Balancing a Horse’s Diet


I am concerned about oversupplementation and imbalances in my feeding program. Is there any place that I can send my feed bag tag and list of supplements that each of my horses get for review? I want to know if there are imbalances or if I am oversupplementing any chemical, mineral or herb. Thanks, G via AAEP Ask the Vet

Dear G,
You left out one important component of your horse’s diet: his forage, whether grass or hay. If you are going to spend the time and money to analyze what your horse is getting from his feed and supplements, you have to include what he is getting from his forage as well, since that is the bulk of his diet.

Also, ration analysis can tell you the levels of protein, various carbohydrates, fat, macro and microminerals, and vitamins that are in the feedstuffs your horse eats. However, they typically do not analyze for herbs, so you will have to look elsewhere for that information. If you are working with a holistic veterinarian to design your horse’s health and nutrition program, he or she may be able to point you in the right direction.

After you receive the results of your ration analysis, you may want to consult with a veterinarian or nutritionist to help make sense of all the numbers. If you have a veterinary or agriculture school in your state, I suggest starting there. Sometimes county extension offices can be very helpful. Depending on the brand of grain you feed and how many horses at your barn are on it, local sales representatives may be able to analyze your forage and work with you to balance the entire ration. My new favorite equine nutrition analysis is from the feedXL folks. Here are some websites to get you started: An excellent resource for feed analysis and ration formulation Uckele Health and Nutrition offers hay analysis and computerized ration balancing A do-it-yourself nutrition calculator that owners subscribe to

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+

Posted in Ask the Vet, Nutrition

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