I’m not quite sure what to title this post, so if anyone has a better one, feel free to leave it in the comments.
I’m often tagged on people’s requests for feed advice on FB forums. I usually just post my blog address and move on. Today I checked back on one of them and found no less than 42 advices on what this person should feed her horse to put weight on it. The only information given was that it was a mare and a TB.
To be fair, some of them did inquire as to the horses health and deworming status. But the majority of them said something like “Tribute! Love the stuff” or “Safechoice and Cool Calm, worked for my horse!”
I suppose you get what you pay for but I was sincerely alarmed at the sheer number of answers, all different. What truly stood out was that there are A LOT of choices out there and clearly people don’t understand what questions to ask and how to sort through the information out there. That is a daunting task; with all the processed feed sources available I don’t know how anyone could keep up. I suspect most decision are made based on what the feed store sells and a hit or miss approach to feeding. The amount of trial and error documented in that single thread also made me believe most people would come out better off, financial and for their horse, if they simply consulted first with someone to help them figure out a solid nutritional plan for their horse from the beginning.
I recently went to a feed seminar to observe and while the basic concepts certainly were correct, what it took to get to a complete nutritional profile was just as complicated as any custom feed program. In his defense, he was clear that one feed cannot fit the needs of all horses – in spite of the bag stating exactly that.
When I meet with a new client I get a history of the horses diet, health and work. I do a physical examination of the horse and discuss its deworming history and dental care. I ask what concerns the client has and what their capacity is for dealing with feeding programs. We discuss hoof and hair coat quality and what those things mean in the bigger picture. We discuss what their vet’s input has been and what tests might be appropriate to run. After coming up with an initial plan, I run it through Feed XL to be sure all the major categories are fulfilled and then we do a trial run for 3 months. There is usually some tweaking to be done after that and some horses change diets between summer and winter (grass, no grass).
Initially it can seem overwhelming. If you are used to scooping out processed feed from a bag, it can seem downright daunting. Many of the Uckele products I use can be sourced as individual items or as complete vitamin/mineral supplements; so this can be worked around if necessary . Uckele will also mix custom supplements if required. If the horse is kept at a boarding barn, extra care must be given to minimize supplementation or the owner must be willing to bag feed. Personally I’ve gone this route and been pleased with it; there’s no better assurance that your horse is actually getting the diet you’ve chosen than counting out two weeks worth of bagged feed stuffs and having two weeks of empty bags returned to you.
In the end, the majority of my clients comment that once they got in the habit of feeding comprehensively rather than just scooping out of a bag it became easy. A few are not able to make the adjustment and so I help them find a simpler solution that works for their horse and them, even if it’s not optimal – sometimes you simply have to meet people where they are at. This is better resolution than “a scoop of Safe Choice and some Cool and Calm”. It’s all about the horse and if moving to a quality ration balancer and oats is an improvement, then the horse benefits. And that’s what this is about.