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Is My Horse Getting All of His Vitamins?

I bought two Thoroughbreds from the racetrack in Oct ’09. I began by feeding a store brand sweet and SafeChoice pellets and fed on the maintenance level. I switched to Purina brands-Strategy Healthy Edge (texturized) and Omolene 100 or 200 (sweet) whichever I could get. I feed according to the recommended exercise level printed on the bag. I was told by feeding two different feeds that the horses are not getting the recommended vitamins from the grains. In my thinking, as closely related as these two feeds are that the horses are still getting full vitamins. I said if I eat half of your broccoli and half of my broccoli, I am still getting a full serving of vegetables! Could you explain what the difference is? Thank you! By the way, my horses also get daily SmartPaks!

Dear Cindy,

We appreciate your business! However, your statement about switching grains frequently worries me. So my first piece of advice is to find a grain that you can reliably get and afford, that the horses like, and that seems to work well for them, then stick with it. Changing grain (or forage) on a horse “upsets the apple cart” of the microbial population in the intestine and can cause digestive imbalances.

Next issue: I completely see your point that you ought to be able to feed two similar grains and meet your horses’ recommended daily requirements of important nutrients. In the past, I’ve always recommended that horse owners simply trust the wisdom of the fortified grain manufacturers and choose one product, feeding it at the level recommended on the bag for the horse’s age, weight and workload. However, if you’re good at math (and weighing things) and want to do the homework, you can probably figure out how much of each product needs to be provided to complete and balance the vitamins, minerals and protein in your horse’s diet. I guess I’m lazy and prefer to have it done for me by experts in the field!

Just remember that it’s the weight of the grain, not the volume, that matches up with the guaranteed analysis and feeding directions. So no feeding by the quart or coffee can! Also, fortified grains like the brands you mentioned have their vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients tied to their calories (when one goes down they all go down). That means if you start feeding less pounds than the recommended amount because your horses are gaining too much weight, you’ll also be feeding less vitamins, minerals, etc.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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5 comments on “Is My Horse Getting All of His Vitamins?
  1. June Scholl says:

    So, then, if you have an easy keeper or chubby horse, couldn’t you feed LESS of the of the fortified grain and add a ration balancer?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi June, thanks for your question! You’re absolutely right that an easy keeper could be fed less or even NO grain. He probably doesn’t need the sugar or calories! However, he does still need the vitamins and minerals that a ration balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement provides. Keep in mind that the difference between a ration balancer and “multi-vitamin” is that the ration balancer also contains protein and is fed at a rate of 1-2 pounds per day, while the multi-vitamin usually just contains vitamins and minerals and only 1-2 ounces per day is given. So typically a ration balancer is fed alone as the “grain,” while a multi-vitamin can be given with a small amount of fortified grain or fed alone.

  2. melanie says:

    We have found that all of our OTTBs as well as our currently racing Tbs do awesome on Triple Crown’s feeds. My Mare who is a VERY hard keeper was originally on a Purina feed for a few years was not really putting substantial weight on. She was using twice the dose of weight builder as well as hay stretcher and was still “ribby” she is wormed regularly, teeth done every 6 months etc. after suffering her first 2 colics (which occured 7 years after i purchased her) During the course of a year had 7 colics the first she was hospitalized and the last they thought she had ruptured as she went down while being tubed and were ready to euthanise her. Due to me and my mare personally having the unofficial record of most colics in the area, we as a farm started researching feeds. we switched our hay from locally grown hay which had basically nothing for nutritional support to upstate NY or canadian hay. we switched to triple crown complete. now all of our OTTBs are at healthy weights have fewer to no issues with their ulcers and are maintining their weight very well. the feed is easier to digest and we are feeding half of what we fed of the purina pelleted feed and getting excellent nutritional support. our current trainers and racers are blooming on TC Training formula and our 2 metabolically challenged warmbloods are on TC low starch and their vet says they “look awesome”. My mare has also had her ulcers treated twice and currently recieves smart digest daily. and i hope i don’t jinx my self but my mare and the farm have also been colic free since the whole changeover. I’m not saying it’s a cure all but it worth taking the time researching and hooking up with the feed that meets your needs rather than bouncing from brand to brand or having to mix brands or 2 different feeds.

  3. Jen says:

    I know this blog post is back from 2011, but I have an 8 year old paint quarter horse who is on Purina Strategy and gets 1 pound in the morning and 1 pound at night. He is on a timothy grass round bale all day, salt lick, and Magnesium because he is constantly worried about things. He is a very picky eater and did not like the ration balancer I had him on. Is there something else to put him on or keep up the grain?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Thanks for your question, Jen! It sounds like you were on the right track thinking about a ration balancer for your quarter horse. Since he only needs 2 pounds of grain a day to maintain his body condition but the label recommends a higher feeding rate, he may not be getting the vitamins and minerals that he needs to meet his daily requirements. If he’s not a fan of the brand of ration balancer you tried, it may be worth considering trying a different brand or adding a multivitamin along with your horse’s grain to help fill in the gaps. We’d suggest checking in with your veterinarian, a certified equine nutritionist or a resource like to confirm that your horse is getting everything he needs for a balanced diet. – Dr. Lydia Gray

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