We’ve talked about feeding mares and foals, the performance horse, over and underweight horses, and our beloved seniors in previous blogs, but how about those easy keeping recreational horses? Or those whose diet is composed primarily of forage but may need just an added fat supplement or prep for show conditioning? In this blog, we will discuss options for horses whose diet is mainly forage and which products we consider our supplements.
Forage Comes First
As difficult as feeding horses can be due to their individual energy needs and performance demands, the core component of any diet should always be access to good quality forage. Forage is what the equine digestive tract was built to process; their small stomachs designed for grazing 18 or more hours a day with constant small amounts of food coming in and going out. Ideally forage would still be available like this 24/7, but between the activities we partake in with our equine pals and the inevitable turn of seasons here in Canada, ideal may not be feasible. Our horses are often in some type of activity which requires travelling and competition for hours at a time, and the frigid winter weather freezes up the pasture and brings them into the barn more frequently.
There are, however, many horses that we would consider easy keepers or who engage in low activity – whether that is because they are just companion horses, are retired, or a variety of other reasons – who seem to thrive on their diet of hay in the winter, and grass pastures in the summer alone. A good, quality alfalfa hay may appear on the outside to provide all the nutrition your easy keeper needs, but on the inside there are still many vitamins and minerals that even the best Canadian forage may be lacking which needs to be made up with a ration balancer, or a lower fat complete feed.
Vitamin and Mineral Requirements
One of the most useful tools in balancing your horses’ rations is to have a hay analysis done on new cuts that arrive at your barn. For minimal costs, this can be done on your own time at an agri-analysis location, or even by our Masterfeeds reps on farm.
Each year there can be stark differences in the quality of the hay that you receive, even if coming off the same field, by the same supplier. We are at the mercy of the elements when it comes to crop growing; different years generally mean different yields. And don’t let your eyes or hands trick you – just because the hay looks and feels great, does not necessarily mean that it has the nutritional value that your horse needs. The benefit of the hay analysis is knowing what nutrients your primarily forage-eating horse is getting through their daily hay intake, and which nutrients are slightly (or very) below the recommended amounts. These portions can then be topped up – depending on the results – by a recreational complete feed that is lower in fat than performance feeds and also has small amounts of additional vitamins and minerals, or by a concentrated vitamin/mineral supplement that has elevated amounts of these essential nutrients. Which product is best for your horse will depend greatly on the results that come back from the hay analysis, but it is essential that mainly forage or grain fed horses get some form of vitamin and mineral supplementation in their daily rations.
An Extra Finishing Touch
Other supplements that are useful to owners who have easy keepers are those that are designed to be finishers for horses who are going to sale or may be in low-energy competition, such as halter horses. They need to look the best they can, while not adding a whole lot of extra energy that would normally be expended during physical competition.
Fat supplements, such as Finishing Touch can act as both – a top dress to be fed along with a base grain that will add some finishing weight and that the horse can also use as a source of energy. The omega 3 fatty acid content in Finishing Touch also promotes fertility during breeding season for stallions and mares, so if you have broodmares that are primarily forage based in their diet, adding this high fat supplement prior to breeding can enhance pregnancy success rates.
Another useful supplement that can be added to a forage heavy diet is a ration balancer. Just because your performance horse is an easy keeper doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from an extra vitamin and mineral packed product. It can be top-dressed on horses that are fed oats or other grains for improved coat condition and overall health.
A good example of those who need extra nutrients for conditioning are heavy horse halter breeds. These big guys, such as the well known Clydesdale, can reach upwards of 900-1000kg, meaning they need a lot of feed compared to sport horse breeds. Due to the quantity of feed required, many draft owners opt to feed oats or base grains along with a forage diet, and then add a supplement in order to get that pre-show weight and shine to succeed in the ring.
Supplements, although fed in small doses, go a long way in topping up your horses’ daily rations of vitamins and minerals that are vital for their overall health. Whether you are looking to complete their daily diet with ration balancers, or prepare for sale or show, a good supplement with ensure they have all the nutrients they require to live a happy, healthy life. Check out our featured supplement products below to get you started on balancing your rations!
For more information or to schedule an on-farm call or hay analysis from one of our reps, visit our website, contact us, or email us directly at: email@example.com
VITAMIN/MINERAL SUPPLEMENT (PELLET) EAST | WEST
LOW CALORIE SUPPLEMENT
VTM is a concentrated option for horse owners looking to feed protein, vitamins and minerals in a small package. This pellet can be mixed with grains to create a complete ration or fed alone as a highly fortified “diet” ration for horses not needing extra calories or energy.
FINISHING TOUCH (CRUMB) EAST | WEST
FOR IMPROVED PERFORMANCE, WEIGHT GAIN & COAT CONDITION
Masterfeeds Finishing Touch is a smart energy addition to any diet. This high fat supplement is designed to be top-dressed on a balanced complete feed to increase the caloric density off the diet and add fat calories as an energy source. Finishing Touch is an excellent choice for extra fit and finish on sale and show stock and for enhancing fertility during breeding season.
LOOSE HORSE MINERAL EAST | WEST
EXTRA NUTRIENTS FOR GROWING OR HEAVILY WORKED HORSES
Masterfeeds Loose Horse Mineral and Loose Horse Mineral (G) are formulated for typical mixed forage feeding programs. They are designed for horses fed a forage program predominantly based on hay. Loose Horse Mineral supplies extra vitamins and minerals that are needed during times of stress or when extra nutrients are needed for growing or heavily worked horses.
EASY CUBE EAST
FOR EASY KEEPERS AND ALL CLASSES OF HORSES WHEN EXTRA NUTRIENTS ARE NEEDED
Masterfeeds Easy Cube, referred to as our hay balancer, is a 12% protein, mineral and vitamin supplement that can be used as a great stand alone feed for easy keepers. It’s designed to be fed with hay for horses who need little to no grain to maintain weight. It’s also a great choice for pregnant mares on good pasture, or as a vitamin mineral topdress in addition to other feeds.
- Winter Nutrition Tips
- Feeding the Mare and Foal
- Breaking Down Nutrition
- Spring Nutrition Tips
- Feeding for Performance
- All About Hay
- Feeding the Senior Horse
- Fall Nutrition Tips
- Economical Horse Management & Feeding Tips
- The Beginner’s Guide to the Equine Digestive System
- Macronutrients: The “Big Three” of the Equine Diet
- Feeding the Racehorse
- Feeding the OTTB
- Feeding the Active Senior