in the form of completeor complementaryfeed. Other common terms which are interchangeably used are hard feed and concentrate feed.
  • Nutrients (macronutrient) – a chemical component in food involved in a specific structural or functional activity in the body needed for life. For example, protein, carbohydrates (starch, sugars, fibre) and fats.
  • Micronutrient – essential elements required in trace amounts for example vitamins and minerals.
  • Macromineral (major) – minerals that are required in relative greater quantity to micro or trace minerals. Typically, grams per day.
  • Micromineral (trace) – minerals that are required in relative smaller quantity compared to macro or major minerals. Typically, milligrams per day.
  • Supplement – In EU feed law classified the same as compound feeds. Typically forming no more than 5% of the total ration.


The following terms help to define what a product is formulated to provide. The designation of a product to one of these categories will also govern what labelling declarations are required based on legislation.

  • Complementary feed – Compound feed that has a high concentration of certain nutrients, but which is only sufficient in a daily ration when used in combination with other feed.
  • Complete feed – Compound feed, which due to its composition is sufficient for the entire daily ration.
  • Mineral feedingstuff – a complementary feedingstuff containing at least 40% crude ash (mineral content) for example Limestone flour.


 Lastly, these are more specific terms used to describe a sub-category of supplements which relates to their purpose:

  • Fundamental dietary supplements - Supplements that are used to balance the ration, ensuring certain dietary goals are met. An example of this would be a vitamin and mineral supplement.
  • Specialised dietary supplements - supplements intended for specific benefit beyond normal nutritional needs (not including legally defined drugs). Including various nutraceuticals and other nutrients that are suggested to have supportive effects, for example joint supplements.  
  • Nutraceuticals – a combination of the word nutrient and pharmaceutical. This any non-toxic food component which has demonstrated health benefits and may be used to refer to a specialised supplement. The term can be used interchangeably with supplement and does not infer superior properties.

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