As research has advanced our understanding of equine nutrition, we now know more about how best to meet our horse's nutritional needs. One feed option that owners may notice on the shelves of their local feed store is a ration balancer. This pelleted feed option might have a place in your horse's diet, so let's explain how it is used.
Originally formulated for the growing horse, the ration balancer--in conjunction with a high-quality forage source--can provide the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals a horse needs without the excess calories that could put young horses at higher risk of developmental orthopedic diseases
In addition to young horses, mature equids able to maintain their weight on an all-forage diet of hay or pasture--termed "easy keepers"--can also benefit from a ration balancer. Depending on the species of forage provided and geographical location where it's grown, protein, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies might be presence; ration balancer pellets are often used to offset these deficiencies.
In addition, the ration balancer pellet is a good option for horses that cannot tolerate high sugar and starch levels in some grains, such as those with Cushing's disease (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction or PPID, laminitis, and hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP). The lower glycemic index of a ration balancer also has the potential to lessen a horse's hyperactive behavior.
Ration balancer pellets typically have lower feeding rates than regular concentrates. Because ration balancer pellets contain concentrated levels of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, most mature horses can get the necessary nutrients by consuming one to two pounds of pellets per day.
The crude protein level in ration balancer pellets generally range from 28-32%. Due to the lower feeding amount, the total protein consumed by a horse on a ration balancer is not much different than a horse consuming recommended amounts of a 12% crude protein feed.
When feeding ration balancer pellets, ensure the rest of the horse's diet is comprised of high quality forage--either grass or pasture. When weight reduction is necessary, compliment the ration balancer pellet with an appropriate forage source.
Take Home Message
The ration balancer pellet is a highly diverse feed option for all classes of horses. With a smaller feeding rate and lower sugar and starch levels, it can be incorporated into any feeding program with a high quality forage source. Contact a veterinarian or consult an equine nutritionist if questions about integrating a ration balancer in your horse's diet arise.
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.