Leisure Horse or Hack


Challenges Leisure Horses or Hack Horse

To find out more, click on the relevant challenge and see the recommendation from our team of Vets and Nutritionists:

Horses used for hacking and leisure riding may be kept at livery or at home. They may be required to live out in all seasons and they may only be ridden intermittently, especially in the winter when the days are short. Often these horses may be kept in suboptimal conditions without access to high quality forage and feed or in pastures where grazing is tired (“horse sick”) or there are large numbers of horses competing for food. Many leisure horses are not shod or because they may live out in wet or excessively dry ground conditions they may have poor quality hooves. Leisure horses are often older animals or retired competitive animals and are susceptible to all the conditions associated with age, such as poor dentition and a reduced capacity of the intestine to absorb nutrients. In addition, arthritis/restricted mobility and chronic diseases such as chronic airway inflammatory disease and equine metabolic syndrome (Cushing’s disease) are encountered in these horses.

Depending on the age and activity level of the leisure of hack horse, there are several ways in which dietary modification and the use of nutritional supplements can support a good health and a good quality of life in these horses.


CHALLENGE: Horses kept in sub optimal conditions or those needing a boost

Nutrients that may be lacking in poor quality forage include energy and protein, minerals and vitamins. Drying and storage of hay reduces the content of many vitamins. Upgrading to a good quality haylage improves the nutrient content of forage but this may not be possible in all cases and addition supplementation helps to support the metabolism and well-being of the horse.


EQUIBOOST is a powder containing 26 different vitamins and minerals as well as a prebiotic (FOS), omega 3 oil and amino acids. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are prebiotics which essentially provide a nutrient source for the good bacterial microflora in the intestine and help to maintain a healthy intestinal microflora which in turn promotes healthy digestion and nutrient utilisation. EQUIBOOST contains flax oil which is rich in α -linoleic acid, ALA (an omega n-3 fatty acid). ALA is found in large amounts in fresh grass and has been shown to positively influence the immune response in horses. Horses with limited access to fresh grass may benefit from flax seed supplementation. ALA is converted to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the body which is then incorporated into muscle and other tissues and has been demonstrated to improve the inflammatory status and reduce pain and inflammation in humans. Supplementation with n-3 fatty acids in horses may help manage chronic inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis, equine metabolic syndrome, laminitis, and thereby help to improve longevity and quality of life of the horse.

EQUIBOOST contains a range of water soluble vitamins which are required in many chemical reactions in the body that produce energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. EQUIBOOST also contains important antioxidants such as vitamins A, E and the trace mineral selenium. Other trace minerals included in EQUIBOOST are copper, zinc, manganese, iron and cobalt. The copper, zinc, manganese and iron are included as chelates (linked to an amino acid) which ensures greater intestinal absorption. Trace minerals play a wide range of roles in the body, but essentially are key components of hair, hoof, skin and the immune system


CHALLENGE: Excitable or anxious horses

Given the busy working lives of many owners, leisure and hack horses may only be ridden intermittently, just at weekends for example. Some horses may be fresh or excitable when ridden infrequently and it is helpful to be able to reduce anxiety and excitement.


SUPER CALM PASTE contains magnesium and tryptophan which may help to calm anxious horses. Tryptophan crosses from the blood into the brain where it is converted to serotonin. Serotonin has an anti-anxiety effect. The effect of tryptophan is horses is variable between horses but in some horses a single dose was shown to reduce increases in heart rate and cortisol (the stress hormone) following a startle. During muscle contraction and nerve stimulus and excitation calcium enters the nerve and muscle cells, magnesium then pushes the calcium out of the cell and the muscle relaxes and the nerve impulse subsides. If there is insufficient magnesium, nerves may remain in their excited state. Horses supplemented with magnesium showed a trended towards decreased responsiveness to a moving object.

CHALLENGE: Poor quality hooves, less frequent shoeing

It has been well established that malnourishment negatively impact equine hoof wall quality and that hoof wall quality varies with age and season. The hoof wall is composed of approximately 90% protein. Keratin is the predominant component of hoof wall and give the hoof wall its hardness, cysteine is an amino acid which is predominantly found in the link that connect the keratin tubules to one another. Keratinisation refers to the process by which the soft cells at the coronary band are replaced with keratin to form the hard hoof wall. Nutrients required for normal keratinisation and good hoof horn quality are amino acids, especially sulphur-containing amino acids such as cysteine or methionine. The strength of the hoof has also been demonstrated to be positively associated with the sulphur content of the hoof.  Biotin is a vitamin of crucial significance in the development of the horny tissue and positively affects its compactness and integrity. Minerals and especially trace elements, zinc and copper and vitamins like biotin are important for the normal keratinisation of the hoof wall.


HOOF PAK powder contains a range of amino acids and particularly the amino acids that are high in sulphur; cysteine and methionine. The MSM in HOOF PAK has a protective effect against oxidative stress in the horse’s tissues and is also a sulphur donor and is used to produce cysteine and methionine. Biotin in HOOF PAK is included to support the production of good quality hoof. The trace minerals zinc and copper have been shown to positively impact hoof growth and are included in HOOF PAK as MACC chelates. The zinc and copper are bound to glycine which protects the minerals from damage in the acid stomach environment and promotes their absorption in the small intestine. Considering that hoof wall growth is relatively slow it may take a minimum of six weeks to begin to appreciate any changes in hoof horn quality at the coronary band and similarly, it may require supplementation for periods more than a year for the hoof horn to completely grow from the coronary band to the ground.

CHALLENGE: Reduced mobility

Many horses now have very good quality lives in their senior years thanks to the improvement in the diagnosis and management of old age diseases. Leisure and hack horses are likely to be older horses or horses that have retired from high performance sports due to injury. These horses often make excellent companions and leisure horses though many may have some arthritis or musculoskeletal damage from their earlier years. Managing inflammation and pain and reducing further inflammation and pain allows these horses to maintain an excellent quality of life, often well into their 20s.


ELITE FLEX LIQUID or POWDER contains glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, vitamin E. omega 3 essential fatty acid, lysine and zinc. Glucosamine and chondroitin have been shown to have a positive effect in increasing stride length (mobility) in veteran horses. Supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids has been shown to decrease the mediators of inflammation in horse’s joints. MSM has been demonstrated to have a potent antioxidant effect on exercising horse tissues and may limit inflammation induced injury. Vitamin E is a potent anti-oxidant and reduces oxidative stress and has the potential to limit cell damage during exercise. Lysine is an amino acid and is found in large amounts in muscle cells and zinc is an important component of hoof wall and contributes to the keratinisation and hardness of the hoof.  

CHALLENGE: Intestinal changes

Due to the advances in managing the wellbeing of horses. Many hacks and leisure horses may be of advanced years. With age come challenges, not least arthritis, poor dentition and reduced appetite which can affect food intake in the older horse.  While little work has been specifically conducted in horses, in humans there are established age related changes that are observed in intestinal function. These include increased susceptibility to gut infections and inflammation and impaired absorption and gastrointestinal motility.


PRO-BIO EQUINE (paste) and PRO-BIO FORTE (powder) contain a live probiotic yeast called Saccharomyces. Yeast probiotic has also been shown to benefit the intestinal microbial population and to improve the digestibility of food in horses. The B vitamins included in PRO-BIO EQUINE and PRO-BIO FORTE support the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins to produce energy and vitamins E and C are potent antioxidants which help to protect the intestinal wall from damage caused by bad bacteria in cases of intestinal dysbiosis. PRO-BIO EQUINE and PRO-BIO FORTE contains threonine which is the main component of the mucous lining the intestinal tract and protecting the intestinal cells from damage from bad bacteria or toxins.

CHALLENGE: Increased risk of respiratory disease

Many leisure and hack horses experience chronic airway inflammation most often because of allergies to hay and other forage. Horses may be stabled in dusty environments or may be administered poor quality, dusty or mouldy hay. Chronic inflammatory airway disease (IAD) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) results in reduced performance and persistent wheezing and coughing, even at the lower levels of performance required for leisure riding and hacking. Vaccination may also be neglected in these horses which increases the likelihood of airway inflammation.


Both IAD and COPD impact performance and quality of life. RESPIRON contains Echinacea, seaweed, oregano, garlic, rosemary and vitamin C. Echinacea is a potent immune stimulator and supports the local immune system in the horses’ airway to fight infectious diseases. Vitamin C and rosemary are both are excellent antioxidants and it has been demonstrated that vitamin C is required in additional amounts during inflammation. RESPIRON also contains garlic and oregano. Garlic and oregano have antibacterial and antiviral effects and garlic is also a mucolytic which thins mucus, so it can be more easily cleared from the airways.