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From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Non-heating Horse Feeds

I have an 8 year old Paint gelding who is boarded and is receiving one scoop of sweet feed and grass hay. He is ridden 3-5 times/week and given a moderate workout each time. We trail ride in the summer. His body condition is good. He is somewhat hot and I have been reading about using a feed which provides calories in the form of fat, or possibly just using a ration balancer for hot horses. Is this something that you would recommend? What feeds do you recommend for hot horses? Also do you feel that the calming supplements work? Thank you, Jean

Dear Jean,

I like your idea of replacing his sweet feed with a ration balancer (or multi-vitamin) for several reasons. First, it doesn’t sound like he’s getting a full serving of this fortified grain for his age, weight and workload. When grain is cut back to reduce calories, nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals are also reduced. These can be put back in the diet (without adding calories or sugar) with a ration balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.

Second, did you know that sweet feed can contain as much as 50% sugars and starches? These simple carbohydrates can cause some horses to be a little “silly.” They are quickly digested or broken down in the stomach and small intestine then absorbed into the blood stream as glucose (blood sugar), leading to a spike in insulin release. Some horses seem to do better when their energy comes either from complex carbohydrates (which are fermented by microorganisms in the cecum and colon) or from fat.

As far as calming supplements, you may find you don’t need one after swapping out the sweet feed in his diet. But if you want to try this approach, keep in mind there are two broad categories of calming supplements: nutritional-based and herbal-based. Some horses respond better to the nutrients magnesium, B-vitamins and tryptophan (an amino acid) while other horses are able to normalize their nervous systems with herbs such as valerian, vervain, chamomile, hops, passion flower or others.

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 “From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Non-heating Horse Feeds
  1. Betsy Arnold says:

    In my opinion, anyone who feeds their horse sweet feed are a few years behind in dietary research. They are helping only the feed companies. A little research would help people to know why it is bad for horses. It’s also bad for people to eat sugary fatty things. Horses sometimes have things in common to people. “Yummy, it tastes good, “Gimme some more please.”

  2. Tracey says:

    I agree with the vet and Betsy. Get away from sweet feed, this will only make your horse crazy and loose weight. Putting your horse on a pellet feed is more natural for the horse. I feed Horseman’s edge by Purina it’s a 10% protein and 6% fat. I feed this to Thoroughbreds with a Smart vite from Smart pack this combo is great and you won’t have to feed a whole scoop of grain. More grass and hay is better for there digestive system! Make sure you horse gets plenty of grass and turn-out time that is the best thing for them. Hope this helps..

  3. Julie Pomaybo says:

    Look into Pennfield Feeds. They have an awesome ration balancer called All Phase. All of my horses are on this and they only require 1/2 of a pound. That’s it. My 14-year-old thoroughbred and my 3-year-old hanavarian cross are on this and are doing extremely well on it.

  4. lynn says:

    I have had these horses for two years. I have two, an 20 yr old mare and a young gelding. They have a horse barn that they can get in and out at will and they roam 10 acres freely. I feed them 1 scoop each of sweet feed and grass hay. My granddaughter is wanting to ride the mare who is gentle but a horseman said not wise after roaming freely for two years…any advise would be taken.

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