What makes a total equine/horse feed?
If you have read Part 1 What to Feed my Horse? Where to Start! you will now be feeding an adequate amount of hay to your horse, but every day you hear people talking about feeding all sorts of different grains or commercial products plus various vitamins, minerals & supplements too.
So what makes a total equine/horse feed and do you need to be feeding all these different products?
In a few words – it depends!
As I said in my earlier post this all depends on those 4 areas:
1) How much and what type of work
2) Your horses age
3) Current condition of your horse – too fat? Too lean or just right?
4) Any medical issues which may affect diet
The last area we have not discussed yet is physiological requirements so pregnant mares or stallions standing at stud will have vastly different requirements to your general riding horse. Again this is a topic for another specific post and if you need that information now I suggest you speak with your vet or equine nutritionist.
Complete Commercial Feeds vs Mix Your Own
In my experience you will get a better all round and complete feed by feeding a commercial product than one you mix up yourself.
Unless you are prepared to do a lot of research into protein intake, the balance of vitamins to minerals and supplementing trace minerals like copper, zinc and magnesium to formula a complete diet you are far better off choosing an off the shelf complete feed from a reputable company, believe me your pony and your pocket will thank you.
Reputable companies often have a higher price tag for their commercial feeds but once compared to the cheaper alternatives you often need to feed less and the balance of vitamins, minerals etc. is better than the cheaper products.
Once you have decided on a Body Score for your horse you will know if your horse needs to loose weight or perhaps gain some and you can then choose a complete feed which will achieve your aims.
Some horses will do perfectly fine and hold their condition on forage and hay alone, often referred to as “good do-ers”. I still recommend you provide a good quality vitamin/mineral supplement as many paddocks and the hay they produce are deficient in basic trace minerals.
If you have a good do-er you are one of the lucky ones that will get by quite cheaply and still have a healthy horse that is a joy to be around.
I highly recommend Kool Glow for a premium intestinal metabolic supplement containing pre and probiotics, plus balanced bioavailable vitamins and minerals. You can read my horse Jonny N Dry’s story on their Facebook page here.
If your horse is a little on the thin side when fed only pasture or wheaten/oaten hay then I recommend adding Lucerne hay (also called alfalfa) and the vitamin/mineral mix of your choice.
If this still isn’t enough and you don’t feel your horse is putting on weight or not fast enough then the addition of either a grain based, high energy or high fat complete feed is required.
- Grain based feeds—these are a high energy feed usually based in oats, barley or corn. The grains should have been cooked (also called an extrusion process) which ensures the starch within the grain is more easily digested by your horse.One note of warning: Do not use grain based feeds if your horse has or has had laminitis or has been diagnosed with Cushings Disease.Some owners find a high grain based diet turns their horse from a lovely, calm riding horse into what seems like an unruly monster with too much energy to burn. If this is the case try the high energy and high fat feeds as an alternative.A correctly disciplined horse may become a little more difficult to handle but a horse with no manners to begin with on a high grain diet can become down right dangerous.
- High energy feeds – these may include products such as copra meal, sugar beet pulp and/or soybean hulls. These are similar to pasture in that they are fibre based, but the fibre is more easily digested. These feeds are generally excellent for horses that seem to be fizzy or hyperactive on the grain based feeds.
- High fat feeds – this category also covers oils and oilseeds. Commercial feeds considered to be high fat are rice bran and rice bran based feeds.There are also excellent equine oils which provide the correct balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 including Performa 3 oil. Oils are an excellent way to get high calories into a horse which may be a picky or small eater and simply not able to consume the large amounts of feed required to gain or maintain weight.The addition of oilseeds to your horses diet can also be considered these include sunflower seeds and soybean seeds.
A Little Porky Perhaps
If you have an overweight horse there are a few steps you can implement to reduce the weight without starving your horse, which is not only unkind but will compromise a horses gut health. As discussed else where horses have evolved to forage for much of the day and need small amounts of fibre often to remain healthy.
So what can you do?
- Feed a lower quality hay. Try to find weather damaged oaten or wheaten hay (not mouldy or damp) but a product which has been left in the paddock a little too long. The sugars and proteins will be less in this type of hay.By using several small holed hay nets (also called slow feeders) and placing them around the paddock or yard so your horse needs to move between the hay and will physically take longer for him to eat the same amount therefore extending the time during the day he has access to forage but reducing the calories.
- Reduce time on pasture/well stocked paddocks. Some improved pastures will put weight on horses very quickly if the horse is allowed to graze 24/7 on it. There are several options you can put your horse out for just a few hours during the day if you are able to bring them in during the day, only put them out every other day or by using a grazing muzzle which works in a similar way to the slow feeder hay needs and the horse needs to eat through the small holes of the muzzle.
- Add a small amount of high quality Lucerne in the form of hay or chaff. Lucerne will add quality protein to your horses diet which needs to be maintained.
- Keep up with a balanced vitamin/mineral supplement. You should not compromising your horses overall health in a bid to loose weight. The overweight horse still has the basic requirements for balanced vitamins & minerals, probably more so as the reduced quality hay will have very little available. You will also be maintaining coat and hoof health by ensure the right balance and not adding any additional calories.
Just 2 last things I highly recommend
You can add a salt lick to your horse’s yard or paddock so they have constant access, although I have found my horses won’t touch them no matter where I put them or what type I purchase. In that case the addition of one heaped tablespoon of table salt to your horses evening feed is recommended.
Obviously it goes without saying cool, clean, fresh water much be provided for your horse at all times.
If you follow the above basic guidelines and don’t be drawn into adding a dash of this and a sprinkle of that to your horses feed you will be providing a total equine/horse feed that will keep your horse happy and healthy for many years to come.