We horse owners love our hairy beasts and want to do what’s right for them. Feeding is no exception, but with the abundance of choice on the market, selecting what to give him can get pretty complex. This cube or that chaff? This balancer or that supplement? The struggle
is real. But while a big feed bill has its roots in good intentions, it could be that you’re doing neither your wallet nor your horse much good. Here to help you banish the myths and spend wisely is feed expert Stephanie George.
You can’t dump a scoop of this and a scoop of that in a bucket and hope for the best. It’s crucial to ensure your horse is receiving the right type and amount of feed, alongside his daily forage. But the guidelines on the backs of feed bags can be quite broad, and this often leads to overfeeding — and, unfortunately for the owner — overspending.
“Feed bags will offer a guide as to how much to feed your horse,” says Stephanie. “But companies keep these guidelines broad to avoid overwhelming owners with information, and to ensure they cover all classes of horse that the product could be used for. In order to ensure accurate feeding rates for an individual horse, it’s best to call the manufacturer’s nutritional helpline.”
As well as this, regular body condition score checks can help you to monitor his weight and avoid over-portioning. Keeping unnecessary weight gain and unwanted fizziness at bay, while making your bags of feed last longer, is a win-win situation. Workload should be taken into account too. If he’s not very active, seek advice from a nutritionist on how to adjust his intake.
Don’t double up
Many supplements may not be necessary if you’re already feeding the recommended amounts of feed.
“Many feeds are already fully fortified,” says Stephanie. “This means that when fed at the recommended intake, they will provide the horse with all of the vitamins and minerals he requires and feeding additional balancers or supplements won’t be necessary. When doubling up on vitamins and minerals in particular, horses will simply excrete what they
don’t need, meaning your money is literally being wasted.”
There are, of course, circumstances where balancers or supplements are advisable, such as for horses on a forage-only diet or those who do not receive the recommended amount of feed. It’s down to owners to make sure they are aware of the particularities of their horse and to feed and spend accordingly.
Realistically speaking, how useful is it to shop around?
“Most horse feeds from manufacturers contain similar, if not the same, ingredients,” says Stephanie. “It’s all about how those ingredients are combined and at what inclusion rate — that’s what gives each feed its individual characteristics.
“Some feed merchants will have their own brand range, usually made for them by a feed manufacturer to meet certain specifications. But in terms of whether this is value for money or not really depends on what you’re wanting to achieve. Feeding a cheaper alternative, such as one that is unbranded or not targeted to specific nutritional needs, may fall short of your desired outcome. So in the end, you may find that you’re increasing the feeding rates to compensate.”
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