Does your horse need a ration balancer?

A type of concentrated equine feed, ration balancers are formulated to provide the protein, vitamins and minerals the average mature horse needs without adding many calories. Here are three types of horses that are likely to benefit from a ration balancer:

Horses who require low-starch diets. “Controlling starch intake is critical in the nutritional management of many horses, including those with equine metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance,” says James M. Lattimer, PhD, of Kansas State University. “Horses with certain muscle diseases, like PSSM, or those who suffer from exertional rhabdomyolysis and tie up can also benefit from a ration balancer since they are lower in starch.”

Overweight horses. “Ration balancers are being used more and more as what we might call a ‘Jenny Craig’ feed in a maintenance diet—for the horses that are easy keepers,” says Tania Cubitt, PhD, an equine nutritionist with Performance Horse Nutrition. “Let’s say we have an overweight horse on a diet, but we know that the horse still needs the necessary vitamins, minerals and a minimum requirement of protein and doesn’t need all the extra calories of grain or a manufactured feed. The horse has access to hay or pasture and all we need to supply are those vitamins/minerals/proteins that might be lacking in the forage.

“If the mare is pregnant, I can feed her nearly all the way through her pregnancy on a ration balancer and some good hay, and maybe add a bit more alfalfa toward the end of gestation to account for the extra protein she needs,” says Cubitt. “Because the ration balancer product is so concentrated, we can easily supply that mare with all the nutrients she needs without the excess calories.”

Growing foals who don’t need extra calories. “Sometimes the growth and development products for foals and yearlings have too many calories for certain individuals that have growth issues,” says Cubitt. “We can give these youngsters what I call therapeutic amounts of a ration balancer instead. This works well for the young-sters that don’t necessarily need all the extra energy of grain, if we are worried about growth problems and DOD [developmental orthopedic disease].”


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