“Nutrients not calories”: The balancing act of horse feeding

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Hay and grass simply cannot provide enough energy (calories) to support the additional requirements created by exercise, work, and performing.
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A British feed manufacturer has launched a new online campaign to help horse owners learn about the benefits of balancers to help keep horses healthy and slim, and the move has been given the thumbs up by a leading UK vet.

Newmarket veterinarian Lucy Grieve has applauded the Nutrients not Calories initiative by Spillers. She says up to 70% of the UK equine population is overweight, and require a weight loss diet which excludes compound feeds altogether.

Balancers are worth their weight in gold when a horse needs to cut back on calories but not nutrients, and used in addition to appropriate management they can help reduce the risks of obesity and its associated conditions such as laminitis. Throughout the summer, nutritionists at Spillers will be publishing a series of blogs, videos and infographics to explain what balancers are, the power of feeding by the cupful rather than by the scoop and the daily nutrients horses need beyond those supplied by forage alone.

Grieve, a frontline vet at Rossdales Veterinary Surgeons in Newmarket, says a balancer is appropriate for overweight horses to allow the animal to receive what it needs without the excessive calories that are going to do it more harm than good.

“I think compound feeds are probably used too much by too many, where a balancer is usually sufficient,” she says.

“Unfortunately, many horse owners think their horse is in harder work than it actually is, warranting increased rations but hard work would actually be an advanced eventer or racehorse in full work! I try to persuade all my non-professional clients to start with a balancer (together with forage) before even considering a compound feed. It’s amazing how many weight and behavioural issues are solved by this simple move.”

Grieve said that every horse needed enough of the essential vitamins, minerals and quality protein to stay healthy. “But in my experience a lot of people still don’t really understand balancers and what lifesavers they are. I applaud Spillers for this educational initiative. We all love our horses and want to do our best for them and by opting for a balancer we can help to do just that.”

Clare Barfoot RNutr, Marketing and Research and Development Director at Spillers, said a good balancer provides optimum levels of vitamins, macro and micro minerals and amino acids to balance the base diet, with minimal calories and starch. “This makes them ideal for horses and ponies that keep their weight on a forage-only diet or those needing less than the recommended amount of compound feed.”

The Spillers Nutrients not Calories campaign starts this month and will include some product offers as well as new blogs every couple of weeks until the end of August.

» Follow Spillers on Facebook to find out more or visit www.spillers-feeds.com.

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