We asked our featured SmartPak pro Stacie Appleton, PhD, to discuss SmartPak’s supplement development process, specifically how ingredients are selected for new products or to reformulate existing supplements.
A quick internet search will generate hundreds of equine supplement options with a variety of ingredients offering a wide range of solutions for horse owners. SmartPak, alone, offers more than 350 different supplements—many of which are researched and formulated by the company as well as other brands that SmartPak has carefully selected to partner with based on product quality and customer demand.
The ingredients found in supplements often include vitamins and minerals lacking in a horse’s diet, while specially formulated products use selected ingredients to address needs like joint support, hoof growth, digestive support, and more. How does SmartPak decide which ingredients, among the many out there, get included in their supplements?
When considering new supplement development, Appleton says SmartPak pays close attention to what customers need to support their horses’ health and well-being. Customers are encouraged to leave reviews and send feedback about the products they are using and those they would like to see available as a solution to a specific challenge their horse has.
“We continuously curate the supplements we offer to ensure we’re providing our customers with the most up-to-date products, and we strive to make them available to horse owners on any budget,” Appleton said.
Customer feedback and requests, however, are only one component of SmartPak’s decision-making process. Regularly reviewing research updates on novel ingredients and nutritional technologies is a key part of how the company selects ingredients for their specific benefits, Appleton says. Some of those sources include the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), the Equine Science Society (ESS), and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Supplement makers are not required to conduct scientific studies to support the product claims. Having data on the benefits of supplements is important to SmartPak, though, so the company frequently partners with veterinary universities to perform research on its ingredients and supplements in order to assess product potentials.
“When developing a formula, we use a methodical approach to screen ingredients and select combinations of ingredients,” Appleton said. “Individual ingredients are selected based on their mode of action, serving size, synergies with other ingredients in the formula, and above all, documented safe use in horses.”
As part of the formulation process, all ingredient specifications and standards are identified to ensure consistency and quality of SmartPak’s products month after month and year after year, Appleton explains. Examples of these criteria include concentration of active ingredients, purity, source, form, and type. If considering a botanical bioactive ingredient, the part of the plant to be used is specified. SmartPak also analyzes finished products to ensure they meet label guarantees.
Appleton notes that when it comes to equine supplementation there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Every horse is a unique individual and responses can vary, but certain ingredients can introduce new synergistic modes of action to provide a much broader range of solutions for horse owners.
“For example, hyaluronic acid (HA), is important for the growth, development, and maintenance of joint cartilage. By adding ingredients that also promote a normal inflammatory response like resveratrol or turmeric, we can complement the benefits of HA,” Appleton explained. “We can create additional synergies with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate—both of which help maintain cartilage elasticity. Each of these ingredients alone provide benefits, but when combined, they can often provide more comprehensive support.”
The process of formulating a new supplement at SmartPak–or reformulating an existing one–is grounded in science and refined with horse owner, veterinarian, and nutritionist insight. The company is always on the lookout for novel ingredients to build an original product around or to add to a product already on the market for better results.
“At SmartPak, we have a popular saying: ‘We get you, because we are you,’” Appleton said. “As a team of horse owners and lifelong riders, we understand our customers want the best for their horses and we work to provide products that offer real solutions.”
Keep following along in the SmartPak Ask a Pro series as we cover a wide range of equine health care and supplement topics here!