Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Teach Me Tuesday: Horse Feed

When it comes to horse feed, I am the most basic of basics. I believe that the most important part of horse diet is lots of good quality hay or forage. I've also been taught that unless your horse is in heavy work, or you are having some kind of issue, most horses don't need anything more than hay and access to salt and water.

Kachina is currently on that basic diet. She lives outside. In the winter/spring she is in a pen with a round bale of hay in a slow feed net, so she can eat small amounts throughout the day. In the summer she lives in a huge pasture of about 120 acres of mixed native grasses. In either place she has constant access to water through heated automatic waterers. She also gets free choice salt/minerals, though that can be a little less regular at times. The final part of the puzzle is treats. I use treats as positive reinforcement so she gets a couple good handfuls during grooming, tacking up, putting away etc.

Round bale and shiny (ungroomed) horse in decent condition
(photo from May 2016)
Her diet is working for her, she maintains a good, steady weight, and she has good quality hair and feet, with no health problems. However, I am considering adding something else to her diet to help ensure she is getting complete nutrition, and also to help support muscle growth. Correct work and saddle fit have been developing her topline a bit, but it has been slow and I want to ensure that it isn't being held back by diet-related reasons. 

What would you suggest I add? I would welcome both specific product suggestions, links to useful nutrition articles, or general advice about re: carbs/fat/protein etc. 

Early summer grazing

One important note is that my barn does not feed any grain or supplements. This gives me a lot of flexibility in what I buy, and I can mix things to whatever proportion; however, since I will be feeding myself, it needs to be something that only requires once a day feeding, and that can be missed on days I can't make it out to the barn.

Fall grazing (Kachina with a bit of a belly after the summer)

Some additional information:
- She is currently on a general mixed hay. It is mostly grasses with a little bit of alfalfa within it. I'm not sure exactly how that compares to some of the other types of hay available throughout north america, but I do know that Alberta hay is generally considered to be good quality hay (the only issue is when droughts mean there isn't enough of it). The pasture is all grasses (and weeds), no alfalfa. 
- She is in light work, only being ridden 2-5 hours/week and nothing terribly strenuous
- She doesn't need any more energy. I would say her energy levels are pretty good right now, but tending towards high, so something calming wouldn't be a bad thing
- Kachina is going to be 15 years old this year, but she doesn't act like a senior horse in most ways. I haven't ever seen even a hint of any joint stiffness etc.
- I can fix her salt/minerals separately if need be, but I wouldn't be opposed to an all-in-one type of solution. 
- Her haircoat is good, but it could probably be better
- I'm in Canada, so SmartPaks is out. Whatever I get needs to be available in Canada. If it is stocked by Peavey Mart, UFA, or Co-op Agro that would be ideal, but I'm also open to ordering online.

Please help :-)


  1. Since you are in AB there is a very good chance your hay is deficient in selenium, copper and iodine. Hoffmanns (https://www.hoffmanshorseproducts.com/Home) is an Alberta company that makes a mineral as well as a line of feeds that would likely work very well for you. It is available at UFA.

    1. Hoffmann's minerals is what she gets for minerals. I associate Hoffmann's with their minerals so much that I wasn't considering them for actual feed, that's a great idea thanks!

  2. Seconding the Hoffman's recommendation. I've also fed just the standard pro-form/otter co-op/triple crown/whoever your supplier is ration balancer...essentially a pelleted grain designed to be fed alongside hay and pasture to supplement the minerals/selenium missing. Fed in less quantity than a complete grain so the bag goes a long way. Your local feed store can likely recommend the one suited to your area.

    1. Thanks! Ration balancer sounds like a good term to look for. Do you know if that just supports minerals, or if it has extra elements that might help specifically with muscle development?

    2. I was going to suggest a similar thing. My friend was feeding a ration balancer (I believe by LMF but I'm not sure) that was in pellet form so there were some extra calories there, but not a lot.

      From what I understand, ration balancers don't support muscle development in the obvious way -- extra calories or actual protein being delivered to the horse. What they can do is allow the horse to absorb the calories from their current hay/feed more efficiently and effectively, which will then convert to more effective muscle building. So in a way, yes. But I could also be mistaken.

      Murray is not a fantastic eater, especially not of hay, so if he's in anything more than light work he needs some grain to balance his caloric budget (he is a tad on the thin side without it, and I prefer his bones all covered up!). I used a pelletized hay (Elk Grove Milling makes it, but it won't be available to you unfortunately) for the first year or so with great success, and in the last two years have added in rolled barley. You could look for something similar to pelletized hay -- it's not alfalfa cubes but hay that has been macerated and mixed with other stuff (ration balancing maybe?) and pushed into a pellet shape so it's more calorically dense. With both of those options you can easily go a day or week or even more without, and something that has dense calories in it will be finished up quickly before Kachina goes back in pasture.

      I have tried a few specific muscle-building supplements in the past. Equinety (straight amino acids) and Absorbine's Muscle Max (muscle building stuff in pellet form) specifically. I saw no real difference with either, especially because I had to give away my Muscle Max sample because it made Murray crazy. However, two friends saw positive results after they added Muscle Max to their horses' diets. So there's that!

    3. This is super helpful, thank you!!

  3. I agree on hoffmans too! I have to feed my geldings myself so their feeding schedule is a little inconsistent and wacky, I feed extra salt, aloe vera juice, probiotics, and scoop of complete feed (Henry gets soaked cubes - good for adding weight, and sometime he gets omega3 oil too, Apollo just gets a handful of rice bran with the same stuff). Can you hear my bank account depleting when you read that hahaha! Mystic just gets hoffmans free fed with a little bit of complete feed.

    1. good to know! What brand of complete feed is that? If it's hoffman's which of their rations is it?