It seems that many horse owners today are making their horses diets more complicated than necessary, and combining too many things with good intentions of “helping their horses”, but in actuality may be causing more harm than good. That’s why we at Adeptus decided to title this month’s newsletter “Back to Basics”!
The basis for the horse’s diet is of course hay…. Usually the best choice is a combination of grass and alfalfa. A good rule of thumb, especially for growing or pregnant horses, is no more than 50% alfalfa. If your horse has good body condition with their hay alone, not much else is needed to provide a balanced and healthy diet for your horse. Horses are herbivores and therefore are healthiest if fed primarily forages (hays and grass). Their gastro-intestinal tracts are not geared to digest carbohydrates (grains and sugars), so it is best to avoid them. We have created many of the metabolic conditions seen today in our modern horses by feeding excessive carbohydrates.
However, trace minerals are a crucial and necessary addition to the diet, since the forages fed are deficient in trace minerals. Again it is best for your horse to avoid carbohydrate based balancers. Look for a concentrated trace mineral supplement that does not have grain, alfalfa, or sugars as base ingredients.
If you happen to have a horse that needs more calories than can be attained with forage only (performance horses, older horses, or just hard keepers), choose fat instead of carbohydrates. Look for omega-3 fatty acids in your fat supplement as these fats not only add the calories, they have natural anti-inflammatory properties to help with allergies, stocking up, injuries, etc. Flax is a good source of linolenic acid, which is a precursor to omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, flax has a mild gel consistency in the gastro-intestinal tract which can help with cleansing sands and dirt that is inadvertently ingested. And of course fats will make your horse’s coat extra shiny!
Beyond forages, fats and trace minerals, you may not need too much more. If your horse has specific digestive issues, arthritic problems, or excessive sweat loss, you will need to address those problems with additional products however.
Please feel free to give us a call at Adeptus (1-866-adeptus) and we can help you “get back to basics” with your feeding program. You will end up with a healthier horse and save money as well!
© Adeptus Nutrition, Inc. 2014
To get more great information on equine, canine, and human nutrition, sign up HERE for the Adeptus Nutrition Newsletter.