A high fibre diet supplied from hay or grass helps to promote digestive health however it may be vitamin and mineral deficient; this is when a vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer can be fed to ensure that the horse is on a balanced diet and receiving optimum nutrients.
When would you feed a balancer?
Balancers are typically concentrated pellets providing essential nutrients and high quality protein to meet the horse’s requirements, but in a low calorie format. They are versatile in that they are usually suitable for all types of horses, in any workload, from those at rest through to top performance horses. They are often equally suitable for overweight horses as well as those prone to laminitis.
Balancers offer the owner complete flexibility in that they are able to feed a consistent amount of balancer and increase or decrease the calories and fibre that they feed alongside it depending on the condition and work load of the horse without having to alter the feed completely.
Many high quality balancers will also include a range of additional nutrients to support specific requirements such as hoof health, coat condition, digestive function and mobility. In comparison to traditional feeds, protein levels in balancers may appear to be quite high however, this is because the quantities fed are relatively small therefore balancers provide a suitable level of protein not a high level of protein. Also, when feeding the minimum requirement of a balancer no other type of vitamin or mineral supplement should be required or added, as this can lead to over supplementation of a particular nutrient.
Dodson & Horrell Ultimate Balancer meets the multiple needs for many types of horses. Ultimate Balancer contains essential proteins (amino acids), a full range of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pre and pro biotic and yeast, plus MSM and Mobility herbs. Significant levels of biotin are included at 15mg per day for a 500kg horse plus additional B vitamins to support energy metabolism.
When would you feed a supplement?
When feeding a quality, commercially prepared feed within the recommended amount, taking into consideration variables, such as the size of horse and work load, then vitamin and mineral supplements are not needed and often recommended against. There are many nutritional inter-dependencies, such as calcium and phosphorus, working together that are accounted for when feed companies design feeds. Adding additional vitamin and mineral supplements can interfere with these ratios and potentially cause problems.
However, supplements can be extremely useful if a horse’s diet is balanced in terms of vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids, but needs additional support in specific areas, such as:
· Performance horses in hard work may require increased levels of B vitamins to promote appetite and maintain vitality.
· An electrolyte supplement would be used to replace salts lost through sweat when a horse is working hard especially in the heat.
· Horses with cracked and brittle hooves may require additional hoof support.
· Older horses may require a joint supplement to support healthy joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments and encourage freedom of movement.
These supplements all have their place but it is important to review the whole diet in order to prevent unbalancing a horse’s diet.