Spring is well and truly here and now the grass is coming through thick and fast, many of you are wondering what, if anything at all, to feed your beloved companions. Although many horses and ponies can have their feed significantly reduced as they maintain their weight on the lush spring grass alone, unfortunately you cannot be sure exactly what they are receiving in terms of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins…cue balancer to the rescue! Although often associated with building condition/weight, this is a misconception and in fact a balancer is a small nutrient dense pellet which contains negligible levels of calories, therefore avoiding weight gain. Throughout spring and summer months, many horses and ponies are perfect candidates for a balancer, which will provide them with a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins, without affecting their already expanding waistline. Balancers are also useful for adding to straights, or feeds without added vitamins and minerals to balance the diet and providing to hardworking horses that maintain weight on low energy feeds. In any case where a balancer is used, an alternative option would be to use a broad spectrum, powdered vitamin and mineral supplement, however you will not always be able to tailor this to your horse’s requirements and furthermore you will probably find they do not have the added benefit of added quality protein. An added bonus of using a balancer is cost…a 20kg bag will last a 500kg horse 6weeks which could be as cheap as 56p per day, so although it may seem like a larger pay out initially, in the long run it’s a bargain!!!
With the exception of those designed for stud, when fed alongside a forage only diet balancers are typically fed at a rate of 100g per 100kg bodyweight (500g for a 500kg horse), which can be provided alongside a double handful of low calorie chaff/fibre if you wish, to make their bucket last a little longer. If you are feeding a reduced ration of compound feed however, the full amount of balancer will not be required, for example a half ration of balancer complements a half ration of compound feed.
When it comes to choosing a balancer, the choice can be especially tricky due to wide range now available. Start by thinking about age and workload, for instance do you need a balancer designed for those in light or hard work, or perhaps one formulated for horses under the age of 2 years? Secondly you could consider whether your horse would benefit from added functional ingredients such as glucosamine, probiotics and prebiotics? Remember, all balancers apart from those designed for stud, contain a negligible levels of calories when fed at the recommended ration and therefore those labelled with terms such as ‘Lite’ or ‘Low’ do not necessarily mean that they are the most suited to your horse or pony. If you are unsure which meets your horse’s requirements, speak to a nutritionist.
Overall balancers are your heros this spring/summer, ensuring that your horses and ponies get everything they need without weight gain. Additionally due to the negligible levels of starch and sugar, they are suitable for many of those tricky cases too!