Worst Trait: Lack of scientific evidence to support claims
Best Trait: Formulated by professionals
Company Information & Communication
I reached out to Equine Medical & Surgical Associates, proprietors of Horse Heiro™, on a Sunday morning, and was shocked to get a reply from the nutritionist within hours- not once, but twice on the same day! I had three major questions to clarify the product’s safety, research references, and marketing strategies. Considering this company’s quick response, marketing statements, and refund policy, I give them 3 stars for Company Information & Communication. Weaknesses here include lack of third-party regulation and failure to supply hard evidence of supplement efficacy.
Reading the FAQs and “In Depth” comments on their website, I am encouraged my the quantity and accuracy of the information. I appreciate the debunking of myths such as “fat/oils are required in IR diets” and “chromium supplementation helps control insulin”. I also greatly appreciate their holistic, practical approach to feeding IR/EMS horses which involves forage first, a ration balancer, modest supplementation, and strong relationships with farriers and veterinarians. They refer to a 4-step approach, much like the legs of a chair, that suggest if any one of those legs are critical to success.
My only critique is that the company references multiple randomized control, peer-reviewed studies to discourage use of OTHER supplements, yet fails to supply any randomized control studies with peer-review to support the use of their product. Efficacy claims are made by listing 24 horses that had lowered blood insulin levels over several month period on Heiro. Please understand that this is not evidence as it only shows correlation not causation. Any number of management strategies, feed changes, and even testing methods could have decreased the level of insulin over time whether or not those horses were on Heiro™ supplement.
The Fine Print
*Refund policy is great within 30 days of purchase whether you buy it from EMSA or a third party retailer.
**There are 251 reviews on their website- 100% of them are 5 star.
Like most other supplements, there is a scoop provided. This scoop is approximately 10 grams of product or 0.35 ounces. Considering that there are 11 ingredients, that would leave room for less than 1 gram of each product. I would love to see the evidence that supports the use and dose of these ingredients; especially the herbs.
Heiro™ lists fenugreek, ocean kelp, blue-green spirulina algae, cinnamon, ginger, willow, peppermint, milk thistle, alfalfa, Vitamin E concentrate, and Magnesium Oxide Mineral. Marketing material states that there are “no fillers, no artificial colors, preservatives, melamine, pesticides or drugs.”
Fenugreek is one of the more common flavorings for horses, ocean kelp is commonly fed for its microminerals, and glue-green algae may arguably have enough omega-3 to support your horse’s health. Though there is nothing wrong with these first three ingredients, the use of cinnamon, ginger, willow, peppermint and milk thistle are unproven in horses. The alfalfa hay is probably the carrier and the vitamin E and magnesium oxide mineral are super common.
The two ingredients that appear to be “guaranteed” in this product include vitamin E at 128,190 IU/pound (that’s 2,824 IU/10 gram serving)and magnesium oxide at 6,360 ppm (mg/kg; 63.4 milligrams Mg/ 10 gram serving). We have no guarantee or estimate of inclusion rates for any thing else.
Besides the USDA Organic certification of several herbs, the certification of its “low sugar, starch, and fructan” or “melamine, pesticide, lead and drug free” claims are unclear. Without third party oversight, we have to take EMSA’s word for it.
Both equinemedsurg.com and Amazon offer a 90 day supply of Heiro™ for $124.95 and free shipping. Dividing the cost by 90 days gives you $1.39 per serving. If you see results (i.e. your horse is more comfortable) it’s probably worth the $507 per year. I would just be cautious adding this supplement at the same time that you make other good management changes such as forage changes, farrier changes, or other supplement changes so that you can make a reasonable assumption that the supplement is what made the difference.
Buying 30 day tubs each month increases cost. At $49.95 plus shipping ($9.75 to get to Montana), this brings your daily cost to $1.99. Ouch. I would not suggest that!
Considering how well this supplement has done on the marketplace and it’s veterinary backing, I was really assuming that I’d find better affirmation for its use. I want this product to be the magic bullet that takes a laminitic horse from cripple to useful servant again, but I’m afraid that I can not justify its use when pasture, forage, management, and a simple vitamin- mineral are more useful therapies for these horses. It comes down to a matter of priorities; I’d rather an owner use the supplement funds to regularly get forage tests done or put that money into their horse being worked more days a week. Perhaps if more research to support herbal use becomes available, I will reconsider, but for now recommending powders on a maybe at $1.39 per day isn’t my style.