Feeding Balancers

Balancers have been around for a few years now but I've only really discovered them in the past few months. I absolutely love them! Liath was getting through quite a bit of coarse mix ... and then I had to try alter her diet to ensure she was getting all her vitamins and minerals but without getting fizzy or fat. A nightmare to say the least! Then I moved her on to a balancer and she really blossomed :)

A feed balancer is designed to balance a horse's feed in terms of vitamins, minerals, protein and energy when feeding a forage based diet. However, many people have turned to balancers to compliment or replace their current feed regime. It will not add a significant amount of calories to a horses diet.

So why should we feed a balancer?
  • The main reason I feed a balancer, like most people, is that I can't feed course mix or cubes at the manufacturers recommended level (I was told I needed to feed my mare 5kg of hard feed a day ... by their representative!). A feed balancer enables coarse mix or cubes to be fed at a lower rate while ensuring the entire meal is balanced. 
  • An exracer on our yard is unable to be fed anything containing sugar as it really makes him unmanageable, fizzy and generally a bit nuts! Just like some ponies (such as those prone to laminitis) he is kept on a strict sugar free diet but gets 2 helpings of balancer and ad-lib hay to ensure hes meeting his micro-nutrient requirements.
  • It has also been recommended for horses and ponies who are prone to putting on weight (enabling you to cut out any sugary, starchy or weight gaining hard feed!). Many balancers are low in calories and will not add many calories to the horses diet. 
  • Those that are on a forage based diet or have poor turnout would also benefit. It will provide all the vitamins and minerals that the forage source (hay, haylage, grass etc) is lacking. 

When should I feed a balancer?
  • A few on our yard have started feeding to try and fix specific problems such as poor coat and hooves. The balancer provides them with chelated (protected) micro-nutrients which are essential for coat and hoof condition. They simply weren't getting the correct levels of biotin, methionine etc from their coarse mix. 
  • When feeding a diet based on straights (such as barley, bran, oats etc). A balancer can help provide the appropriate levels of vitamin E, calcium and other micro-nutrients.
  • Horses who are convalescing or are on box rest would hugely benefit from a balancer, especially if used in conjunction with a antioxidant, pre and probiotics (which I wrote about here). These will support and maintain a healthy immune and digestive system. Sick horses sometimes have a limited appetite so a small portion of balancer can go a long way.

How do I feed a balancer?
  • Firstly contact specific feed companies and see what they would recommend for your horse. Some brands work better for certain horses :)
  • Balancers are available with a huge range of protein levels. Deciding on what balancer to use depends on the requirements of the horse. The protein levels may appear quite high (sometimes 25% - 35%) but the quantities fed are relatively small. 
  • Just like any feed, it should be introduced over a period of days. I would recommend mixing it with a bit of chaff (and perhaps some beet pulp) to encourage chewing and saliva production ... saliva is important in reducing the chances of developing gastric ulcers (this applies to all types of feed)!
  • Balancers are designed to be fed in small quantities, usually around 300 - 800g per day. This should be split between the daily feeds. 

Remember it takes 6 weeks of feeding a product to see any physical change in a horse. This applies to all feeds and supplements so don't be put off if the effects aren't immediate! 
The main feed companies I use and others from the yard use are - Red Mills, Top Spec, Baileys, Blue Grass and Blue Chip.

Liath (the day I bought her) - 13th October 2012

Liath - 9th of December 2012

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