What is a ration balancer?
A ration balancer is a pelleted product formulated to provide protein, vitamins, and minerals without significant amounts of carbohydrates or fat. Ration balancers for horses are formulated to be very concentrated, meaning you feed less while still providing your horse with the same amount of nutrients compared to a product with a higher feeding rate, like a performance or senior product.
Why feed a ration balancer?
Many horses today maintain their weight on hay or pasture alone. As a result, people often ask, well why do I even need to feed anything else? That’s a great question. The reality is that although your horse’s forage may be providing enough calories, it is very unlikely to be meeting all of your horse’s micronutrient needs. I’ve analyzed a lot of forage, and I’ve yet to see an analysis that is perfectly balanced for a horse’s nutrient requirements. Trace minerals are commonly deficient or found in subpar ratios to each other. While a lush pasture will typically provide the vitamins horses need, those vitamins are greatly diminished when pasture is dried into hay. In addition to this, hay can often be marginal in protein, especially relative to the needs of active, working horses. So, ration balancers, as their name implies, balance the nutrition of a forage-only ration.
Who needs a ration balancer?
- Horses that maintain their weight on hay or pasture alone. This can range from horses in work that are still able to consume enough calories from free choice hay to maintain their weight all the way to overweight horses on a diet. In fact, these two bookends of this group are perfect examples of why you really do need to feed a balancer product. Horses in work have increased nutrient requirements over their idle counterparts. Overweight and obese horses often have stressed systems with hormone dysregulation, and although they need less calories, they really need precision nutrition to help their bodies return to normal and healthy function.
- Horses being fed an unfortified ration to meet their energy needs. Some people prefer to feed simple whole grains, like our triple-cleaned Exacta oats to provide calories. Coupling oats with a balancer will ensure your horse’s micronutrient needs are met.
How do I feed it?
Feed a balancer like you would any other concentrate. Directions on the bag will indicate how much to feed—typically 1 to 2 pounds for a 1,100-pound horse, depending on their life stage and workload. My 9-year-old appaloosa, Tio, is about 1,000 pounds and in very light work as a leadline lesson pony. I feed him 1 pound of our Ration Balancer to fill in all of the nutrient gaps left by his hay.
But Dr. Devan, the tag says 30% protein. Isn’t that way too much?
After answering what a balancer is, the next most common question I see is in regard to the protein content. Many people look at the tag and do a double take at this number. The key is to consider the feeding rate. Because balancers have such a low feeding rate, you are ultimately feeding similar or lower amounts of protein compared to another product. I’m a visual learner, so let’s do the math.
- Protein requirements are listed in grams, so we first convert pounds to grams
1 pound = 453.6 grams
- Next, we multiply the amount of protein in the feed by the amount of feed
0.30 (aka 30%) × 453.6 grams = 136 grams of protein in 1 pound of balancer
- Now let’s compare that to 5 pounds of a 12% protein performance feed
5 pounds × 453.6 grams = 2268 grams
0.12 × 2268 grams = 272 grams of protein in 5 pounds of a 12% feed
So even though the balancer contains more protein as a percentage, because it has a much lower feeding rate, it has a much lower amount of protein than a typical portion of performance fed.
Why choose Woody’s?
The best ration balancer for horses goes beyond the numbers. Woody’s products are all formulated with premium, locally sourced ingredients and without any added iron. They contain chelated minerals in the ideal ratios for optimal bio-availability and yeast culture to help support your horses’ digestive system. Woody’s Ration Balancer is grain free and low in nonstructural carbohydrates making it a safe choice for all horses and especially those with metabolic concerns such as insulin resistance.
For more information or for help balancing your horse’s diet, reach out to us here!
Now get off your computer and get on your horse! I’ll see you at the barn!