Ration Balancers vs Regular Horse Feeds

I recently received a call from a horse owner that said she needed to put her horse on a diet. Her 1000 pound mare is a body condition score of 7. Her vet had recommended she put the mare on a ration balancer. When she priced products at the local feed store she thought that the price of a balancer was too high. Since her mare has free access to pasture, she felt that 1 pound a day of an economy feed would be good, with a few supplements. She was wonder what supplements would be best for her mare?

I told her she was on the right track to reduce the horse’s calories, but there was an easier way to put the mare on a healthy diet. I pointed out that the feed tag on the product she was feeding had a feeding rate of 0.5 pounds of feed for every 100 pounds of body weight. So, for her mare to get the proper fortification of vitamins and minerals listed on the tag, she would need 5 pounds per day.

Cutting the ration down to only 20% of the required feed rate and adding supplements could get costly, as well as establishing an imbalance in micro and macro minerals. I suggested she consider a ration balancer. The concentrated nutrient levels allow for low feeding rates. A good quality balancer will contain prebiotics and probiotics to help support nutrient digestion. They will also feature guaranteed levels of biotin to support muscle, hair coat and hoof development. In addition they will also have guaranteed levels of amino acids to support muscle maintenance and development. Not to mention that a quality balancer will also use organic trace mineral complexes to increase bioavailability and protein utilization.

When we compared the balancer to top dressing the economy feed, the balancer was a much better value on a cost per day basis.  That’s why it’s always important to do the “cost per day” math, rather than getting fixated on the price tag on the bag, and remember to include the cost of supplements needed if a lower-quality, less expensive feed is being investigated.

13 Replies to “Ration Balancers vs Regular Horse Feeds”

  1. Any recommendations as to which ration balancers you think are the best, the ones that have all of the things you mention above? Thanks!

    1. Hi Ellen!
      I am going to recommend Empower Balance by Nutrena. Keep in mind that all tags are not created equal. Empower balance has guaranteed amino acid levels that support muscle development and maintenance.
      As with trace minerals, Empower Balance has organic trace mineral complexes to help support increased bioavailability, the immune system and protein utilization. Not to mention the added pre and probiotics.

      If you go to http://www.NutrenaWorld.com and select the dealer locator I know you will find a dealer near you.

      Thanks again for contacting us!

    1. Hi Gina,
      Thanks for the question. We would always advocate for the horse to have ad-lib, or continual, access to hay or pasture. This allows their digestive system to mimic their natural conditions more closely, and can be helpful in preventing things like ulcers. Free choice water and salt are also a good consideration. It would also be recommended to work with your veterinarian on the ulcers, and determine a plan of action.

      Best of luck!

    1. Hi Debbie,
      It is hard to make a recommendation without any other information about the gelding’s body condition, health status, forage quality, or what is suspected to have caused the laminitic episode(s). More information about the horse’s condition and current management will allow us to provide a more custom recommendation.

      In general, non-structural carbohydrates (starch + sugar = NSC) in the total diet (forage + grain + supplements + treats) need to be carefully controlled. Hay analysis should be done to understand nutrient and NSC content of the forage first. We can certainly facilitate that. Typically, a low NSC ration balancer is a good option to ensure vital nutrients (amino acids, minerals and vitamins) for health and tissue repair are provided in a balanced and digestible form.

      Nutrena Empower Topline Balance
      Nutrena SafeChoice Special Care
      Nutrena SafeChoice Senior (not a ration balancer, but controlled NSC product that can be fed as the sole ration if needed)
      Progressive Proadvantage grass or alfalfa balancer (depending on the forage type the horse gets)
      Progressive ProAdd Ultimate (very low calorie/NSC low feeding rate product; can order online or purchase as select
      Progressive dealers)
      ProElite Starch Wise

      The following FeedRoom blog articles may be helpful:

      Understanding Laminitis
      Feeding tips for laminitic horses
      Laminitis in Horses, What can you do?
      Colic, Laminitis, and starch levels in horse diets

      Best of luck!
      Emily L.

  2. I have a 26 y.o. fjord…He is cushinoid and is insulin resistant…He recently had an episode of neuritis,,,not laminitis,,,,he went to the clinic where they fed a ration balancer,,, can I feed this by itself or must it be given with say low starch which he gets 1lb (1 baker’s measuring cup) 2x/day. He wears a greenguard grazing muzzel in the pasture in summertime.. He lost a lot of weight in the clinic he is less than 1000 lbs now..(maybe 950 lbs) He is a finicky eater…

    1. Hi Virginia,
      Thanks for the question! You could feed Empower Topline Balance at 3#/day to provide the amino acids and trace minerals critical to support the rebuilding of his nerves, muscles, etc. If you feel he needs additional calories in his diet, you could add 2-3# SafeChoice Special Care or 1# Empower Boost.

  3. I have three horses – 2 Missouris Fox Trotters @ 16 and 17 YOA, and a 27 year old paint. I have struggled to keep the Paint’s weight up, but with a healthy diet of Safe Choice Senior and Alfalfa pellets, plus 24/7 pasture access, he is doing well. The other two – well – they are just fat. Currently they are just getting Top Balance Ration Balancer, but my vet says I should just let them have pasture grass. I am afraid that they still need the extra vitamins and minerals, but they definitely don’t need any calories. What do you recommend?

    1. Hi Donna,
      Great question. You are correct in your assessment of your two Missouri Fox Trotters need to be on no less than 1# Empower Topline Balance per day to balance the nutrients missing in your grass such as amino acids, copper, zinc, etc. We would also recommend putting a grazing muzzle on them while on pasture grass to limit caloric intake or dry lot with 1.5% bodyweight fed in hay via a small hole haynet per day. And of course free access to plain salt and water. We have been involved with trials on overweight horses utilizing this protocol and seen horses lose weight but maintain topline. The extra 1# per day does not make them fat, it does however supply the proper nutrients so their body metabolism can function appropriately. Best of luck!
      -Abby K.

  4. I have a 15 yr old 17H Perch/TB cross mare, approx. 1200lbs. She is an easy keeper and on Triple Crown Senior 2 pounds per day, alfalfa pellets 2 pounds per day and hay fed 4 times per day (approx. 20 pounds). She is turned out over night (230pm – 830am) and in a stall otherwise. She has had ulcers in the past which is why I out her on TCS. However I am thinking about changing her to a the topline balance along with the alfalfa pellets. She seems a little on the chunky side, can’t see her ribs but can somewhat feel them. She seemed more fit at a previous barn I had her at when she was on 2 pounds of TCS, 2 pounds of haystrecher, and on grass pasture 24/7. Would feeding her the RB at 1.5lbs per day and 2 pounds of alfalfa pellets with the hay four times a day help her lose a little weight but still be adequate for calories? She gets moderately worked 1 hour, 5-6 days per week and I do one jumper show per month at the farm she is boarded at now.

    1. Hi Erin,
      Great question. Yes, Empower Topline Balance would be the correct product to balance the remainder of her diet. We would actually recommend 2#/day for her knowing she’s in work. You’ll see her gain a great deal more lean muscle to support her topline and hindquarters as well as a huge improvement in haircoat and hoof quality.
      Best of luck!
      -Abby K.

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