California Riding Magazine • October, 2012

Ask the Vet
Ration Balancer

by Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA

I have 2 horses that are very easy keepers, even through the winter. I actually feed 1 cup twice a day with good quality hay. Is there anything else that I need to give them? I trail ride once or twice a week. Becky

Dear Becky,

Thanks for your question. I find myself asking: you feed 1 cup of what? If you're giving your two easy keepers one cup of a ration balancer, you may be spot on with their diets. Ration balancers are concentrated products that contain protein, vitamins and minerals designed to complete and balance either a predominantly grass or grass hay diet or a predominantly alfalfa hay diet.

For horses in light work like yours, the low end of the recommended feeding level—one pound per day--may be sufficient. However, make sure you're actually feeding one pound by weighing it on a kitchen scale or fish scale, then marking your daily scoop for one pound of this particular product. Since the best way to feed horses is by weight, not by volume, weighing it out the first time you feed a ration balancer (or fortified grain or complete feed) ensures you're feeding the proper amount.

Also, if your hay is of high quality, your horses may not actually need the protein from a ration balancer so a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement fed at the rate of 1-2 ounces may be just the ticket. Since many of these now come in tasty pellet form, you won't need to add any sweet feed or oats to mix them in so that your horses eat them. A multi-vitamin would also be a good choice if it turns out you're only feeding 1 cup of a fortified grain or complete feed. These types of products complete and balance the diet only if fed at the levels recommended on the bag, which range from 3-6 pounds for a fortified grain to 15-18 pounds for a complete feed. Only feeding 1 cup of a product like this hardly supplies your horses with any vitamins and minerals so you would want to bridge the gap with a multi-vitamin. Happy trails!

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.