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Serve It Up Right


Challenge #7

Difficulty: Medium
Prep work: Find your horse’s feed bag

Your horse’s diet is the foundation of his health and well-being, but many horses are coming up short in four key areas of nutrition. This year, make sure your horse has all the nutrients he needs to perform his best.

Know what you’re scooping

Some types of grain provide a complete and balanced selection of nutrients, but they can only meet 100% of your horse’s needs if you feed the full amount recommended on the bag (yet many horses don’t need this many calories). Read on to learn about the different types of grain, the typical recommended serving size, and the amount that the average horse is eating.

Complete feed

A manufactured feed that combines grain and roughage; designed to partially or completely replace a horse’s forage, usually due to dental problems or because quality hay is not available.
EXAMPLES: Purina® Equine Senior®, Nutrena Triumph® Complete Horse Feed.

What the bag recommends: 15-20 lbs
What most horses get: 6 lbs

Fortified grain

A manufactured feed that includes added guaranteed levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals; common types include pelleted and sweet feeds.
EXAMPLES: Purina Omolene#100®, Triple Crown 14% Performance, Nutrena SafeChoice® Original.

What the bag recommends: 5-9 lbs
What most horses get: 3.7 lbs

Put down the scoop

If your horse isn’t receiving the full amount of grain recommended on the feed bag for his age, weight, and workload, or if he’s receiving a whole grain like oats, he may be lacking in critical vitamins, minerals, and protein. But because over-feeding grain can cause digestive problems, obesity, and excitability, increasing your horse’s grain ration may not be the best answer. So before you reach for the feed scoop, read on to fi nd the best solution for your horse!

Coming up short

7 out of 10 horses aren’t getting a full serving of fortified grain or complete feed, according to our survey. This means they are not receiving a full serving of critical vitamins and minerals needed to thrive and perform their best. If your horse’s grain serving is coming up short on nutrients, consider adding a multi-vitamin supplement to help bridge the gap and ensure he is getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs.

Grain: less is more

Aim to feed the minimum amount of grain your horse needs to maintain optimal body condition and performance level. Keep in mind that for many horses, that’s no grain at all. While elite athletes and hard keepers often need the added calories that grain provides, many horses simply don’t!

Change isn’t easy

For many horse owners, a scoop of grain has long been a standard part of life in the barn, and rethinking the way we feed isn’t easy. But feeding grain to horses who don’t need it can cause a variety of problems, from digestive upset to gastric ulcers, obesity, excitability, and more. Learn more about building your horse’s ideal diet at

A smarter solution

Feeding a ration balancer or a multi-vitamin supplement can help ensure your horse is getting the key vitamins and minerals he needs without feeding more grain. Our improved line of SmartVite supplements makes it easy to pick the perfect multi-vitamin for your horse. Visit for a customized recommendation from our online SmartVite Verifier.

A foundation of forage

weightHayThe average horse should receive 10-20 pounds of forage per day
Whether it’s fresh pasture, hay, or a combination of the two, your horse should be eating 1–2% of his body weight in forage every day. For a 1,000 lb horse, that’s 10-20 lbs daily! Since bales of hay vary in density and volume, it’s best to weigh your hay instead of feeding a certain number of flakes. With each new shipment, find the average weight of several bales and divide that by the average number of flakes per bale. That will give you the average weight of a flake, and you can adjust your feeding plan accordingly.

Hours of grazing

grazingHoursHorses were designed to graze for about 17 hours per day
Continual grazing is also vital for your horse’s digestive system to function normally. Ideally, your horse should have access to free choice hay and/or pasture. If that’s not possible, a small hole hay net or “slow feeder” hay bag can help slow your horse down so his hay lasts longer. If your horse has a metabolic disorder or other condition where sugars and starches should be limited, work with your veterinarian to design the appropriate feeding program
for his needs.

Pass the salt

6teaspoonsHorses at rest need at least 1 ounce or 6 teaspoons of salt per day!
Salt (sodium chloride) is essential for healthy nerve and muscle function, and a horse that doesn’t get enough salt may not drink enough water. A horse in no work should eat one ounce of salt per day, and that need increases with exercise and/or warmer temperatures. Since hay, pasture, and commercial feeds provide very little salt, you will likely need to add salt to your horse’s diet. Top dressing meals with an electrolyte supplement that contains sodium chloride can help your horse get what he needs.

Support healthy hydration

10gallonsThe average horse drinks 5-10 gallons of water per day
Proper hydration is vital to your horse’s well-being. In order to maintain body functions and remain hydrated, a horse needs to drink at least a half gallon to a gallon per hundred pounds of body weight, per day. That’s a minimum of five to ten gallons of water for a 1,000 lb horse. And just like with salt, that amount goes up with increases in exercise and/or temperature.

Posted in Horse Health Challenge

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2 comments on “Serve It Up Right
  1. DWilliams says:

    I have a Haflinger cross that can survive on air and get fat. He currently gets two large flakes of orchard/timothy hay per feeding, he goes out on pasture 7 hours per day and he doesn’t get a fortified grain since he doesn’t actually “need” grain for conditioning. However, rather than have him be silly when the other horses are banging through their feed buckets and to have something to put his supplements with, he gets 8 oz (1 cup) of timothy pellets per feeding. His SmartPak is CW, SmartVite multi vitamins and MSM.

    I was really worried when I first got him because of not being able to feed a fortified grain ration, but he is happy, round and shiny with the help of SmartPak.

  2. SmartPak SmartPak says:

    Thanks for using SmartPaks to help support your horse!
    -SmartPaker Bjorn

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