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Why does a feed work for my friend’s horse…but not mine?

This is such a common occurrence - your friend might be feeding a feed or supplement to her horse and is seeing all these benefits, so you jump in and try it on your horse….and they don’t do well on it, leaving you frustrated and worried about your horse's nutrition.

So, what is happening in this situation? 

A lot of people may jump to the conclusion that feed wasn’t as good as we originally thought…but in some cases, the formulation of a product might be fantastic, but just is not complimentary for your situation. 

This could be due to:

  • The nutrient profile of your horse’s hay.

    • Hay should make up the bulk of your horse’s diet, and as such, can have a big impact on the nutrient profile of your horse’s ration. 

  • Your horse’s individual requirements.

    •  Depending on workload, life stage, and individual variations/health concerns, your horse may have different requirements than your friend’s horse. 

    • Every horse is an individual, and different individuals may have different sensitivities to different feedstuffs - for instance, some individuals are more sensitive to sugar in the diet than others. 

  • How much you’re feeding/feed selection. 

    • Remember, if feeding a commercial feed, following the recommended feeding rates is essential as these products are only formulated to be balanced if fed at the correct amounts.

    • If feeding less than the recommended amount because your horse cannot handle the full amount (ie they got ‘hot’ on it or gain excess weight), this feedstuff is likely not suitable for your horse as an individual. 

A feed can be incredibly well-formulated, but just not complimentary to your horse’s situation. Assessing the nutritional profile of your hay, your horse’s individual requirements, and other items in the diet can help you identify feeds that are more suitable. Working with an independent nutritionist can help you do this, without bias towards a specific line of feed.

That said, here are some steps to help you assess feed suitability on your own: 

Determine the nutrient profile of your hay. 

Test your hay, and if not possible, look up data for average hay profiles in your area. Even if not testing your hay, many testing labs will release annual data averages, which can be used to help you notice trends that may apply to your horse’s diet. 

  • Search for " [your province/state] forage summary ".

Consider your horse’s nutritional requirements and current energy balance. 

Assess factors that may increase their requirements: What is their workload like? Will it be increasing or decreasing? Are they an easy or hard keeper? Do they have any behavioural stereotypies? Do they need additional energy for thermoregulation? 

If they are overweight, they are in a positive energy balance (energy intake > energy expenditure), and if they are underweight, they are likely in a negative energy balance. 

Using body condition scoring is a great way to assess fat deposition in your horse to determine if energy density in the diet needs to change. Horses who do not need additional energy will do better on low-calorie feedstuffs with higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals.

Assess feedstuff formulation based on what your hay may need to balance it, and what your horse’s requirements are.

There are now many online resources that can give you more nutritional info on specific feedstuffs, and can be incredibly useful in giving you an idea of whether a product contains a lot of calories or not, as well as concentrations of vitamins and minerals that you need to supplement your hay.

Just make sure to assess the source of the information, and whether there is a chance of this information being outdated, biased or inaccurate - if the information comes from a source who may benefit from selling you a different product, make sure to cross-reference data

If boasting added ‘science-backed’ ingredients, look into how much of this ingredient is present at the feeding rate, and whether this matches the ingredient amounts fed in high-quality research that reported benefits.

EXM: 1.5-4 g DHA reported to be beneficial, but supplement provides less than 1 g. 

Note: We also offer product eval/breakdown services for those who have an existing balanced diet, and wish to add a functional supplement to their horse’s diet. 

Product selection and suitability can make a big difference in your horse’s nutrition, and we know it can be frustrating when you’re struggling to find one that is a good match. By identifying your horse’s requirements and assessing what is in the current diet, it can be easier to know what to look for! 

Need help with this? We can help! Let’s connect to discuss what we can help you with! 


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