It’s that time of year again! Summer means more grass and turnout time for your horse and possibly a more padded wallet for you from not having to buy so much grain. Some of you may be thinking…my horse’s grain intake stays the same all year long…should I be doing something differently? Maybe yes and maybe no…the best piece of advice I can offer is being knowledgeable on what a ration balancer is and then deciding if it’s appropriate for your horse. Ration balancers are a good addition to the equine nutrition world. They allow you to not overload your horse with unnecessary calories while still providing it with some needed nutrition.
Ration balancers are horse feeds designed to be fed in small amounts (1-3 lbs per day). They are nutrient dense, which is what allows them to be fed in such small quantities. Ration balancers are low in calories, making them ideal for horses that are either easy keepers, recovering from an injury and are on stall rest, or horses that are insulin resistant or have other metabolic issues.
Ration balancers can also be utilized at a “supplement.” Actually…often times you will hear people ask for a “protein supplement” and really what they are requesting is a ration balancer. This feed can be added on top of a horse’s normal grain as a way to incorporate more protein into a horse’s diet. One of the reasons I commonly hear of people doing this is to help a horse develop a better topline. Ration balancers won’t provide significantly more calories, but they can help that horse develop muscle over its back, which is something so many horse owners want to see in their animals. They also can be useful as an added source of protein when a mare is lactating. This is when a horse needs lots of protein to not only maintain its own protein levels, but to provide optimal milk to its nursing foal as well.
Sometimes horses go off feed for no apparent reason…if only they could talk to us right??!! Well…they can’t and sometimes it helps to put a ration balancer in front of a horse instead of a 6-8 lb grain ration. They might eat all of the ration balancer since it is in such a small amount, and thus acquire a greater amount of nutrition rather than just nibbling at a full ration of a regular grain. This is a tip that I know has helped horse owners in the past with finicky eaters.
There are two different types of ration balancers on the market today: those designed to be fed with mixed and grass hays and those designed to be fed solely with legume hays (alfalfa or clove). The ration balancers will each have a percentage of protein on the feed tag. Ones with higher protein levels (around a 27%) are meant to be fed with mixed or grass hays. The ones with a lower protein level (around 10%) are meant to be fed with legumes. Why you might ask? Well, that’s because legumes are higher in protein, thus making a lower level protein ration balancer more appropriate in those instances.
Overall…ration balancers have been a HUGE help to the equine nutrition industry. They have allowed us to address problems such as feeding the obese horse, the horse with a weak topline, broodmares, and finicky eaters. Utilizing a ration balancer is something I believe all horse owners will likely benefit from doing at some point in their lives taking care of horses. Excel Equine®® has a wonderful ration balancer called Enrichment. It is designed to be fed with adequate amounts of grass or mixed hay and water. Enrichment can be found in more detail at www.excelequinefeeds.com under the products tab. So don’t hesitate to utilize this wonderful feed resource if you have a horse in one of the situations we have discussed.