For new horse owners, deciding what to feed their beloved partner seems to be a daunting task. With so many different feed options available on the market, how could someone possibly make a single decision? By understanding the different horse feed options available, choosing the perfect feed for your partner should be a breeze.
No matter what type of grain your horse consumes, it is essential to provide clean, fresh water at all times. In addition to its daily feedings, a horse should also be allowed access to pasture each day to receive much needed nutrition and exercise. If your horse does not have access to pasture, then an alternative would be to provide as much hay as the horse would like. Normally, this could be as much as 20 pounds per day or about 2% of a horse’s body weight.
The most basic group of equine feeds is concentrates. Concentrates are considered to be any equine feed that contains “concentrated” calories. Concentrates can come in many other forms, including textured, pellets, or cubes; but all are balanced nutritionally and designed for different lifestyles of horses.
A sweet feed, or a textured feed, is a grain mixture (oats, corn, barley, bran, etc.) with molasses, protein, and vitamin-mineral pellets added to it. Sometimes, additional fat, fiber, or yeast are added to a sweet feed. These feeds are great for horses who need to put on weight due to the added fat. Also, picky eaters love the sweet flavor of the molasses!
A pelleted feed is a grain mixture that is finely ground and then steam-pressed into a pellet or cube form. Think of this process as playdough being squeezed into long strings and then cut into small pellet-shapes! These feeds are very palatable, high-quality, and prevent ingredient sorting. This feed can easily be soaked into a mash due to the finely-ground ingredients.
A complete feed is usually referred to a feed that is formulated with the hay portion of the ration built into it. It has very high fiber levels and all the required nutrients. These feeds can be used with or without hay, letting the feed substitute for some, or all, of the forage needs. A senior feed is an example of a complete feed which meets the many nutritional needs of geriatric horses. These feeds are often formulated to be easily digestible and can often be soaked for seniors who have difficulty chewing.
Lastly, a ration balancer is a variation of a concentrated feed as it contains high levels of vitamins, minerals, and protein, but very few calories. These feeds are a great choice for easy-keepers. Since they have high nutrient levels, they are designed to be fed in very small amounts, usually only 1-3 pounds per day.
Armed with an understanding of all the different horse feeds available, hopefully the next trip to the feed store won’t be nearly as daunting!