Ensuring your horse has a balanced diet is essential for optimal health, and whilst your horse may be getting the energy it needs from summertime grazing, the lack of minerals in the soil and therefore the plants that grow on that soil, may mean your horse isn’t getting enough. . To ensure your horse’s diet is balanced you should consider using a balancer or supplement and we will explain why.
The Importance Of A Balanced Diet
Horses require a range of nutrients to maintain a balanced diet and as UK soils are deficient in minerals such as selenium and copper, your horse won’t be getting enough even if they are turned out on good pasture 24/7.
A balanced diet is essential for keeping a horse in good health and condition and for supporting any work they are doing. You can add alfalfa horse feed to your horse diet as it is ideal for the laminitis prone and those with muscle problems. If your horse has a dull coat, crumbly hooves and runs out of energy when ridden, then their diet may be imbalanced, and a review of their ration is important.
The basic concept of a balanced diet is providing sufficient energy and nutrients to maintain the horse’s body weight and condition according to the level of work being done. It is important to consider that whilst there may be an optimal level for each nutrient, there is a range within which levels supplied will maintain the horse – not every nutrient will be spot on for every horse, not least because levels in pasture and forage will fluctuate on a daily basis!
There are several ways we can provide vitamins and minerals for horses including fortified feeds, balancers, vitamin and mineral supplements or licks. With so much choice it can be hard to know what to choose so here we will look at each product in a little more detail.
A feed that is fortified with vitamins and minerals will provide a balanced diet when it is fed at the recommended quantity. It is the last point that is key here though as many horses and ponies don’t receive the recommended feeding rate and so the diet won’t be balanced.
This is where balancers can be really useful. A feed balancer is a very concentrated feed and is fed in much smaller amounts than a fortified feed so useful for good doers that don’t need the full amount of a fortified feed.
One of the key differences between a balancer and a broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement is that a balancer also supplies higher levels of good quality protein in the form of lysine which is an essential amino acid. A balancer is therefore particularly recommended for those that have a higher quality protein requirement such as those in work and breeding stock as well as for those on very restricted grazing and forage.
A supplement is often useful for those who have access to good grazing or forage but just need a top up of essential vitamins and minerals. They are also the lowest calorie way to supplement the diet with vitamins and minerals so can be useful to help promote weight loss in those that are overweight
Lastly, a lick is an economical and labour-saving way of topping up with vitamins and minerals for those on a forage only ration. Licks are useful when feeding a herd on unrestricted grazing and for those that don’t normally get supplementary feed. One of the downsides to using licks is knowing exactly how much a horse consumes and therefore whether they are getting everything they need. Horses on restricted rations fed highly palatable licks may also go through them very quickly and so the potential exists to over-supply certain nutrients too!