The natural feeding habit of the horse is to eat small amounts of roughages often. A forage only diet is deficient in several critical vitamins and minerals and therefore horses must be supplemented to meet these nutrient requirements. The intake of minerals and vitamins are vital to the performance, growth, immune function and reproduction of all horses. To ensure your horse is in optimal health, it is important to provide a well-balanced mineral supplement containing all the essential minerals, especially when horses are not fed fortified grain and are fed forage-only diets (hay or pasture).
During the spring when we see an abundance of pasture growth, it is important that we do not rely on pasture alone to supply all of the horse’s nutrient requirements. It is often easy to overlook trace mineral and vitamin supplementation when horses are gaining weight on pasture and hay. One must always remember that just because a horse is in optimal body condition or even overweight, it does not mean they are being supplied all of the nutrients they need; it simply means they are being provided sufficient calories.
Minerals are inorganic elements that are needed by all animals to remain healthy and productive. Some minerals are essential components of bone, teeth, blood cells, vitamins, hormones and amino acids. Minerals that are required in larger amounts, usually listed as a percentage of the horse’s diet, are referred to as major minerals. These are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, chloride and sulphur. Minerals required in small amounts are called trace minerals. The trace minerals required for horses are copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, cobalt, iodine and iron. To remain healthy, a horse requires major minerals and vitamins as well as adequate amounts of trace minerals.
Many people provide horses with a trace mineral salt block with the assumption that this will provide all of the minerals that a horse needs. Unfortunately when this occurs not all mineral needs may be satisfied. The typical trace mineralized salt block provides only a fraction of a horse’s trace mineral needs and does not provide the major mineral (except sodium and chloride) and vitamin needs. Most trace mineralized salt blocks contain 96% or more salt and contain only a small amount of minerals.
So how can we ensure our horses’ diets are properly fortified with essential minerals and vitamins? The easiest approach is to feed a prepared feed or supplement that is properly fortified with these nutrients. We must also ensure that we are feeding the product according to label directions, if we are only feeding ½ of the recommended feeding level, our horse will not be receiving the proper amount of nutrients. What do we do about overweight horses or horses that simply don’t require the calories that are in a prepared feed? We feed a concentrated protein, vitamin and mineral supplement. These products are designed to be fed at low intakes without the need to add grain. HYGAIN® BALANCED®, when fed as directed provides both the essential minerals and vitamins that a horse requires, without the added calories. HYGAIN® BALANCED® should be fed at a rate of 0.1% of the horse’s body weight (500g for a 500kg horse). Feeding a horse a correctly balanced diet is not hard if we remember that the small things (vitamins and minerals) are important.