My seven-year-old Thoroughbred hunter, Tally, is a little too fleshy right now. I just purchased him, so we’re at ground zero as far as a diet plan. Right now, he’s getting a combination of grass and alfalfa hay, about 12 lb (5.5 kg) a day, but I know I need to start him on a well-balanced feed as soon as possible. He’s in a paddock for 4 hours each day and in a stall the remainder of the time. What kind of supplements should I look into?
The following recommendations are based on a goal weight of 1,175 lb (535 kg), which would be an average weight for a 16-hand Thoroughbred gelding.
The combination of alfalfa and grass hay is an acceptable forage choice for Tally. Most good-quality alfalfa hay offers more calories per pound than grass hay, so it might be a good idea to feed slightly more grass hay than alfalfa. This will allow him to eat more forage while consuming the same number of calories. One benefit of forage intake is gastric motility, so the more forage Tally consumes, the healthier his gastrointestinal tract.
Ideally, Tally’s diet should provide about 1.5-2% of his body weight in forage and concentrate daily. For weight loss, this percentage can be closer to 1.25%, but I do not recommend going lower than that, especially since you will be exercising him regularly. Based on the estimated desired weight, he could consume about 18 lb (8 kg) of hay and 1.5 lb (0.7 kg) of a ration balancer pellet. Balancer pellets provide a concentrated source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and are designed to be fed at only 1-2 lb (0.45-0.9 kg) per day.
Without a full description of his feeding history, it is hard to piece together what he requires in terms of a concentrate. You may be able to feed just a ration balancer as a source of concentrated nutrients. Another option is to add a small amount of a performance feed for additional energy. For instance, you may find that 1 lb (0.45 kg) of a ration balancer pellet with 2 lb (0.9 kg) of a suitable performance feed better suits his energy requirements. If he ever requires more than 5 lb (2.3 kg) of feed daily to maintain weight, the ration balancer would no longer be needed because, at this level of feeding, the performance feed would most likely meet his nutrient requirements. At a feeding rate of 2 lb (0.9 kg) daily, most performance feeds would not provide enough nutrients to meet these needs.
In regard to supplementation, products should be chosen wisely and based on the specific requirements of your horse.
Because Tally is a performance horse and he lives in an area that is hot during much of the year, electrolyte supplementation is warranted. Kentucky Equine Research (KER) offers a slow-release electrolyte, Restore SR, which provides a time-released source of sodium that allows sustained absorption for maximum replenishment of sodium, Restore SR also contains chloride and potassium. Australian horse owners should look for Restore.
You mentioned Tally doesn’t have much time on pasture during the day. If his paddock does not offer fresh grass, supplementation of vitamin E would be advantageous. The natural-source liquid product Nano•E provides highly absorbable vitamin E for maximum antioxidant benefits. Vitamin E helps in the process of muscle repair and recovery, which is so important for hard-working horses.
Another supplement to keep in mind for horses traveling and competing is the total digestive tract buffer RiteTrac. This product contains ingredients that coat the stomach lining and buffer excess gastric acid, as well as an encapsulated buffering component to support hindgut health. Australian horse owners should look for these research-proven supplements.
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