California Riding Magazine • November, 2012

Ask the Vet
The Skinny on Grain

by Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA

Hello, we own a 5 year old thoroughbred and he is not picky about what he eats. His weight is good and is in good condition. We feed him regular old grain and hay. We also have him on Platinum Performance. I have read many articles about grain, and it's not good for horses. What should I look for when picking out what is good grain? (I need a simple way to check what to look for in grain). Is it better to cut back on the grain and feed more hay? Is there something better to feed him other than the grain? Thank you, Cassie.

Dear Cassie,

I love your phrase "regular old grain and hay" like there's fancy stuff out there your horse is missing out on! Consider yourself lucky that you have a horse in good weight. That means you don't have to go to great lengths to add or subtract calories in his diet. Now you can just focus on providing high quality hay, the most important part of his diet, and completing and balancing things with fortified grain, if necessary, or a ration balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.

AAEP has a wonderful brochure called "Hay quality and Horse Nutrition: Evaluation your horse's nutritional needs." There's also an article on their website called "10 Tips for Choosing the Best Hay for Your Horse." I encourage you to check out both these resources to make sure his forage is top-notch.

The second part of your homework is to weigh your horse's current serving of grain. If it's less than what's recommended on the bag for his age, weight and workload, then you should (gradually) switch to a ration balancer or multi-vitamin. In an attempt to cut down on his calories to keep him at his current weight, you've also inadvertently cut down on his vitamins and minerals. Better to feed the recommended amount of the appropriate product than a portion of the wrong product. Other than the sugars and starches in most grains that most horses don't need or do well on, to me the biggest problem feeding fortified grain is that hardly anyone does it right, not that there's some mysterious quality issue. Know what you're feeding and why (and how much) and your horse will thank you!

Article provided by SmartPak.
Dr. Lydia Gray is the Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak, where she guides research and new product development, answers questions on her Ask the Vet blog, and speaks around the country at various events such as Equine Affaire, Dressage at Devon, and the USHJA Trainers’ Symposiums.