Do you have
a mature adult horse at maintenance or in light work that is an easy keeper and
can sustain on forage alone? Or do you have a growing foal that has a high
nutrient demand but does not necessarily need excess calories? Then the best
option might be the use of a quality ration balancer.
Ration balancer pellets were originally designed to meet the specific needs of growing horses, in conjunction with a high quality forage source, by providing the essential amino acids, both macro and micro minerals and essential vitamins without the excess calories that could predispose a growing horse to developmental orthopedic diseases.
to young, growing horses, mature horses that tend to be easy keepers and can
maintain their weight on a forage-based diet can also benefit from a ration
balancer. As a forage only diet, can often meet or exceed energy and crude protein requirements,
but still be deficient in certain essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins.
Due to their high nutrient density, the ration balancer recommended serving sizes are relatively small (~1 to 2 pounds per day). Just about every major manufacturer of horse feed has their version of a ration balancer and the manufacturer will include feeding directions on the bag for the type of horse (stage of production or age of horse) and/or workload the horse is under.
Many often express concerns over the protein levels in ration balancers, which generally range from 28-32%. However, due to the much lower feeding rate as compared to some performance feeds and/or complete feeds, the total amount of protein consumed by a horse on a ration balancer is generally much lower. For example, if we assume that an average adult horse is consuming one pound per day of a quality ration balancer at 30% CP that equates to 0.3 lb or 136 grams of crude protein per day from the ration balancer. Compare that to a fortified feed with a recommended feeding rate of a minimum of 5 lb per day and contains 12% crude protein, then that would equate to 0.6 lb or 272 grams of crude protein consumed.
Keep in mind that crude protein requirements for the horse are expressed in grams per day, and not as they are often represented on a feed tag – percent (%) form. An average adult horse (~1100 lb) in light work will need roughly 700 grams of crude protein per day. If we assume that they are eating 2% of their body weight in a quality grass hay with an average of 10% CP, then they are already exceeding their crude protein requirement (~1000 grams of crude protein per day). An additional 100 to 150 grams from 1 lb of a quality ration balancer is nothing to worry about, but the fact that is supplies other essential nutrients that can often be deficient in a forage only diet can be essential to providing a balanced diet.
Furthermore, Ration balancers can be fed in conjunction with other fortified feeds. Especially when one feeds well under the recommended minimum of the other fortified feed. By supplementing back with roughly a ½ to 1 lb of a ration balancer, it is quite possible that the added ration balancer fills in the nutritional gaps left behind by not feeding the recommended amount of the other fortified feed.
In addition, ration balancer pellets can be a good option for horses that do not tolerate high sugar and starch levels in their diets. The generally lower glycemic index of a typical ration balancer has the potential to also lessen a horse’s frisky behavior, if you have a horse that is prone to that.
Overall, ration balancer pellets can be an ideal feed for a number of different horses, including adult horses at maintenance or in light work or actively growing horses and can be used in a number of diverse ways to compliment or balance out the equine diet.