Think of a horse in its natural state, roaming free and grazing constantly, just as Mother Nature intended. Now think about your horse’s lifestyle. If he’s a typical modern horse, it’s probably not very similar at all. Bring his diet back into balance, and make sure you’re meeting his nutritional needs, and you’ll reap the rewards of a healthier, happier horse.
Cover Your Bases
The equine digestive system was built for constant grazing. Whether it’s fresh pasture, hay or another source, the majority of every horse’s diet should consist of roughage. In fact, your horse should be eating 1-2% of his body weight in hay or other forage every day. For a 1,000-lb horse, that’s 10-20 lbs daily!
With his hay squared away, consider your horse’s energy requirements. Concentrated sources of energy like grain are not a natural part of horses’ diets, so only feed the minimum amount needed to maintain healthy weight and support performance. Feeding too much grain causes a starch overload, which can have serious consequences like laminitis and colic. For hard keepers and extreme athletes, instead of maxing out the grain ration, add a quality fat supplement for a healthy source of additional calories.
Now that you’ve met his forage and energy requirements, it’s time to turn your attention to your horse’s vitamin and mineral needs.
Coming Up Short
So your horse’s feed comes up a few milligrams short on a vitamin here and a mineral there—is that really going to hurt? It depends on what he’s missing. Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can have a serious impact on your horse’s overall health.
Horses deficient in Vitamin B1 and Magnesium may exhibit signs of nervousness, tension and excitability. Chromium works with insulin to regulate blood sugar, and there may be a link between Chromium deficiency and insulin resistance.
Even a mild deficiency of Vitamin E can produce a decreased immune response, while symptoms of a Vitamin A deficiency can range from weight loss and a dull coat to anemia and night blindness. And these are just a few of the ways nutrient deficiencies can compromise your horse’s health.
Serve It Up
Now that you know the importance of a properly balanced diet, evaluate your horse’s program to make sure you’re meeting his needs. If you’re not the one who feeds every day, check with your barn staff to make sure your horse is getting an adequate daily dose of forage. Then, consider whether or not the rest of his diet is complete. Find your horse’s feed type below and learn how to determine if he needs a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement for additional support.
Is your horse’s feed all that he needs?
Find your horse’s feed type below, and learn how to tell if he is getting enough vitamins and minerals to support optimal health. Questions? Call our Supplement Experts at 1-888-740-4082.
What is it? Whether from a single source or a combination of sources, this diet only consists of forage.
Examples: Timothy Hay, Alfalfa Hay, Hay Cubes
Vitamin/Mineral Needs: Hay starts losing its nutrients as soon as it’s cut, so unless your horse is constantly grazing in a climate that supports high-quality pasture growth all year round, his forage is probably falling far short of his nutrient needs. Consider feeding a multi- vitamin/mineral supplement to support his overall
health. Since he doesn’t get any grain, try a tasty pelleted option that’s balanced for his primary forage type and workload.
What is it? A whole grain ration consists of a single grain type, without any additives. Whole grains may be processed by cracking, crimping, rolling or heating, to make them more digestible.
Examples: Oats, Corn
Vitamin/Mineral Needs: Because there is no whole grain that offers a complete and balanced vitamin and mineral selection, if you are feeding whole grains along with your forage, your horse’s vitamin and mineral needs are probably not being met. To support healthy
performance and help your horse thrive, consider adding a multi- vitamin/mineral supplement, to complete his diet.
What is it? Fortified feeds combine cereal grains, like oats, barley or corn, with additional protein, minerals and vitamins. Two common types of fortified grains include sweet feeds and pelleted feeds.
Examples: Purina Mills Strategy®, Triple Crown® 10% Performance
Vitamin/Mineral Needs: As their name implies, these feeds are fortified with vitamins and minerals. However, in order to meet his daily requirements, your horse must be receiving the full feed ration for his age and workload. Check your label to find out what serving size is recommended for your horse. If you’re meeting or exceeding that serving size, your horse doesn’t need any additional vitamins or minerals. However, if you’re falling short of that serving size, as is often the case, a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement can be used to ensure he stays healthy and performing at his peak.
What is it? Complete feeds combine grain and roughage, and are designed to at least partially replace the forage in your horse’s diet, usually because he can no longer consume hay due to dental problems, or quality hay is not available.
Examples: Purina Mills Equine Senior®, Triple Crown® Complete Vitamin/Mineral Needs: Complete feeds are designed to take the place of both hay and grain. As such, they are fed in very large serving sizes–for a 1,000 lbs horse, anywhere from 10 to 20+ lbs daily. However, many horse owners prefer to feed a complete feed as if it were a fortified grain, only feeding a few pounds per day. This is okay, as long as you add a supplement to bridge that nutritional gap. Check your feed label to determine your horse’s recommended serving size. If his daily ration is coming up short, add a multi-vitamin/ mineral supplement to overcome that nutrient deficiency.