How to go about changing your horse’s diet.

Many of us reach a point where we feel we need to change our horse’s diet. This might be because we are struggling to maintain our horse’s weight or it might be that we think a change in diet might help improve something else in our horse, such as; temperament and condition. I have recently decided that Scottie’s feet have really declined in quality, which is probably a large factor in why he keeps losing shoes. I am hoping that a change in diet will improve this. But how do you go about choosing new feed for your horse? Does he even need different feed? He might just need a supplement to give him a bit more of something.

The first thing I do is think about what my problem is and how diet affects this. Luckily I don’t have the extra worry of will Scottie get silly on heating feed types. So I don’t have to consider that when choosing feed, but many people will have to think about that.

If my horse has a problem with weight, my first thought is; is it practical to change the quantity I am feeding to fix this problem. Really we shouldn’t feed more than 1-2kg at a time. So if your horse is under weight, to feed more you may need to feed them more often during the day. This might not be practical or using that much feed might be too expensive. Therefore you will probably want to consider other feeds. Similarly, if your horse is too fat, you need to think about cutting the horses feed down but still making sure they get all they need. I often find that you can cut the chaff down, but the horse will still need most of the concentrate feed (cubes/nuts/mix) to get all the nutrients they need.

If you have a good understanding of horse nutrition or are happy to research many different types of feed, then the next step will be searching different feed company websites for the type of feed you think will be suitable for your horse. These websites often have lots of tools to help you find the right feed for your horse including flow charts and quizzes to narrow down products.

However, as much research as I do myself, I always like to contact several nutritionists from different companies for extra advice. This is because I tend to like a few brands more than others and I know I am more likely to choose those products than potentially better products. The experts are also going to be able to tell me what my horse

You have to remember that many of these companies will be pushing their own products!

Yesterday I contacted 6-7 companies about changing Scottie’s diet. I have already heard back from 4 of them who all confirmed my initial thoughts of what Scottie needed (upping his balancer, reducing his chaff and possibly adding a biotin supplement.) 2 of the companies which responded didn’t want me to change the 2 feeds I’m currently feeding, just check I’m feeding the right amount of balancer and recommended their own balancer. Another of the companies suggested switching my chaff to one of their lower calorie chaffs and recommended 2 hoof supplements not made by them. And the third company only recommended their brands, despite me currently not using any of them.

From this, I can safely say that the feed Scottie is currently on works well for him. I have contacted Baileys to get one of their measuring mugs so that I can make sure I’m feeding Scottie the recommended amount of balancer. Because the recommended amount of balancer for him will contain 13.5mg of Biotin daily. Several of the experts said that to improve hoof quality he will need at least 15mg of Biotin daily. Therefore I will be trying a biotin supplement for at least the next 6 months to see if we have an improvement. Dengie said that because of how close he will be on balancer alone to the recommended dose, I might be able to get away with feeding half of what a supplement suggests, which will mean any supplement will last twice as long.

When filling in forms for the experts, I also said that Scottie was a tiny bit on the big side (which he is, but largely due to lots of grass and lack of exercise.) All of the experts said slightly increasing exercise and slightly restricting grazing should be enough to solve this problem. But one also said they wouldn’t worry, just make sure he loses a bit of that weight over winter. Another expert also suggested switching to a lower calorie chaff. Which is an idea I have been toying with since coming out of winter. I am still undecided about switching to a lower calorie chaff as I would likely want to up the calories again slightly over winter.

After talking to the experts, I have looked into all the changes to feed they have suggested and cannot see any real benefit of changing feeds. One of the companies recommended a good balancer with a good level of Biotin. However, it cost so much more than the balancer I am currently feeding, that I feel it would be cheaper to feed a supplement with our current balancer. I have also done a lot of research into the best biotin balancer for me and I think I have reached a conclusion. I looked at supplements with the best biotin : weight ratio as well as best price per kg and think I will be trying Equimins Biotin 15. (But this might still change!)

I also feel like it’s important to try and talk to people who have used/are using a feed before putting a horse on it, especially if that horse is sensitive. I have known several non-heating, conditioning feeds to send horses loopy. And I wouldn’t recommend these feeds to certain horses because of it, especially if they have had a problem with similar feeds.

So when changing your horse’s diet, who do you talk to?

I would start by thinking to yourself and then talk to at least 2 experts from different feed companies (it takes 5 mins to fill out all the details and they will then get back to you as soon as they can.) If they suggest different or new feeds you don’t know, I would then take to social, a helpful Facebook group, and ask for their experiences using the suggested feeds. This should help you make your decision.

Remember, you don’t have to choose a feed they suggest!

If you look at the ingredients and nutritional details of the products they suggested and then find something very similar somewhere else which you like more or is considerably cheaper, it is perfectly acceptable to choose that feed! But they recommended that feed for a reason, so look carefully at the differences between the feeds.

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