How We Form Equine Feed Plans

There are many factors our team of equine specialists take into consideration when formulating a personalized equine feeding plan. Horses are complicated creatures that like to keep us on our toes; we need to take each piece of the puzzle into account so that we are balancing daily nutrient levels and calorie requirements. When fed at the appropriate levels, Tribute® feeds are fully fortified and additional supplementation is usually not required. That being said, some horses will require additional support. Find out more about supplementation in our article Are You Over-Supplementing Your Horse. We start by gathering information about the horse’s current feeding program, exercise level, body condition, and health history. When we know where we are starting from, can recommend the best product for that individual horse.

Body Condition

Assessing a horse’s body condition allows us to know whether we need to maintain, increase, or decrease body weight. Providing profile photos of the horse (untacked) from each side, front, and rear allows us to analyze body condition score. We use the Henneke body condition scoring system, which ranges in scores from 1 to 9, with 1 being emaciated and 9 being extremely obese. Our team also evaluates topline and muscle condition, which indicates amino acid intake. You can learn more about body condition scoring your horse by reviewing our Wellness System. When photos are unavailable to our team, we have to rely on the horse owner to describe their horse’s current condition in detail.

Exercise Level

Physical workload, or exercise level, lets us know the amount of energy and exertion that is normal for the horse. Caloric needs for a horse that is a pasture pet versus a racehorse or horse in training will vary greatly. Even seasonal adjustment in physical activity may alter the feeding program we recommend. We also evaluate age, breed, and size of the horse, as nutrient needs will fluctuate during different stages of life.

Health History

Looking at medical concerns or potential health risks can help us narrow down options based on specific conditions. For example, a low NSC (non-structural carbohydrates, sugar + starch) diet would be warranted for a horse that is insulin resistant. We may consider a feed with a stress dose of pre- and probiotics along with a supplement, such as Constant Comfort, for a horse that is prone to ulcers or enduring a higher amount of stress. These are just two examples of the many conditions that our team works with daily when constructing feeding programs. It is recommended to work with your veterinarian when pairing any kind of treatment for a condition with appropriate nutritional support.

The Horse’s Current Diet

One of the most important aspects in making a feed recommendation is evaluating the existing feeding program. Not only is the feed portion of the diet important, but more so, the forage (hay/pasture) portion, as it makes up the primary composition of a horse’s diet. Testing hay gives us a comprehensive profile of the nutritional value of hay, however, it is not always feasible. Learn how to test your hay by reading our Testing Hay: The How's and Why's article. We will ask questions that help us determine a rough idea of hay quality and composition, such as the texture (soft or stemmy), or if the horse picks through and wastes hay. Evaluating the type of horse feed the horse is currently consuming will help us know if we need to adjust the type of feed being fed or quantity to fill in potential gaps from the forage.

In summary, when a feed recommendation is complete, we have calculated all aspects of the diet and what your goals are to achieve ideal body condition. We ensure each horse is receiving a superior level of nutrition to support their health and performance.

Our team of equine specialists are always happy to help take the guesswork out of your feeding program. Contact us anytime for a free, personalized equine feeding plan!

"At 29, Heeza has the light back in his eyes and is back to his old self. The transformation is amazing!" - Christy F.

Article By: Heather Clouse, RVT, Equine Specialist
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