Feed Materials In Focus – 15 Marketing Tricks of the Equine Supplement Trade!



DON’T BE FOOLED – Here are the things to watch out for! These are the tricks companies use to get you to buy their products. 

1) Making outrageous claims and publishing misleading information about what different ingredients can achieve! e.g. Equifeast and chelated calcium. 

2) Using cheap and less effective alternatives e.g. plant omega 3 instead of marine omega 3 in joint supplements e.g. Feedmark Best Flex HA. 

3) Marketing on % instead of actual grams. Would you rather have 100% of a small pizza or 50% of a large pizza? 

4) Displaying amounts as smaller units instead of appropriate units to make it look great e.g. 10,000ug instead of 10mg. Or “5 billion CFU per kg” which is actually a small amount in a daily dose. 

5) Not giving a full and clear indication of what a daily dose supplies for each active ingredient. Sadly this isn’t required by law. There can only be one reason a company doesn’t want you to know what the levels are – because they are low! 

6) Including an ingredient that customers look for so that it’s on the label but at such a tiny amount it cannot have any benefit e.g. 23mg of chondroitin sulphate in NAF Superflex! And that’s in the loading dose!

7) Proudly stating “We don’t use any fillers, carriers or bulking agents”. Technically these are usually referred to as excipients but are often essentially for safety, shelf-life (i.e. so that when you buy the product the levels are as stated on the label), the convenience of dosing, balancing (e.g. added Ca to balance a poor Ca:P ratio) etc 

8) Misrepresenting scientific knowledge or published papers e.g. Topspec on tryptophan and calming. 

9) Before and after photos – usually Photoshopped or taken from a different angle. Sometimes not even the same horse. A good example was a recent post by Hi-form. 

10) Companies that extensively use “Please PM me” on their Facebook posts. This is mostly because they are probably going to make claims about their product which they daren’t do in public because they know they will be called out or reported to VMD or ASA. 

11) Testimonials – A lot of these posts are written by the companies themselves and the owner gets free products for allowing it! Have a look. They are often all written in the same style. 

12) Recommendations on Facebook in posts. Many companies have people who are paid to do this or seed posts (e.g. “What calmer do you all recommend?” or “Looking for advice on joint supplements”) and customers can get money off or points for making recommendations. 

13) “Bespoke” – seriously? There is no way anyone can make up something effective with a tiny amount of knowledge about your horse or pony. It sounds great. It’s very appealing. It’s a rip-off. 

14) Putting articles in magazines which look like independently written articles but which are actually advertorials written by a company and for which they have paid to have it in the magazine! This is an ASA infringement. 

15) Not putting in the amount of active ingredients claimed on the label. A published study found that most companies did not put in the amount of active ingredients they claimed were in their joint supplements and some had NONE! 


About Author

Dr David Marlin is a physiologist and biochemist who has worked in academia, research and professional sport. He has worked in the equestrian and veterinary world and in human sport, healthcare, medicine and exercise science. In 1989 David obtained his PhD from the UK’s leading sports university, Loughborough University following a four-year study on the responses of Thoroughbred racehorses to exercise and training, undertaken at the renowned Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. You can read David's full biography in the Our Website section.