Equine Feed Basics – The 3 Main Classes of Equine Feed

By: Rachel Mottet, M.S.

Equine Specialist – Purina Animal Nutrition

 

Choosing a feed for a horse can be tricky business, there are so many options! How do you know if you’re making the right selection? How do you know if you are meeting the minimum volume required to meet all your horse’s vitamin, mineral and amino acid requirements? Is the feed in question the right fit for your horse’s needs? Here are some basics to help you answer those questions…

 

Before I dive into the different types of feed, I must describe the horse’s nutrient needs – I refer to this as the equine food pyramid. This food pyramid is determined by the Equine NRC (National Research Council). The Equine NRC publishes equine nutrient requirements based on scientific data gained through published equine research. With the information from the Equine NRC, our equine food pyramid is created.

 

feed Basics 1When considering this food pyramid we must first think about hay. Hay is the #1 component of the equine diet and a good quality hay source is the key compliment to any grain. At the absolute minimum, it is recommended that a horse consume 1% of their bodyweight per day in hay. This percentage will go up based on extra energy demand from climate changes, workload, reproductive status, growth stage, etc. I recommend 1.2 – 1.5%+ of bodyweight per day in hay as a general rule of thumb for nutrition programs that I develop with horse owners.

 

Furthermore on the topic of hay, what we do know is that our hay (especially in the Midwest) does not cover all bases of the equine food pyramid. There are a few gaps that we can fill through feeding some type of concentrate. Here are the 3 main classes of equine feed and how to feed them:

 

Ration Balancers: This type of feed has become increasingly popular for horses who are easy keepers. For those horses that seem to thrive on hay alone, ration balancers are often the best choice. The best way to describe this feed is that it is similar to a daily vitamin/mineral & protein shake. This product covers all bases of the equine food pyramid in a small feeding rate of 1-2 lbs. total per day. This class of feed does not contain extra calories that contribute to weight gain and is designed to complement the forage source. I recommend Purina Enrich Plus as a ration balancer for your easy keeper.

 

The most common question I get from horse owners with easy keepers is: “My horse looks great on hay alone, why would I need to feed a ration balancer?” This is a good question! To answer this, I bring up the missing pieces of the equine food pyramid in feeding hay alone. Another important consideration is that many of the benefits from a balanced diet are not always seem. Vitamins, minerals and amino acids contribute to a healthy immune system, strong bone structure and hoof integrity among various other physiological benefits. For the sake of ease, let’s compare this to the human diet. One could eat fast food every day and appear to thrive or appear healthy on this diet. However, the reality is that we are shortchanging our body from key nutrients. Would you be able to tell from looking at a person that they are vitamin, mineral or amino acid deficient? Maybe, maybe not, but the body knows and functions optimally when all food pyramid bases are covered. This is why I suggest a ration balancer for your easy keepers. It fills the missing holes that hay leaves in the equine food pyramid.

 

Performance Feeds: Our next class of feed is the performance feed. This feed is designed to be fed at a rate of 4-8 lbs per day for a horse to maintain good body condition and perform to their best ability. It should be noted that the rate of feeding will depend on the individual horse and feed recommendation. All grains have a minimum feeding rate to fulfill the equine food pyramid so make sure to read the tag or talk to an equine specialist to determine this minimum for your horse.

 

Horses in a training program, performance horses and hard keepers generally benefit most from a performance feed. This feed provides all the NRC recommendations in addition to calories to support the energy demands of a higher workload or higher calorie demand. I recommend Strategy or Purina Ultium as a performance feed.

 

Feed BasicsComplete / Senior Feed: Ever notice that our horses are living a lot longer these days? A lot of this has to do with nutrition! Even when a horse has no teeth left in their mouth to chew and eat, they can still survive solely on a complete feed. A complete feed contains the hay and grain component in one product. This feed is designed to be the entire diet of the horse and will usually have a minimum recommended feeding rate of 6-8+ lbs. Why the higher minimum? This is because the hay component is present which, for lack of a better term, “dilutes” the grain and ups the minimum amount required to get 100% of the equine food pyramid covered.

 

Complete feeds are not only great for seniors but great if you do not have access to a quality forage source. The forage component is fortified with consistent high quality vitamins, minerals & proteins. These feeds are generally very low in starch and gentle on the gut of the horse. They have many functions and are helping our older horses live well into their 30’s! I recommend Purina Equine Senior, the #1 veterinarian recommended brand for your horse that is a senior or a horse that needs a complete feed.

While we have only scratched the surface here on equine feed classes, hopefully this helps answer a few basic questions. Feel free to contact me for an equine nutrition consult in the greater Twin Cities, I am always happy to help answer your equine nutrition questions! RSMottet@landolakes.com.

Purina Rachel

Rachel Mottet holds a B.S. & M.S. degree in Animal Science with an equine emphasis. She is an Equine Specialist with Purina and does 3-day eventing with her horse Titan.

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Equine Insurance: Who needs it

 By: Katie Jones, CVT

We receive frequent calls regarding information on equine insurance. We do not represent or work for insurance companies. We also do not refer or suggest one over another. It is up to the individual horse owner to research and choose a company to best determine the type of coverage that fits their needs.

TurboI, myself, own a horse (Turbo) who is more of a weekend warrior out on the trail or at the occasional weekend show.   I went through most of my younger years dreaming and wishing for my own horse; however, I knew they were an investment difficult to have during college. The year I graduated from college I finally bought my horse and the investment into what I love began. Last year when I was faced with the question of, “would I take Turbo to colic surgery, if Banamine didn’t resolve his pain”, I didn’t know how to answer. Luckily for me he resolved his colic episode with a little amount of Banamine and time. As an Equine Technician, I see many situations not as simply resolved and surgical decisions become real. Sometimes the only thing separating a horse from euthanasia and a life-saving surgery is economics. A colic surgery base price starts around $3,500; however, overall medical care pre- and post-surgery can quickly reach $10,000. Would you be ready to front this cost in an emergency situation? If you have never had to answer this question, here are a few options to consider to help prepare you if the question ever arises.

Insurance

InsuranceWhen faced with a major medical expense, insurance is used to help soften the financial blow; so why couldn’t this work for your horse? Just like with human insurance, equine insurance has different types and levels of coverage. The two most frequently chosen insurance types are major medical and surgical. Major medical covers veterinary treatment, medications, and surgery due to an accident, injury, or illness on horses valued at a minimum of $7500. Surgical insurance only covers emergency or necessary surgeries performed under general anesthesia in a veterinary clinic, for any value horse.   To acquire either type of coverage, additional yearly mortality insurance is also required. Mortality insurance covers the horse’s value due to death from an accident, illness, or disease, and will typically cover loss due to theft. In the chance of an unexpected death, a mortality claim would require a necropsy report to determine the exact cause of death. (There are additional coverage options for individuals with equine businesses, such as loss of use or breeding coverages.)

The cost of equine insurance is based on the age, value, and use of the horse. Here is an example of what a quote would look like for an average trail horse (my horse, Turbo) from Blue Bridle Insurance.

sick horse

Great American Ins. Co.: (Turbo is categorized as a 7 yr. old Pleasure/Show Horse)
Plan 1: Only mortality: $2,000 (Value of Turbo) @ 3.6% = $200 Minimum/yr.
Plan 2: Surgical (ONLY surgical expenses included): $10,000 = $150/yr.

Total Annual Premium for Surgical Coverage: $350.00

+ An additional $10,000 limit can be added to the Surgical Coverage Plan to cover colic medical and/or surgical expenses for an additional $150/yr.

 

When considering purchasing equine insurance make sure to do plenty of research. It can become overwhelming when first looking into insurance due to the number of providing companies and the levels of coverage available. A company that specializes in equine insurance, or at least livestock, is highly recommended. By doing this, their overall understanding of the possible claims will heighten the ease of filling a claim. This will in turn result in less run around and a quicker response from a company with more equine claim experience compared to a typical Home-owners Insurance Company.

Finally, insurance coverage does have limitations. Limitations will be specific to the insuring company and are details to look into when considering equine insurance. Most insurance companies have an age limit on coverage, as well as restrictions regarding horses with preexisting conditions, specific to their policies. Make sure to compare coverage limitations, exclusions, and deductibles when considering different policies.

ColiCare – SmartPak

colic_care-379x121ColiCare is a wellness program supported by SmartPak. This program allows a small peace of mind by providing up to $7500 towards colic surgery (reimbursement will only cover the cost of the surgery not any medical treatment of the colic). To qualify for this wellness program, administration of an eligible ColiCare product daily to your horse is required. These supplements are designed to provide comprehensive hindgut support to lower the risk of digestive upset that can lead to colicky episodes with ingredients like prebiotics, yeast, and enzymes. An annual wellness exam with a veterinarian is also required. The veterinarian will verify vaccination history, perform a dental exam with recommendations, and perform a fecal test to set-up a deworming schedule. ColiCare is a wonderful compliment to any insurance policy. ColiCare will reimburse independently; therefore, additional financial coverage will be seen in addition to any initial insurance reimbursement.

Program Requirements

Annual Wellness Requirements, which include:

  • Physical exam performed by your veterinarian
  • Dental exam performed by your veterinarian
  • Vaccinations administered by a veterinarian
  • Deworming program developed with your veterinarian that includes at least one fecal test and two deworming administrations per year

For more information on the products or to get signed up for the ColiCare program, please visit the SmartPak website: https://www.smartpakequine.com/colicare. Anoka Equine Veterinary serves does currently have clients that are on this program.

 

EQCO Coverage – Platinum Performance

eqco-program-slidePlatinum Performance has its own wellness program similar to the one offered by SmartPak. The coverage that Platinum Performance offers is up to $8,000-$10,000 towards colic surgery. To qualify for this coverage you have to administer eligible supplements to your horse on a daily bases, as well as complete an annual wellness exam with your local veterinarian. Platinum Performance supplements are formulated to provide omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals to support total body heath.

For more information and for a detailed list of available supplements, please visit Platinum Performance’s website http://www.platinumperformance.com/EQCO/.

**Please note: any previous colic/abdominal surgery, history of chronic colic, or an incidence of colic in the past twelve months will mark the horse unqualified for the both programs.

Who needs equine insurance? No one. Is this for everyone? No. Ultimately these questions come down to anyone who can not easily afford the unexpected cost of extensive treatments or surgery can benefit from having it. However, there is still an expense associated with either the ColiCare Program or insurance and it is a cost to be economically comfortable with. If this annual expense is something you may be willing to invest into, then these two program options provide a peace of mind if an emergency situation were to occur and life-saving-options will be more easily funded.