If you can, you should just feed your horse forage. Pasture, hay, haylage, chaff, forage cubes.
Forage is the most natural source of calories and protein for your horse. And it does the best job of keeping your horse’s gut and its bacteria and fungi (the microbiome) functioning as it should.
We know, from mounting research, that keeping all the microbiome critters happy is a HUGE key to keeping our horses healthy.
Many horses (my own included) do really well on a forage only diet. Mine get their pasture, a small amount of alfalfa (lucerne hay) and some grass hay when the pasture is lush (to keep up their fibre intake). Even when they are working pretty hard this is enough to maintain their condition. They don’t need a feed.
BUT, just forage is not enough!
‘What!?’ you say? But you just said feed only forage?!
Yep, I did. But here’s the thing…
Forage only diets, in 95%+ cases, are not enough to meet a horse’s mineral requirements. And depending on the quality of your forage or the age of your hay, it probably won’t meet vitamin requirements either!
So my horses maintain their weight just on pasture and hay. BUT, they would be severely deficient in copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, iodine and sodium all year round. Then depending on the season (like the 3 years of drought we had between 2017 and 2020), they would also be low on vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin B1.
Horses that are low in these nutrients will eventually start to have issues with joint and hoof health, immune function, energy generation and muscle damage during exercise. And the problem is, you often won’t see a problem until something goes really wrong!
So you really must top these nutrients up using a supplement or balancer pellet.
Let me show you how this looks in FeedXL for my horses on our pasture:
So forage only diets are brilliant! But please, to keep your horse healthy and strong, be sure to top up the nutrients that are commonly missing from forage only diets!
And if you want a really easy way to check what your horse’s diet might be missing, let FeedXL show you. FeedXL is completely unbiased and won’t ever push you to buy a feed or supplement product. It simply works out what your horse needs. Adds up what is in the diet and then shows you if his nutrient requirements are met.
Then YOU can pick whatever product you like from any company you choose to fill the gaps! It is simple, accurate and great insurance for your horse’s long-term health!
Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?
We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!