I thought I would take a minute to impart a little wisdom, please take from it what you will for I am no David Marlin, but what I do have is experience, years of it, spanning over 300 horses that I have cared for in these years.
Now, these days, what to feed your horse is a total minefield. There are so many brands with so many claims and the options are endless.
There are feeds claiming to calm, heal, energise, replace electrolyte, you name it… but what do our horses really need?
Very basically, good grazing/forage is enough for a horse in little to no exercise, but the minute you add regular exertion, some things should alter.
First off… Horses have evolved to graze 18-20 hours per day so if you only have small or limited turnout, bare in mind that hay supply is also as important. Do not over look the effect this will have on your horses digestive system. It’s been suggested that the increase in ulcers or ulcer like symptoms may well be a direct correlation of the limitations to trickle feed.
Remember also, there are no two horses in the world that are identical, even genetic clones have different traits based on exposed factors and their ‘nurture’ experience. Take this into consideration when thinking about feed. Just because it suits one horse, does not mean it will suit another.
My basic principles lie in the dislike of a hot, fresh horse. I don’t like to be riding something ticking and ready to explode. On that basis, I feed the lowest starch, grain and sugar ration possible and work on the lowest ration of ‘hard’ feed until I feel I need something more.
To give condition to a horse without over heating, I have always started with a basic high fibre/high oil diet with as little grain or molasses content as possible. My choice has always been Dengie Alfa A Oil which is low in sugar and starch and high in protein to help build muscle. By adding Micronised Linseed straight, between 1-2 mugs a day to this, provides oils and slower release energy …. that’s it. No mixes, cubes, or wonder products!
Whilst this and good forage may be enough to sustain a horse competing at lower levels, more energy may be required depending on the horse and workload. I would go straight to rolled/bruised oats for that energy and gradually add in until you find a happy balance.
To ensure that my horses have a balanced mineral, vitamin, salt and electrolyte replenishment, I use a balancer! I know… I too, am a traditionalist and this may be a shock, but the research that has gone into most feed companies to formulate a balancer is seriously extensive and non more than the long standing Blue Chip Feed. I feed Blue Chip Original and it too, is grain and molasses free so I know it won’t tip my sparky horse over the edge but I know his diet is balanced without the need for anything more. A general vitamin/mineral supplement would be sufficient too such as Mars Equivite that I have had good results with over the years.
The Equestrian Supplement market is booming full of products, causing hype, trends and confusion amongst horse owners worldwide! There’s a powder to stop your horse spooking, one to help it be less moody, one to make his tummy less fat, one to make his tummy fatter… but, as a responsible horse owner, you must do your research first before adding anything to their diet.
Really look at the issues you are supplementing with a pot of powder, or syringe; can it be fixed with training or routine change? Maybe, maybe not?
Personally, I like to feed a calming supplement containing L-tryptophan and brewers yeast, two things I have found consistency with in helping my sharp horse less reactive. My product of choice is Equine America Super So Kalm. I also add the same brand of EA Cortaflex HA Superfenn.
Adding chondroitin and glucosamine to help care for and maintain the joints of a horse over 7 years old is valued highly in my book. Prevention is better than cure and the micro-particles of these two vital components in the EA products have been proven to aid the reformation within the joints. They’ve worked for us, I just wish I had found them earlier!
Of course… Clean fresh water, a salt lick and good forage first and foremost. And if in doubt, speak to a nutritional helpline at one of the feed companies, theyre not just pushing their products, they are looking out for the welfare of the horse as a number one priority.
Happy to answer any questions as best I can but if in doubt, think basic is best.
Love as always
Vic and Pat xxx