When to Feed Ration Balancers

While recently reviewing farms feed program, the manager explained that some of her horses only received 1 pound of grain per day.  She felt their weight was good, but yet they appeared to be lacking something in their diet.  She was wondering what type of supplements she could add.

When we looked at the tag on her feed, the problem was obvious.  Her feed was designed for to be fed at a rate of 0.5 – 0.75 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight.  This means that to provide proper fortification for a 1000 pound horse, she would need to feed 5 – 7.5 pounds per day.  By that standard, her horses that were only getting 1 lb per day were not receiving the nutrient fortification they needed for optimum health, and thus her feeling that  “they appeared to be lacking something”.  Her farm was feeding good quality hay at a rate of about 2% of each horse’s body weight, and the overall body condition of the horses was good, but we needed to balance the amino acid and vitamin/mineral fortification.

We reviewed the farms hay test results to establish our baseline.   I explained that she could easily improve her horse’s diet with the use of a ration balancer. Balancers have a low feeding rate, generally from 0.25 to 1 pound per head per day, but they contain a concentrated mix of the extra vitamins, minerals and protein required to help horses achieve their full potential.

She was a little unsure about feeding something with a 30% protein level, but I explained that if you do the math, feeding 1 lb of a 30% protein feed is actually providing the same to a little less than feeding a standard 12% feed at a higher rate.

Key features to look for in a ration balancer include:

  1. Probiotics and prebiotics to enhance fiber and protein digestion, as well as mineral absorption. 
  2. Organic complexed trace minerals to increase the bioavailability – an example of this on the tag would be “zinc methionine complex” in the ingredient list.
  3. Added biotin and methionine, which are important for hoof and hair coat.
  4. Guaranteed amino acids (lysine, methionine, etc), mineral, and vitamin levels.

A good quality ration balancer will provide your horse with dietary essentials, and often no additional supplementation is needed!

This entry was posted in Changing Horse Feed, Feeding Management, Horse Nutrition, Supplements, Weight Control.
Tagged as , , , .

46 Responses to When to Feed Ration Balancers

  1. john mcdaniel says:

    I am looking at Empower Balance. However I have not been able to get my feed stores Nutrena rep to cooperate in explaining this new product. How can I get some feedback about how best to integrate this product into my feedroom?

    • Gina T. says:

      Hi John,
      Sorry to hear you are having a bit of trouble. If you’d like to detail out your questions here, we’ll help you right here on the blog – I’d be willing to bet others will be happy to learn from your questions too!
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

      • Becky says:

        HI! Can you tell me how many calories per pound are supplied by Empower Balance? It is nearly impossible to figure my feed plan without knowing calorie content. Is there a reason Nutrena does not list the calorie content on the bags?
        Thank you for your time.

    • Les says:

      I am currently feeding this to my 12 year old quarter horse been on it for a year it works real well. a 40 lb bag fed at the correct amount will last about 2 months. high in protein but very low in nsc. I also supplement with standlee timothy pellets also low in nsc. have my horse off of all ceral base grains and she is doing great. to much grains and sugars are throwing of their metabolism possibly predisposing them to cushinds desease. lost my wifes horse to that 8 months ago. does not mean every horse will get it. just trying to eliminate a potential problem. I am on 16 acres with a lot of pasture they are out all day and brought in at nite, they don’t need to eat all day and all nite

  2. Wilhelmina Barron says:

    Where can I buy the ration balancers you are talking about.

    • Gina T. says:

      Hello Wilhelmina,
      Many feed companies carry ration balancers these days. We at Nutrena just introduced one in December, called Empower Balance. Any Nutrena feed dealer can order it for you – click here to visit our dealer locator to find a store near you! http://www.nutrenaworld.com/nutrena/where-to-buy/index.jsp
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

      • Lisa Hoots says:

        Hi Gina,
        I have more of a question than a reply to your above post. I have a 24yr old Morgan Cross gelding who has had diagnosed Cushings Disease (for 2yrs he has been on Pergolide). He is currently on Nutrena Safe Choice (4#/day of feed, he is approx. 870#). I have gotten recommendations from diff. DVM’s on feeds. One recommended Safe Choice another suggested a Ration Balancer. A RB has been extremely difficult to find in my area (Lexington, SC). Now that I see that Nutrena has one, my question is which feed is best for a Cushings senior horse @ light work level? He is NOT insulin resistant @ this point nor is he overweight. He is starting to get the “hay belly” (for Cushings) and is currently on Pergolide with DVM suppervison. So which feed is best to avoid becoming overweight and getting his maximum daily nutritional intake? I am looking at the following Nutrena products, Safe Choice (he is currently on), Lite Balance or Empower Balance (ration balancer).

        Looking forward to hearing from you soon,
        Lisa H.
        Lexington, SC

        • Gina T. says:

          Hi Lisa – Thanks for contacting us, and we’d love to help you out. If you could, we’d like to know just a couple more things, and then we’ll make a recommendation for you. Let us know the following: His current BCS, how many pounds of hay a day he is eating and what kind of hay, does he have any pasture access, and then what activity level are you using him for?

          Thanks! ~ Gina T.

  3. Peggy Sue says:

    Lisa being in SC look into Triple Crown’s 30% , also Nutrena’s Empower Balancer or lastly Purina’s Enrich32

  4. daphne watson says:

    i just started to feed a Rb and im into week number 4. I feed beet pulp, alfala pellets along with the RB. 2 of my horses are losing weight. I feed a good free choice hay as well.

    What else can i add to pick up the weight on the two that are loosing.

    • Gina T. says:

      Hi Daphe, Thanks for the question. Sounds like you have a case of needing to get more calories in to those two horses. A ration balancer isn’t the solution for every horse, so that’s OK. We would recommend looking for a product that has a higher feeding rate (feeding more of a ration balancer is not a good idea, as you can get in to toxicity situations) and more calories. Alternatively, you could add something like Empower Boost, which is our high fat rice bran supplement, to their diet. For simplicity, I would suggest going away from the RB product, the beet pulp and the alfalfa pellets, and going to a single well balanced product – good options in our line would include SafeChoice or Life Design Prime. If you don’t mind all the mixing and adding, try adding the Empower Boost product to what you are doing now.
      Hope that helps – please let us know if you have more questions!
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

  5. Kathy Hefner says:

    I have a 25 year old mare that seem to have cushings I have read about empower balance and empower boost. I feed the horses enrich 32 but wonder if one of these would be better for her but don’t know witch one. Could you give me some advice.

    • Gina T. says:

      Hi Kathy, Great question. Empower Balance is a protein/vitamin/mineral product, with a very low NSC value, so it’s ideal if you have an easy-keeper with Cushings. If you have one that you need to get weight on, or have trouble keeping weight on, then adding Empower Boost – which is a high-fat rice bran supplement – is your solution. Does that help?

      Thank you! ~ Gina T.

  6. Shannon W says:

    I am adopting a 5 y/o Percheron draft mare who has had kind of a rough way to go. She is slightly undersized for a draft and definitely underweight by at least 150lbs or more. She appears to be in otherwise good health and has recently been wormed. The woman I am getting her from has been feeding safe choice feed but I wonder is that the best choice for her and if she needs an additional supplement or just time to gain the weight she lost.
    thanks Shannon

    • Gina T. says:

      Hi Shannon, Thanks for taking the mare in! If she is on SafeChoice now, I’d stick with that through the transition to your place (one less thing to stress her out). Once she’s settled at your place, SafeChoice is an excellent option for her – you can use some of th tools shown if you click on the “weight control” topic on the right side of our blog page (weighing your horse without a scale, determining the right amount to feed) to make sure you are feeding her according to the directions for her current size. Feeding directions are given on size and on activity level, go ahead and bump her up to one activity level higher than she is at now, to get her up to the condition you want her in. Once she’s there, you can start scaling back on the amount of feed given, until you find the level where she maintains her condition well.
      Hope that helps, please do let us know if you have more questions! Thanks ~ Gina T.

  7. vickie says:

    I need some help. I have 2 IR Morgan mares. One I currently have on Nutrena lite balance, the other on safe choice. I also have a large gelding who eats the safe choice. At this time, due to grass (or lack thereof) in Florida, they are all on a hay roll several hours per day.
    The mares get little to no work, and the gelding only light work. I am concerned they are not receiving sufficient nutrition as I have cut the amount of pelleted grain but everyone is FAT!! What is the best option for this combination of horses ? What RB is best? Please help my fat kids!!

    • Gayle R. says:

      Hi Vickie! Thanks for the great question. Many horse owners are in similar situations. I feel confident Empower Balance will work well for your two mares and your gelding. It is designed to provide support for the nutritional needs of horses with insulin resistance or Cushing’s Syndrome, as well as those that are easy keepers.

      Empower Balance has concentrated nutrient levels allow for low feeding rate, about 1 pound per head per day. It contains high-quality protein with guaranteed amino acid levels help support muscle maintenance and development, and the organic trace mineral complexes help support increased bioavailability, the immune system and protein utilization. Not to mention we have added prebiotics and probiotics help support nutrient digestion, and the biotin to help support muscle, hair coat and hoof development!

      I know that you will be pleased with the results, and peace of mind that Empower Balance will provide for your horses. Thank you for contacting Nutrena!


  8. Gabriel says:

    Question about the Empower Balance. We are in the process of switching over from Southern States feed. How do you transition? The bag doesn’t really give any specifics, only to do it over 5 to 7 days, but also says not to feed with a regular feed to avoid overdose of the vitamins, minerals etc… Could you give more specifics?


    • Gayle R. says:

      Hi Gabriel!
      Good question.   You would decrease your current feed ration by 25% and add 25% of the needed daily Empower Balance ration.   In example if you are feeding your horse two pounds of grain per day and switching to 1 pound of Empower Balance per day, the total daily diet would be 1.5 pounds of grain and .25 pounds of Empower balance per day.  This might be divided into two or three feedings, depending oo your feed schedule.  Maintain this ration for two days.  Then decrease your grain ration by 50% and add 50% of the recommended Empower Balance ration.   In two  days adjust the ration to 25% of your current feed ration and 75% of the recommended Empower Balance ration.  Then in another day or two transition completely to Empower Balance.

      To determine the recommended daily amount follow the suggested feed rate based on your horses weight and activity level.  I hope this helps.  Welcome to the Nutrena family :)


  9. faith says:

    I have a 6 year old tb that has ulcers. He is in a high workout routine, normally 5 days a week for one to two hours. He stands at 17.1 hands and at the moment weighs in at about 1200 pounds. I feed him 10 pounds of t & a 2x a day and 2 pounds of alfafa pettets in his complete grain mix- Ultra dynamix (9lbs a day). he is also on tri amino, u-guard (2 x’s a day) and msm. My problem is this- He stuggles to keep weight on, grinds his teeth during work outs (was a lot worse when i bought him, teeth floated every 6 months) and lacks endurence. I was looking into a RB in hopes of getting him on the right track though spring and summer. We have zero grazing, he is never stalled due to discomfort standing in a stall thought the day but rather has a 36 x 36 covered “stall” during the heat of the day and turnout all night. Can you tell me what your suggestions on the RB would be for him?

    • Gayle R. says:

      If you could provide me some additional information I would appreciate it.
      You mention your horse weighs about 1200 pounds, but I am curious what his body score is?  Can you see some ribs, all ribs or none at all?
      You mention he gets 10 pounds a day of t & amp, I am not sure what this is?
      Two pounds of alfalfa pellets, and 9 pounds of Ultra dynamix as well correct?  

      I need to calculate his total caloric intake at present, and then I can help determine what he may be lacking.

      Kind regards,
      Gayle M. Reveron, PAS

  10. amy says:

    hi ,my name is amy and I’m trying to find a place tp get nutvena empower balance
    is there a place i can buy it on line and have it sent to me
    ‘ thank you

  11. Rita says:

    I have a 2 year old Lusitano gelding. I would like to take him off of grain/pellets. I will be moving him to a new barn where he can graze lush grass 2-3 hours a day and spend the rest of the time in a “short grassed” area with plenty of quality hay. But I am concerned about his vitamin and mineral intake. Is he ok with just the grass and hay? Or should I be adding to this with a ration balancer or something? He will only be able to get any balancer in the pm.

    • Gayle R. says:

      Hi Rita!
      My first question is what is his body condition score – if he is at a good weight and body condition score, and maintains that condition while on pasture and forage alone, that is great. You can try Empower Balance to provide your horse the necessary vitamins and organic trace minerals for increased bioavailability. There are pre and probiotics to help with nutrient digestion, as well as added biotin for muscle, hair coat, and hoof development. Since it is highly fortified, the inclusion rate is low, and a 1,000 pound horse will only need a 1 pound per day, if the body condition is maintained on forage and pasture alone. You could easily do this with just an evening feeding.

      Thank you for contacting Nutrena!

  12. Kerri says:

    I have a 7 year old mare who has ulcers. We are treating for ulcers and we have been told to take her off of grain and anything with molasses. She is weighs around 1100lbs and is currently getting around 12lbs of equine sr and a good grass hay as well as pasture. I have been told I needed to switch to a RB, but I am concerned about her not getting enough calories. She is an all-around performance horse. Any suggestions?

    • Gayle R. says:

      Hi Kerri! Thansk for asking, and I am glad to hear that your horse is getting pasture time, as this is important for horses with ulcers.

      The question I have is, what is your horses current body condition score? Horses with ulcers do well on a high fat/ high fiber diet, so your choice of Senior feed was a good one. The thing is, if your mare is currently eating 12 pounds of senior feed per day, a ration balancer at 1-2 lbs per day can provide her with the necessary vitamin and mineral supplementation, as well as protein balance, but there will be a very big difference in caloric intake. You will need to adjust for this by feeding a significantly larger amount of hay – possibly more than she will want to consume.

      If you veterinarian is concerned about feeds containing molasses, we can provide you with some alternatives in the Nutrena product line such as our new SafeChoice Special Care, or Triumph Complete pellets.

      If you know her body condition score about how many pounds of hay she consumes per day currently, I can try and determine her current caloric intake for you, and make a recommendation.

      Thank you for contacting Nutrena!

  13. Robin says:

    You mention the Empower Balance has a very low NSC value. Could you please be more specific? I’d like to know what the exact NSC value is. Thank you.

    • Gina T. says:

      Hello Robin,
      Thanks for asking! Empower Balance has an NSC value of 14%. You can find NSC values on all of our premium horse feeds on our website in the guaranteed analysis tab. It is listed as Dietary Starch and Sugar – just add those two numbers together to get to the total NSC. Empower Balance, for example, is 8% Dietary Starch and 6% Sugar.
      Please let us know if you have further questions!
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

  14. Angie says:

    Last year I switched my incredibly hard keeper (16 yr old, 1200lb 17.1 TB) over to XTN and finally got some weight gain. But his weight gain got to a certain point and then just stalled. I recently decided to switch him to Life Design Senior and wet his pellets down to aid in easy consumption for him. I also added Empower boost to his feed. I currently have him on 6lbs of Senior and 2lbs of boost a day plus pasture 24/7. I worked him up to the max ammount of boost over a few weeks…. Is this the right ammount for him?

    Also- I had my incredibly easy keeper (8 yr old, 1500lb, 18.1 hh Percheron) on 3lbs XTN a day and switched him over to Empower Balance. His was a bit heavy so I wanted to give him what he needed but nothing more. I gradually added in the Balance and took away the XTN and he is now on 1.5lbs of Balance a day plus pasture 24/7…. Is this the right amount for him?

    Finally- I have a Friesian wealing coming to the farm in the fall. He’s already very tall and I’ve read a lot about how important it is not to feed too much and unknowingly encourage too much growth in foals. What would you recommend for him?


    • Gayle R. says:

      Hi Angie!
      When Nutrena Senior is fed to a 1200 pound horse with hay or pasture the feed rate is 6 to 9 pounds per day for maintenance. By adding the 2 pounds of Empower Boost you should be providing him with calories needed to increase his body condition. I like that you are also wetting his feed to ensure the consumption.

      Your calculation for your 1500 pound Percheron is good. I also like the fact that he too has access to pasture 24/7. With both the TB and the Percheron I would encourage you to review their weight and body condition in about 30 days. If you need to make adjustments feel free to contact us.

      As for the weanling I would recommend Safe Choice Original formula. Nutritionally balanced for growing and mature horses alike, Safe Choice Original helps make feeding a wide range of horses more convenient – without sacrificing nutrition quality or peace of mind. I would start the ration for him at 1.5 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight. Along with hay or pasture, this will provide your youngster a balanced diet. If you visit the Knowledge Center on Nutrenaworld.com, you will find a fact sheet that explains how to weigh your horse without a scale. This method has a special application for determining weanlings weights, that you may find of interest.

      It sounds like you are doing a great job with your horses diets! Feel free to contact us again if we can be of further assistance.
      Gayle M. Reveron, PAS

      • Angela says:

        Thanks- it’s very reassuring to hear that I’m doing things right. I read all the feeding instructions, did my feed/weight calculations and weighed their feed to ensure it was the right amount. So far so good with these changes. Seeing steady weight gain in my TB with Empower Boost and the Percheron who is on Empower Balance has slimmed down to the perfect weight and has dapples all over his behind.

      • Angela says:

        Ok Gayle. It’s been about 45 days now and my TB is looking great. He’s still gaining and maintaining.

        My Percheron looks perfect. He has slimmed down to the perfect weight and he looks fantastic. However, I’m concerned that he’ll start to be too thin if I continue him on just the ration balancer alone. If I want to keep him right where he is at what should I add into the equation? He’s at 1400 lbs now and he’s at 1.5lbs of Balance a day plus pasture 24/7. Hope you can give a little advice. So far this is the best my horses have ever looked so I know my feed program is working- just need a slight tweak for my big fella.

  15. Robin says:

    Could you tell me what the iron content is in the empower balance?

    • Gina T. says:

      Hi Robin, thanks for the question! Empower Balance will run approximately 2697mg/pound for iron content. If you have any other questions, let us know! Thanks ~ Gina T.

  16. john says:

    I just began feeding the Nutrena Balancer and Boost to my horses; can I also safely feed it to my goats?

    • Gina T. says:

      Hello John,
      Thank you for contacting us, and we’re glad to hear you are using the Empower products! Unfortunately, we cannot recommend either product for goats – the nutrient levels are higher than a goat needs, and in some cases may be more than they can safely tolerate.
      Sincerely ~ Gina T.

  17. Lacy says:

    I how would you feed empower balance alone, with full access to pasture?

    • Gina T. says:

      Hello Lacy, Thank you for your question. Yes, you can feed Empower Balance alone as a grain – with just full pasture access or free choice hay. Thanks! Gina T.

  18. Lindsey says:

    I have two weanlings that I am concerned about. I am currently feeding Equine Jr, but I don’t like the high amounts of feed that it requires in order to get the full nutrition profile. They have free choice good quality grass hay all day. Would Empower Balance be appropriate for them? I would probably supplement with timothy or alfalfa pellets to make sure they were getting adequate calories. Does Empower have high enough levels of Vitamin E for weanlings AND adult horses? I would probably switch my mare to it as well. The horses are dry lotted and have no access to grazing. Thank you!

    • Gayle R. says:

      Hello Lindsey, Thank you for contacting us. Great question. Yes, you can feed Empower balance to weanlings with proper amounts of forage. As an example a 500 pound weanling would need 2.5 pounds of Empower Balance per day plus a minimum of 7 pounds of hay per day would meet the vitamin and mineral needs of a weanling, as well as adding biotin and pre and pro biotics for gut health.

      For your mature horses Empower Balance will also work well with the appropriate amount of forage. I like to see 2% of the horses body weight per day in forage. Follow the recommended rate of inclusion on the bag, which for a maintenance level horse is 0.1 – 0.2 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight.

      Thank you again for your inquiry!! I feel confident you will find Empower Balance a fantastic product.
      Thank you ~ Gayle R.

  19. rita stegeman says:

    I was just told NOT to feed Empower Balance to my weanlings. What gives? The info was via a contact thru Nutrena? I used to use Grow n Win, put not able to get it. My weanlings look good, showing a bit of rib but I breed warmbloods. They get great grass hay, no one has a pot belly.

  20. Kat says:

    I have a question. I’m feeding my easy keeper Empower Balance and I love it. However I was told to put him on a magnesium supplement for some issues he’s having. Is it safe to add a magnesium supplement when feeding a ration balancer? Are hoof supplements safe? How much magnesium is in Empower Balance? I’m worried about toxicity by mixing a balancer with supplements. One of the supplements suggested to me is AniMed Remission if you need something to compare to. Thank you!

    • Gayle R. says:

      Hello Kat,

      Thank you for your interesting question. Empower Balance contains 0.4% magnesium. The requirement for the total diet for horses is about 0.3-0.4% magnesium. Many forages contain anywhere from 0.3 to 0.5% magnesium, so magnesium deficiency is quite rare. Horses have been fed diets with over 0.8% magnesium (total diet basis) with no ill effects. If magnesium is over-fed, the first symptom is loose stool or diarrhea. If your horse requires the higher level of magnesium for a specific condition, you should be just fine using it with Empower Balance as long as you follow the directions for all products.

      Hoof supplements generally contain a combination of biotin, zinc/zinc methionine and perhaps some other trace minerals and amino acids. Again, as long as the directions are followed, I would expect no issues combining with a balancer.

      The specific selenium supplements are the group of supplements where there is some risk in using multiple supplements. Again, the key is to follow directions for each product.
      Thank you,
      Gayle R

  21. Kat says:

    Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I really appreciate your help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

PLEASE NOTE: By clicking "POST COMMENT" above, you agree that you've read our online privacy policy.