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  • Q:

    I own a four-year-old Thoroughbred gelding that weighs about 1,250 lb (570 kg); he’s in average body weight. I do beginner dressage and lower-level eventing. He is fed free-choice grass hay with an additional flake of alfalfa, and a medley of different feeds totaling 3.25 lb (1.5 kg), including a balancer pellet (4 oz). I also give him an anti-ulcer supplement. I’d like to switch him to an oats and hay diet. I know I can adjust the amount of energy he consumes through increasing or decreasing oats, but will his nutrient requirements be met? Also, he has crumbly hooves. Any nutritional advice for poor hooves?

  • A:

    Oats are a great source of digestible energy (calories), but they lack necessary quantities of important macro- and micronutrients. One concern with feeding large amounts of straight oats is the inverted ratio of calcium (Ca) to phosphorus (P). This imbalance can be corrected by offering feedstuffs with high calcium content to ensure the overall diet provides the correct ratio of 1.5-2:1 (Ca:P).

    Feeding a ration balancer provides the essential nutrients often lacking in a diet of forage and oats. An alternative option is to continue offering a small amount of alfalfa due to its high calcium content and feeding a vitamin and mineral supplement such as Micro-Max to provide the essential trace minerals and vitamins. Whether you choose to continue to feed a balancer pellet or switch to a vitamin and mineral supplement, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended feeding rate. Australian horse owners should look for Gold Pellet to provide high-quality minerals and vitamins.

    Grass hays typically have an appropriate calcium to phosphorus ratio, but in some situations they do not contain enough calcium to balance the overall diet when fed in combination with a large amount of oats.

    Diets high in nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC, namely starch and sugar) and those providing excess calories have been associated with behavioral changes and increased reactivity in certain horses. Dietary protein is not a primary energy source and should not impact behavior. However, most high-protein feeds are also high in digestible energy (calories) that can have an impact on reactivity in certain horses. Keeping this in mind, the main energy source in oats is nonstructural carbohydrates. Studies have shown that feeding excitable horses diets high in fat and fermentable fiber can help improve behavior. With this in mind, another feedstuff you may consider including is soaked beet pulp, as it is energy-dense and high in digestible fiber but low in NSC.

    Low mineral intakes and mineral imbalances can result in poor hoof health; however, certain horses may have higher dietary needs for certain hoof-related nutrients that are best provided through targeted supplementation with products like Bio•Bloom PS. In Australia, look for Bio•Bloom.

    Providing biotin in combination with other nutritional building blocks is most beneficial for hoof, skin, and hair, and is superior to feeding biotin alone. KER developed a dual-action hoof and coat conditioner, Bio•Bloom PS, that contains biotin, zinc, methionine, and iodine, as well as essential fatty acids and lecithin.

    Bio•Bloom PS is formulated to provide the necessary nutrients to promote strong, healthy hooves and improve skin and coat condition. Horse owners have reported seeing faster hoof and hair growth after supplementing with Bio•Bloom PS.

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