When to Feed Horse Ration (Diet) Balancers

When it comes to good equine nutrition, ration balancers offer an important tool for rounding out your horse's diet and helping it achieve its full potential -- without loading them up on grain. But sometimes it helps to see how this works out in an actual case study.

Consider the the following example, shared by Gina T., one of our partners over at Nutrena:

While recently reviewing a farm's feed program, the farm manager explained to me how some of her horses only received 1 pound of grain per day. She felt their weight was good, but they still appeared to be lacking something in their diet. She wondered what type of supplements she could add.

When we looked at the tag on her feed, the problem was obvious. Her feed was designed to be given at a rate of 0.5 – 0.75 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight. So in order to provide proper fortification for a 1,000-pound horse, she would need to feed 5 – 7.5 pounds per day. So those horses that were only getting 1 lb per day weren't receiving the nutrient fortification they needed for optimum health, which is probably why the manager felt that “they appeared to be lacking something.”

Her farm was feeding good quality hay at a rate of about 2% of each horse’s body weight, and the overall body condition of the horses was good, but we needed to balance the amino acid and vitamin/mineral fortification. After reviewing the farm's hay test results to establish our baseline, I explained how she could easily improve her horse’s diet with the use of a ration balancer. Balancers have a low feeding rate, generally from 0.25 to 1 pound per head per day, but they contain a concentrated mix of the extra vitamins, minerals and protein required to help horses achieve their full potential.

She was a little unsure about feeding something with a 30% protein level, but I explained how, when you do the math, feeding 1 lb of a 30% protein feed is actually providing roughly the same level of protein as feeding a standard 12% feed at a higher rate. So if the goal was to increase nutritional value without increasing grain volume, the 30% feed was the way to go.

That's some smart advice! So if you're facing a similar situation and considering a ration balancer for your horses, here are some key things to look for on the product label:

  1. Probiotics and prebiotics to enhance fiber and protein digestion as well as mineral absorption.
  2. Organic complexed trace minerals to increase nutrient bioavailability. An example of this on the tag would be the ingredient “zinc methionine complex."
  3. Added biotin and methionine, which are important for hoof and hair coat.
  4. Guaranteed amino acids (lysine, methionine, etc), mineral, and vitamin levels.

A high-quality ration balancer will provide your horse with dietary essentials such that, often, no additional supplementation is needed! And as always, if you need help reviewing your horse's feed program or selecting the right feed products for your animals, we're here to help. Just call or stop by one of our stores, and our knowledgeable staff will be eager to point you in the right direction.

This post is adapted (with permission) from content proudly brought to you by our partners at Nutrena and Cargill Animal Nutrition. Learn more about them here. The original article appears here.

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