How to Choose Grain/Pellets?

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How to Choose Grain/Pellets?

This is a discussion on How to Choose Grain/Pellets? within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category
  • Grain based equine pellets

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    09-18-2009, 03:16 AM
How to Choose Grain/Pellets?

I will soon be changing from full-care to self-care boarding and will be purchasing my own feed. Help! I'm clueless on grain/pellets!

My horse is 10, TB x Paint and a very easy keeper. Low work level...ridden about 2x per week, light-duty flatwork. In the past he was on a sweet feed, an oats/barley mix, Platform "Pleasure Horse" pellets, and a local pellet blend. The sweet feed made him hyper, but he was totally normal on the others.

What do I need to know about feed in order to make a good choice for my horse?

Should I just go to the feed store and ask their opinion (based on my horse's needs)?

Any personal suggestions?

Thank you!!
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    09-18-2009, 10:57 AM
If what he is on now is working, why switch?
    09-18-2009, 11:28 AM
I try and avoid sweet feeds unless there is a pressing need. Like my yearling is growing, so she's been on a growth sweet feed, and she's going to be on Omolene until she's full grown. And then she'll switch over to what my mare gets, good ole' alfalfa or timothy pellets, and beet pulp in the winter. Horses don't typically need anything fancy. I try and feed both alfalfa and grass or timothy, so when one's a hay, the other is a pellet. My mare is worked pretty hard, I try and ride up to 5 days a week, and it's actual work. She gets three flakes of alfalfa a day, a coffee can of timothy pellets, hoof and joint supplement, corn oil, and garlic powder. That's it and her energy and health is perfect.

But like mls said, if what he's getting now is fine, why change?
    09-18-2009, 11:47 PM
Green Broke
Sweet feed is not good for horses. Any feed containing ingredients like corn, molasses, wheat, "grain sweepings", "grain byproducts", etc. should be avoided. These things are high in sugar and starch, which is not what the equine digestive system is made to deal with.

Horses' are designed to digest and process low protein, high fiber, low starch food, and lots of it. The perfect "food" for horses is pasture grazing. A close second is hay or hay products (cubes, pellets, shredded hay, etc.). To keep a healthy weight, metabolism, and gut, at least 80% of a horse's diet should consist of some kind of forage, preferably 100%.

Diets with measurable amounts of grain or grain products can create behavioral issues, weight issues (too skinny or too fat), and poor hoof quality and/or growth, skin and/or hoof issues (suseptability to thrush, rain rot, WLD, seedy toe, greasy heal, etc.), in some horses. IME, it's best to avoid grains and grain products if at all possible.

I have been feeding my horses a very simple diet for the last year and it has shown tremendous results. Other friends that have tried with me have all had similar results. EVERYONE that has gone through with this forage based diet, and stuck to it, has seen positive changes in their horses. My horses keep their weight better (fat horse is not so fat, skinny horse holds his weight), my mare's seasons are not as bad, their work ethic is better, and they're less excitable in new or normally "scary" situations.

What I feed:
- Free choice pasture grazing and mixed grass hay (Bermuda with local grasses)
- 2-5 lbs of Alfalfa pellets (depending on the horse and their work schedule)
- A vitamin supplement that is 100% complete
- Milled Flax
- 1/2 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar (to make it all stick and aid in digestion)

That's it! NO grain, no feed, nothing extra. Their feet are coming in SO nicely, haircoats are glossy without any maintenance, manes and tails are growing well, and they just have a glow about them. My vet is very impressed and is now doing his own research on grain-free diets so he can advise his other clients about it when they ask for nutrition advice.

The BEST "off-the-shelf" vitamin that I tried was NutriPlus++. I used the 1 oz serving. GrandVite also gave good results.
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I use for my flax. I was using their BioFlax added to a 1 oz serving of NutraFlax for added flax.
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I wanted to try and get down to one supplement, so I had them custom blend me a product similar to NutriPlus++, but with more biotin, no vitamin D (fat soluable vitamin that is found in good hay and grazing), and with their flax as a base. So far, it's working VERY well and I am happier with less steps . does custom blends at no extra charge, just for the ingredients. It's Trial 471 if anyone wants to order or ask about it. The cost is $0.87 a day/serving, shipping included. I can email or post a nutrient breakdown if anyone is interested.

My new Haflinger has been on this diet for almost month and I'm seeing improvements to his coat condition and the new hoof growth coming in is very nice.
    09-19-2009, 09:57 AM
Originally Posted by mls    
If what he is on now is working, why switch?
I completely agree. Just as the BO what he/she is feeding him now and stick to that (if it's working well).
I also agree with luvs - stay away from the sweet feed! It's unnecessary and not healthy for your horse.
    09-19-2009, 09:59 AM
And also remember, any change in feed needs to be done over a transitional period. Switching feed/feeding schedules quickly can make your hose sick. Keep that in mind!
    09-22-2009, 02:51 AM
Thanks for all the replies!

I will not be able to keep him on the same pellets that he is currently being fed. My BO has it specially blended and buys it in mass quantities. I suppose I could ask her what's in it!

I really just need a little bit of something "tasty" to mix my horse's biotin supplements with so he'll eat it. And I wanted to avoid sweet feeds and sugar. Do oats/barley have a lot of starch?

Sounds like I should be looking for a pelleted grass-type product.

Thanks for all the info on your grain-free diet (and, luvs2ride! Sounds like it's working well for your horses, and it makes logical sense too! Did you gradually move your horses to free choice hay? I'm scared my horse would eat himself to death if given the opportunity!
    09-22-2009, 08:02 AM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by Equina    
Thanks for all the info on your grain-free diet (and, luvs2ride! Sounds like it's working well for your horses, and it makes logical sense too! Did you gradually move your horses to free choice hay? I'm scared my horse would eat himself to death if given the opportunity!
Yes, I gradually moved them to free choice hay, over a 3 month period. I also had to increase their workload a bit .

Alfalfa pellets work well, or a blended alfalfa + some other hay. They're "sweet" from the alfalfa without added molasses.

Oats and barley are high in starch, but whole or crimped oats are fine if you feed only small quantities. 1/2 of a 3qt feed scoop only weighs about 1.5 lbs and is plenty to mix supplements with. Use water or some other kind of liquid (ACV, oil, beer even! Lol) to get powdered supplements to stick.
    09-22-2009, 09:06 AM
Originally Posted by Equina    

I will not be able to keep him on the same pellets that he is currently being fed. My BO has it specially blended and buys it in mass quantities. I suppose I could ask her what's in it!
Yeah, just ask her what she mixes - maybe you could start mixing your own feed too! :)

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