The foundation of every horse’s feed ration is forage. Forage is not just a source of fibre – it also provides enough energy so that no additional concentrate feed is needed. More and more horse owners are reducing the quantity of concentrates they feed their horses and rely on forage to deliver an adequate supply of energy and protein. But what about other nutrients? Here’s the answer: forage alone is not enough. Although forage forms the basis, it does not always contain enough vitamins, minerals and trace elements – all important parts of a balanced equine diet. Find out why in this article.
The most important nutrients
To start, we’d like to preface this with an important summary. A horse’s feed ration consists of six essential nutrients – i.e., nutrients that the body cannot produce itself:
- carbohydrates (like sugar, starch, and fibre)
So the most important thing is a basic nutrition that’s good and complete. A horse’s feed ration should consist of 75–80% forage. This is because horses need fibre. Fibre supports a healthy gut microbiome and is important for the passage of feed through the digestive tract. It is also important for maintaining a healthy fluid balance in the large intestine. A horse gets most of its energy from forage. Forage also provides the horse with the fats and proteins that it needs. For horses in light to moderate work, it’s enough. But that’s not the whole picture, because the feed ration requires vitamin and mineral supplementation.
Why do horses need vitamins and minerals?
Horses, like all other living organisms, need vitamins and minerals to keep the body functioning healthily. Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients which the body needs and which the horse gets from its diet.
Vitamins are important for a horse’s growth, metabolism and immune system. They are needed for metabolic functions and support the functions of organs and other bodily systems. Vitamins are also important for energy production and for good skin, coat and hoof health.
Minerals are also important nutrients for a variety of bodily functions. They support the growth of bones and teeth, transmit nerve impulses, maintain water balance and produce hormones. Minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sodium are especially important for horses as they are needed for healthy growth and development.
What about trace elements?
Trace elements are often named in the same breath as vitamins and minerals – rightly so, because they include iron, zinc, copper, selenium, iodine and fluorine, which are all important for various bodily processes. Trace elements (aka microminerals) are needed only small amounts but are just as important as macrominerals.
The right ratio of minerals and trace elements is important as they interact to support various processes in the body. If this ratio is off, it can lead to a disruption in these processes, which in turn can cause health problems.
Further below in this article you’ll learn how we at Cavalor handle trace elements in our Nutri Fiber balancer feed.
Sport horses vs leisure horses
We know that horses need vitamins and minerals. But here too, “feed as you need”! A sport horse will have higher vitamin/mineral requirements than a leisure horse. Vitamins and minerals are essential for both types of horses.
Sport horses, for example, need additional proteins and amino acids (for the development and regeneration of muscle tissue), electrolytes (which are lost through perspiration), B vitamins (important for energy transport) and antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium (which protect muscle cells). It’s not uncommon for horses to be given less than the recommended amounts of concentrate feed in the belief that this will keep them from getting too “hot”. Instead, energy is sometimes supplied in the form of simple grains like barley, oats and wheat. However, the horse’s feed ration must contain all the necessary nutrients – this is especially true of sport horses with higher requirements of specific nutrients.
Supplementing the feed ration accordingly is just as important with leisure horses. Does your horse tend to gain weight quickly? For that we have a special balancer that doesn’t come with added calories.
Want to learn more about forage and the right supplement feeds? Read all about it in this edition of Valor: Forage first, but not forage alone.
Want your horse to get the vitamins and minerals it needs? Here you’ll find the products that our experts recommend!
Cavalor Nutri Fiber: Cavalor Nutri Fiber is a tasty high-fibre balancer that contains a complete blend of vitamins and minerals. This makes Nutri Fiber an essential supplement for forage. Developed specially for equine diets that contain little concentrate feed. Cavalor Nutri Fiber contains the necessary fibre, vitamins and minerals along with pieces of real carrot and apple. Even the pickiest eaters will happily eat Nutri Fiber. In short, Cavalor Nutri Fiber is a tasty mix that supports your horse’s health without added calories and energy.
Cavalor Nutri Fiber contains covalently bonded hydroxy minerals (Cu, Zn), and chelated (Mn) trace elements, which have better absorption and stability. The vitamins and trace elements are provided in separate pellets to ensure further stability. The green pellets contain vitamins and minerals, whilst the light brown pellets contain trace elements. The pellets are mixed in equal amounts to provide your horse with the right amount of each. This separation of vitamins and trace elements adds to the feed’s palatability.
Cavalor Nutri Support: Cavalor Nutri Support contains all the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that leisure horses need to maintain good health. Cavalor Nutri Support is specially formulated to supplement feed rations consisting primarily or exclusively of forage and containing little concentrate feed.
It has no added energy or protein and won’t cause horses or ponies to gain weight or become “hot”.
Cavalor Nutri Plus: Cavalor Nutri Plus is specially formulated to supplement feed rations consisting primarily or exclusively of forage and containing little concentrate feed. Cavalor Nutri Plus contains all the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, electrolytes, fatty acids and amino acids that sport horses need to deliver optimum performance. The formula takes into account the nutrients found in forage. That applies to all our balancers!
Cavalor Nutri Grow: Cavalor Nutri Grow contains all the vitamins and minerals needed for optimum development in foals, young horses and pregnant or lactating mares. When Broodmares and growing young horses spend lots of time at pasture, they are already getting sufficient energy and protein.
However, pasture grass does not meet their vitamin and trace mineral requirements. Cavalor Nutri Grow is formulated to meet the vitamin and trace mineral requirements of young horses and mares from the 7th month of pregnancy onwards.