Feeding Balancers

Balancers have been around for a few years now but there are still lots of people who think they are just a money making gimmick.  I absolutely love them! With 6 horses on the yard, of different ages and condition and doing hugely different workloads, it can be hard to find a feed that caters for them all - without taking up loads of room in the feed room.

Most of them are on a diet of oat balancer, oats and sugar-free beetpulp, which works for maintaining condition and giving them the energy needed to hacked about 4 times a week. By using a balancer I have reduced the amount of coarse mix I need to feed as well as the number of times I needed to feed per day - some bags were suggesting I feed 7-10kg a day for Liath alone! That's half a bag of hard feed a day!

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 complement or reduce the quantity of coarse mix that they need to feed. Additionally, a balancer won't add a significant amount of calories to a horses diet so perfect for those who are at their ideal weight.

Why should we feed a balancer?
  • Like most people, I use balancers because I can't feed course mix or cubes at the manufacturer's recommended level (According to one brand I need to feed Liath 7.5kg of hard feed a day. By using a balancer I can greatly reduce the size and how often she needs to be fed, while still making sure she gets all her vitamins and minerals.
  • Balancers generally have little to no sugar in them so are suitable for sugar intolerant or laminitis prone horses and ponies. 
  • Balancers are suitable for those who are prone to putting on weight (enabling you to cut out any sugary, starchy or weight gaining hard feed!). As balancers are low in calories they will not add many unwanted calories to the horse's 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?
  • 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 micronutrients.
  • I know a few people started feeding balanced when they had specific problems such as poor coat and hooves. A 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. 
  • Horses who are convalescing or are on box rest would hugely benefit from a balancer, especially if used in conjunction with an antioxidant, pre and probiotics. These will support and maintain a healthy immune and digestive system. Sick horses sometimes have a limited appetite so a small portion of balancer is easier to eat than a scoopful of mix.

How do I feed a balancer?
  • Contact different feed companies and see what they would recommend for your horse. Some brands work better for certain horses as the mineral levels may differ. (eg. you may need something with higher levels of biotin if your horse has weak hooves)
  • Balancers are available with different 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 they are fed in small portions.
  • Balancers are designed to be fed in small quantities, usually around 300 - 800g per day. This should be split between the daily feeds. 

It will take about 6 weeks of feeding before you'll see any physical change in a horse. Most feed companies, such as Red Mills, Top Spec, Baileys, Blue Grass and Blue Chip, manufacture feed balancers.  
Liath (the day I bought her) - 13th October

Liath - 9th of December (57 days later)

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