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The Scoop on Grain

scoop on grain
When you walk into any barn’s feed room, you’re guaranteed to find at least a bag or two of fortified grain. Grain became a staple in many barns because it provided the dense source of calories that the racehorses and workhorses of the past needed to support their heavy workload. However, automatically feeding grain just because “that’s how we’ve always done it” may not be a smart choice for your horse’s health.

In today’s world, a full serving of calorie-dense grain may be an essential part of a hard keeper’s or hard-working athlete’s diet. For most horses, however, less is more because — let’s face it — many of our horses aren’t working that hard, and over-feeding grain can cause digestive problems, obesity, and excitability.

Feeding the minimum amount of grain required to support a healthy body condition, in small meals throughout the day, is one way to ensure normal digestion and a healthy weight. That said, these small, partial servings of grain can create a problem of their own.

Because most forage does not supply a full serving of vitamins and minerals, many commercial grains are fortified with those key nutrients to help meet your horse’s daily requirements.

However, in order to receive enough nutrients from his grain, your horse must receive the full, manufacturer-recommended serving size for his age, weight, and workload. Herein lies the conundrum: most horses simply don’t need a full serving of grain, but with a partial serving of grain comes a partial serving of key nutrients.

That means that if your horse is getting a partial serving of grain, he may not be getting adequate levels of the vitamins and minerals he needs to truly thrive and perform at his best.

If your horse is only getting a partial serving of grain, that doesn’t mean you need to reach for the feed scoop and up his serving of grain. There are easy ways to help bridge the gap and ensure that your horse is getting the key nutrients he needs without the unnecessary calories and energy that come from adding grain.

Match the serving of grain you’re scooping for your horse with the examples below to find out how you can ensure your horse has everything he needs to look and feel his best.

While your horse’s forage supplies some protein, vitamins, and minerals, it’s likely not enough to fulfill his daily requirements. You can do a hay analysis or forage testing to find out this information. In many cases, you’ll want to provide a ration balancer to complement your horse’s forage and ensure he gets the protein, vitamins, and minerals he needs.

If your horse isn’t getting a full serving of grain, he also isn’t getting a full serving of vitamins or minerals. Adding a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to your horse’s diet is a smart way to help ensure your horse’s nutrient requirements are being met.

Our SmartVite line offers four targeted formulas that account for age and workload to ensure that your horse gets exactly what he needs, including best-selling SmartVite Thrive Pellets. Visit to choose the right SmartVite formula for your horse.

If your horse is getting a full, recommended serving of fortified grain, his protein, vitamin, and mineral needs should be met.

Not sure if your horse is getting a full or partial serving of grain? Learn how to read a feed label and figure out what you’re scooping below.

You can figure out whether your horse is getting a full serving of grain – just follow these three easy steps!

If you already know how many pounds of grain your horse eats per day, you can skip to Step 2! If you’re not sure, it’s time to weigh in because grain rations are always based on pounds. If you’re feeding by quarts or “scoops,” put your horse’s normal daily ration into a light plastic bag and weigh it (shipping scales work great). If you don’t have a scale, consider using the SureScoop.


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Most feeds will list how many pounds of grain should be fed per 100 pounds of horse’s body weight, depending on your horse’s workload.

Start by dividing your horse’s weight by 100, then multiply that number by the serving recommended for your horse’s age and workload. The resulting range is the amount of grain that would be required per day to meet all of your horse’s nutrient requirements (see below).

feed bag

If your horse’s normal daily ration falls within the range you calculated, his daily diet is already meeting his nutritional needs. If your horse’s daily grain is coming up short, that doesn’t mean you need to up his grain. Check out the examples above to find out how you can fill in the gaps without adding grain.




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5 comments on “The Scoop on Grain
  1. Sandy Fox says:

    My horse has low thyroid levels and high insulin levels. She has been tested by my vet. Do you have any thing for both problems?

    Sandy Fox

  2. Hannah M.R says:

    It was a Amazing

  3. Jen says:

    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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