Q & A with Dr. Mark on complete horse feeds
Dr. Mark is currently working on a project to evaluate and ‘grade’ complete feeds. In our quest to address the fundamental nutritional requirements horses need to attain optimal health, we found that there is a lot of confusion when comes to All-In-One feeds, complete feeds, vitamin & mineral supplements and the difference between them all.
Many horses need a complete feed or a vitamin & mineral supplement especially horses that:
- Compete/Are in training
- Have compromised immune systems
- Are aging or senior horses
- Are in Rehab or post surgery
With various feeding instructions and a variety of ingredients, complete feeds can be confusing to the horse owner. Soon, Dr. Mark will have an extensive grading system but to get us all started here are a few answers.
What classifies a feed as a complete feed?
Basically you are taking any kind of a ‘grain’ or concentrate and theoretically adding all of your vitamin and mineral supplements to it. For example, rather than buying a vitamin supplement and adding it to a grain you are buying it already mixed.
Do you still need to feed to hay?
Absolutely. Although there are some complete feeds that claim to be hay replacers but I don’t recommend only feeding those because horses need long stem fiber unless you are traveling and unable to bring hay or if the horse is old or has dental issues and can’t eat/chew hay.
Does a complete feed contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals my horse needs?
Theoretically. For the most part I think that there are several good ones on the market but all have plusses and minuses in my book.
What are the most important ingredients to look for in a complete feed?
I think it is more important to make sure certain things are NOT in them.
Grains: oats, barley, rye, wheat, corn – These are all digested and absorbed as sugar leading to Insulin Resistance.
Grain by-products: These can be actual floor sweepings after a grain has been processed for human use.
Molasses: This is just processed sugar.
Soy: Typically low-carb or low-starch complete feeds contain large amounts of soy beans, soy hulls or both. Soy is relatively indigestible and it is VERY high in estrogens. This can cause problems for mares, geldings and stallions.
I would rather see the bulk of the complete feed be: alfalfa meal, grass meal, beet pulp, rice bran or flax. A few will have a combination of two or more of these which is great because it gives the horse a well rounded meal and it keeps the cost down because they maker is able to purchase what is cheaper on the market at the time.
Is it better to feed a complete feed rather than hay and a vitamin & mineral supplement?
For most horses, no, especially when an owner is feeding a low quality complete feed or one with grains and molasses.
I’ve heard that I should feed my horse oil? Is this true?
Yes, if your horse has EPSM or needs fat (weight gain or energy). Oil is just a concentrated high fat source. I personally think the healthiest oil to feed is olive oil. It is anti-inflammatory and hypoallergenic. I know olive oil is expensive but you don’t need to buy the Virgin or Extra Virgin, any olive oil is better than corn, canola, safflower, wheat germ or cocoa soy oil.
I have a picky eater, do most horses like complete feeds that don’t have molasses?
They will eat pelleted ones with alfalfa and rice bran. It might take a few weeks for the horse’s pallet to adjust to the new feed but generally if a horse is hungry enough he/she will eat.
I know that most stalled horses have ulcers, does feeding a complete feed help or hinder this condition?
Feeding complete feeds with molasses and grains hinder this condition because these ingredients promote an acidic environment while they are being digested. It also creates inflammation not only in the digestive system but the entire body including joints and muscles. The wrong complete feed will create ulcers because of these same reasons. A good complete feed won’t cure ulcers but it won’t cause them either. I suggest feeding Excel™as a preventative if you suspect your horse has ulcers.
If you could create the ideal feeding program what would it be?
I would feed slowly accessible free choice grass hay, which may need to be in hay net, and a good quality complete vitamin and mineral supplement. Most horses only need to eat grains or concentrates so we can get their supplements into them.
If a horse needed more weight or energy I would add alfalfa pellets, grass pellets, beet pulp, rice bran, flax, olive oil or a combination of those.
HyalONE® could be added for a horse needing joint lubrication.
Excel™ could be added to a feed program for a horse with ulcers or under high stress. This digestive conditioner is good for all horses.
If there is something obscure such as a heavy metal toxicity, allergies or a weakened immune system I would have them do a Horse Hair Analysis® test and then go on an HHA Personal Supplement® in addition to the free choice hay and complete vitamin and mineral supplement.
If you have specific nutrition questions for Dr. Mark, we encourage you to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on the DePaolo Equine Company Facebook Page. To read more about proper horse nutrition, please visit our Health Library on our website.