Does a horse with a forage only diet need anything else?
The main component of any horse’s diet should be forage such as grass, hay or haylage. Feeding at least 1.5% of the horse’s bodyweight per day of forage on a dry matter basis will help to maintain a healthy hindgut and limit the risk of problems such as colic and gastric ulcers.
Many horses, especially ‘good doers’, can do extremely well on forage alone and may not need large amounts of hard feed to maintain optimal condition, even in the winter months. However, research by our nutrition team has shown that forage alone, particularly conserved forage such as hay or haylage, will not provide your horse with optimal levels of essential vitamin and minerals. Deficiencies in these key nutrients can result in issues such as a dull coat, poor hoof health and increased susceptibility to illness and disease.
To help prevent these problems and support your horse’s general health and well-being it is essential that they receive an additional source of key vitamins and minerals. For ‘good-doers’ that maintain weight easily, including those prone to laminitis or EMS, the easiest way to balance the diet is to feed a low calorie, nutrient-dense balancer such as Connolly’s RED MILLS PerformaCare Balancer or alternatively a broad-spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplement such as Foran Equine Chevinal.
This will ensure that your horse or pony receives a concentrated source of nutrients needed to balance a forage only diet, without oversupplying calories. Equally, feeding PerformaCare Balancer or Chevinal is an extremely useful way of ‘topping-up’ a horse’s vitamin and mineral intake; for example, if a horse is being fed less than the recommended amount of another hard feed or when appetite is restricted. For more information on balancers, read our article ‘What is a feed balancer?’
A balanced diet will be reflected in your horse in many ways; from contributing to a well-developed top line (in line with the appropriate exercise), promoting coat condition and strong healthy hooves, to supporting immune function and digestive health.