Is it a bad idea to not feed grain/ration balancers?
This may seem like a silly question, but multiple people and one or two vets have talked about not feeding any grain or ration balancers. I still worry about this idea because I do not have a lot of pasture and my hay only comes from one producer. I have high quality hay that is a 60/40 (sometimes 50/50) alfalfa and grass mix. I have had it analyzed to ensure it's quality.
My horse has mild EPSM, so in terms of getting enough calories/energy she will be getting all her energy/fat via oil. Since she cannot process sugars for energy we can't feed most grains anyway. Basically, if I do not need grain to supplement for energy or calories and I switch to providing my horse with free choice high quality hay fed with a slow feeder net/feeder then do I need any ration balancer? I know that Vitamin E and Selenium are a concern for EPSM horses so I can supplement with those individually if needed.
I would only be giving my horse alfalfa pellets that can absorb her 2 cups of vegetable oil and provide a base for her joint supplement and Vitamin E/Selenium if needed.
I would follow your vet's advice.
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High quality hay is all they need and a mineral block. Giving her oil in liquid form or as small quantities of soy or flax, etc., will cover any fats. When I raised hay - hay, soy or flax was all my horses were fed during warmer months and they were all very healthy and had plenty, plenty of energy. However, for a normal horse w/o any other issues I do not buy into the "any grain is poison" school of thought. Quality and quantity matters in just about everything.
Since she has metabolic concerns, I think the simple hay/oil diet will do just fine. My only concern would be how much and what kind of grass is in the hay for "sugar" content. Either way, you can ensure all the nutrient bases are covered w/o adding sugar/starch w one of the many loose mineral/vitamin products on the market.
I would say it depends. Some areas are simply deficient in certain things and thus even the best hay is also such as with selenium and Vit A is always deficient in the winter when there is no green grass even on most formulated feeds. Test the hay and see what is lacking or not lacking. Then you will know what to supplement or not to supplement. IME, very few places have the perfect hay that needs nothing. There are things hay simply will not have due to aging like Vit A for example and where it was grown and how it was fertilized. Also, high iron will leech away copper and zinc even if they seem to have enough. It depends.
I don't feed my horse's grain but I used to give my older TWH senior feed before he passed away. Mine get free choice bermuda grass and they also have a salt/mineral block.
I would find out what 'deficiencies' you have in your area, like another poster said and work from there. For example:
Here in AB during the winter I give my horse a ration balancer high in Vit A, D and E. Being stalled and not getting enough sunshine is why I do that. I also feed a high fat feed when he's in hard work. Otherwise good quality hay and a mineral block suffice.
One other thought. Slow feeders are better for digestion, but EPSM horses are supposed to be turned out so they can move around a lot. If I use a slow feeder my horse will stand in one spot and eat slowly all day. Won't this defeat the purpose of turn out for an EPSM horse?
Mine get pasture & mineral block in the summer. In the winter they get hay and a mineral/vitamin supplement - mainly a mineral that has a few fat-soluable vitamins that tend to be lacking in hay. (A, D, E)
Several slow feeders in different spots can help, but if you are feeding hay, they are going to stand in one place anyway when they eat no matter how its delivered.
I agree that they stand still while eating with either method, but feeding flakes on the ground means they are done in an hour and then my horses usually walk around most of the day. Multiple nets could help.
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