HOW TO AVOID NUTRITIONAL GAPS IN YOUR HORSE’S DIET WITH
Feed Balancers, What are they?
A relatively new concept in feeding horses in Australia, Blue Chip Feed balancers are a range of low-intake, low calorie, concentrated source of essential protein, vitamins, and minerals that are whole cereal and molasses free and tailored to different metabolic and general health requirements for different categories of horses as opposed to adopting a ‘one balancer suits all’ approach.
They’re similar to a vitamin/mineral supplement for your horse, but the similarity stops there as they differ in the amount of protein and macro minerals that they add to your horse’s diet and include additional extras such as digestive supplement packages and hoof, respiratory and coat supplements. The beauty of using a Blue chip balancer pellet is the flexibility it provides in customizing the nutritional management of individual horses without adding excessive calories or starch to the diet and being fed in much smaller amounts they are extremely cost effective too.
3 ways to use them:
- feed alongside forage only as a low-calorie source of protein, vitamins, and minerals – this is the most ideal scenario for horses/ponies and enables higher amounts of fibre to be fed making for a more natural diet.
- combine with straights and fibre to balance out deficiencies;
- when you need to feed less than the recommended quantities of a compound feed such as a performance mix or cube to keep weight down or to avoid over excitement. They give you the option of feeding a lower energy mix or cube then topping up the nutrient, but not energy, levels to meet the increased demands of work or competition, so the main components of the feed provide the calories and the balancer is added to ‘fill in the nutritional gaps’ of these ingredients, supplying essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Feeding a balancer also allows you to maintain a “nutritional investment” throughout periods of rest, which will pay off when the horse comes back into work.
Too much of a good thing? Over feeding your horse can be just as bad for him as under-feeding…
It’s not uncommon to speak to people who are putting three or four different sources of the same nutrient into their horses’ feed bowls. Too much of certain nutrients can be just as harmful to the horse’s health and performance as too little, and so before you add anything extra, take a look at all the nutrients it contains. If too much is fed of certain vitamins and minerals, they can cause toxicity problems – just because “some” is good, it doesn’t mean that “lots” is better!
How do I know if I need a Balancer?
Firstly, you need to establish whether you are feeding the recommended quantity of the feed that you are using which is calculated according to bodyweight and workload and printed on the bag and you need to weigh it – not rely on feeding by the scoop. The reason this is important is that when a feed is formulated, a feeding rate has to be set so that the levels of vitamins and minerals are included correctly to provide a balanced diet. Very few people weigh feed and under-feeding means the horse or pony is missing out on essential nutrients. This is one of the reasons that balancers have been so successful for many horses and ponies – the balancer is correcting nutrient shortfalls brought about by under-feeding a balanced feed that is being fed incorrectly. Secondly, you need to look at the quality of the forage you are using and Blue Chip balancers are ideal for when a particularly poor quality forage source is being used. If the forage is well below average, and this happens more often than you might think, there can be a shortfall of certain nutrients – usually minerals or protein but only by analysing your forage can you pinpoint exactly which and a balancer is therefore a great way to counteract any deficiencies.
Weigh your horse before you weigh your feed to ascertain his bodyweight
Don’t forget – weighing your feed isn’t any use if you haven’t weighed your horse too, because the feeding rates for most feeds are based on body weight. Spotting gains or losses in weight early allows you to adjust the diet before the weight loss or gain is too significant, allowing you to keep your horse or pony in perfect condition all year round.