Why Do Horses Need Additional Supplementation?
In the wild, horses have access to a wide range of plants, herbs, bushes, and trees to forage on. However, domesticated horses have a limited amount of grass and hay to eat which may not have all the nutrients they need.
Horses may require additional nutrition when they are required to do strenuous work or exercise, are going through a growth spurt, during old age, or during periods of ill health.
A ration balancer is a horse feed that is designed to provide the essential vitamins and minerals that a healthy horse needs and is meant to be used with commercial feeds. If your horse is receiving complete nutrition from a ration balancer, your horse may not need additional nutrition. However, ration balancers do not add energy to a horse's diet. As such, if you are not using a ration balancer, you may want to consider providing loose minerals to supplement your horse's diet.
Why Are Loose Minerals So Important in a Horse's Diet?
Horses need a balanced diet with proper nutrition from vitamins and minerals that hay and most forages lack. Minerals are inorganic substances that are needed in relatively small amounts. Trace minerals are also needed but in even smaller amounts. Mineral deficiencies can occur when horses don't get enough essential minerals from their feed. The most essential minerals horses need include:
On the other hand, essential trace minerals include:
How Many Minerals Are Needed For A Horse?
The mineral requirements of each horse will vary based on:
- Activity requirements
- Physical condition
- Pregnant or lactating
- Any existing health issues
For example, lactating mares, late gestation mares, and young horses undergoing rapid growth will require more calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper to boost the minerals needed at these stages. As forage can vary greatly according to soil type, maturity at harvest, species, etc., it is best to have your forage tested to determine its mineral content.
For general health, you should also consider the ratios of the minerals to one another as well as the amount you provide. The 'Nutrient Requirement of Horses' (NRC) by the National Research Council lists the daily mineral content and needs of common foodstuffs for animals.
How Much Loose Minerals Are Necessary?
Loose minerals are trace mineral salts that contain high levels of chloride and sodium in addition to other trace minerals. They should not include calcium or phosphorus as these are normally already provided in daily feed rations.
Unlike mineral blocks that are left for horses to lick, loose minerals are prived in loose form. They should be fed in a specialised feeder where the horse has a free choice at any time to eat as much as it wants. They can also be added to the horse's feed together with other supplements.
The mineral salts in loose minerals are not considered dangerous even if consumed in large amounts but it is important not to allow the horse to overindulge. Normally, a horse will naturally eat as much or little as it needs every day so an overdose is highly unlikely.
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