Deciding on a feed

Ever since I knew I’d be taking over care of the horses, I’ve been thinking about what horse feed they ought to eat. At their current barn, they’re eating a combination of Heritage Performance 14%, alfalfa pellets, and beet pulp along with good quality grass hay. The horses look fine- they’re both about a 5 on the Henneke scale, and Moe has maintained his weight pretty well for the last couple of winters.

"DO YOU HAVE FOOD FOR ME?"
“DO YOU HAVE FOOD FOR ME?”

However, I’d like to switch to a feed that won’t require me to also feed alfalfa pellets and/or beet pulp. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on feed!

Here are the facts:

  • Both horses are seniors (ages 19 & 21)
  • Both horses are in moderate work (ridden w/t/c approximately 4-5 times per week)
  • Neither horse has trouble eating forage or concentrates
  • Neither horse has health issues (teeth are in good shape, no metabolic issues, no ulcers, etc.)
  • Both horses are turned out ~12 hours/day
  • Both horses receive good quality grass hay (~20 lbs/day)
  • Neither horse is a picky eater

What kind of feed have you had success with? What hasn’t worked for you?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

21 thoughts on “Deciding on a feed”

  1. The feed they’re getting now is pretty decent. How many lbs per day are they eating?

    Henry is on Triple Crown Senior. I’ve had a lot of luck through the years with the TC feeds… they’re fairly easy to get around here and pretty consistent. Plus they have real ingredients, not “by-products”. I like the Senior for my horse in particular because it’s high in fat (10%) but low in starch (6.7%) and NSC (11.7%). That makes it easier to digest, better for ulcer prone horses, etc. The Senior in particular is beet pulp based and grain-free. He eats 6lbs a day, which is right around the minimum for a horse in his workload… they can eat quite a lot of it (if they need to) without getting overloaded on sugar and starch. Plus the senior is soft and easy to chew. I don’t supplement his feed with anything, just regular coastal hay. He never looked as good on Purina or Nutrena as he does on TC. I had a hard time keeping weight on him before.

    But really it depends on your horses, how you want to feed them, what brands are easy for you to get, etc. There are a lot of good choices out there now.

    1. They’re currently eating 5 lbs/day of the Heritage. (Which is a little under the recommended feeding rate.)

      I’d like to feed the TC Senior, because I’ve heard so many good things about it! Unfortunately, the closest feed store that carries it is 45+ minutes away in an area that I don’t have any other reason to go to. I’ve asked the local feed store to see if they can get it.

  2. Feed recommendations can be so tricky based on where you are! We can’t get much besides Purina, Nutrena, and ADM around me. I’d love to try Triple Crown or even Crypto Aero, but I can’t get my hands on any without driving for hours, ugh. Your local feed store might have a nutrition rep — probably for the brands they sell, but they can still be valuable sources of info!

    1. That’s sort of what’s going on here- Purina, Nutrena, and ADM are the most accessible feeds, along with some blends from local mills. I have a friend whose degree is in animal nutrition; she’s given me a few ideas, but her basic philosophy is “do whatever works best for your horse” (which isn’t bad advice)!

  3. Ok, I am going to try not to write you a novel but I love my Purina products. My horses (21 and 7) have done well on them, and now that we’ve moved to a barn where I don’t supply their grain, I have proven to myself that I kind of knew what I’m doing. My 21 year old is elderly only in age; she has all of her teeth, good digestive health, and isn’t any harder of a keeper than she was when she was eventing vs. her current job as a dressage horse a few days a week. Our new barn has become a challenge because despite getting the hard sell on their “professional grade premium feed” both of my horses lost weight and I’m supplementing them… with Purina.

    Previously, the OTTB was getting Ultium while eventing, and everyone told me to stop feeding her it because she didn’t need the calories once she was injured and had to be retired. I did eventually cut it 50/50 with Strategy Healthy Edge (HE), and then fed straight HE to my then 4 year old when I bought her. Both mares got the Ultium/HE mix once her calorie needs popped up (which was almost instantly). We had two cold winters, and the only downside to the hand mixed feed is that it froze into bricks at the feed store warehouse and was hard to break up and mix, which I felt I had to do because I was dealing with barn staff who couldn’t handle basic concepts like “give them one scoop from this can, and one from this can”. I swapped both horses to Equine Senior Active so I just had to dump bags in cans, and it worked out really well. It was higher in protein than the mix I had been feeding, but has a good fat content, beet pulp shreds in the feed and the “senior” features (beet pulp, higher fat, low NSC, prebiotics, etc) were all things I prefer for the young horse, anyways.

    The TL:DR of this whole scpeal agrees with Amanda: I’d go for something higher fat, low NSC/sugar/starch, regardless of brand. I generally am not a fan of feeding senior based on age, but I totally fed my young horse a senior feed because it met all of my preferences and requirements.

    1. That’s so frustrating to have a barn staff who won’t work with you much!

      The therapeutic riding center where I worked fed Purina Senior, and the horses seemed to do well on it; most of them were well into senior territory, many had poor dentition, etc. Their workload wasn’t especially high (walking 45 minutes a couple of times a day, 3-4 times per week), so even though I’ve had good experiences with Purina Senior, it’s nice to hear from someone with active horses who’s used it.

      1. I would definitely go with the Purina Senior Active (bluish bag) over regular Senior; the “Active” formula is much better formulated IMO – much higher fat, to start (and I’m allll about feeding fat). Here are some nutrition numbers I got from Purina in October of 2015:

        Senior Active – 1600 Kcal/lb, 15% NSC
        Senior – 1225 Kcal/lb, 15% NSC
        Strategy HE – 1300 Kcal/lb, 15.5% NSC
        Ultium Competition – 1900 Kcal/lb, 13% NSC

        I’ll love Ultium forever (and TSC in my area, at least, carries it) but it’s hard to know if you’re getting the nutrition at the lower feed levels (I was getting down to something like 4.5 lbs a day), which is why I was cutting it with something lower calorie (HE) that has a more concentrated feed rate so I could guarantee I was meeting the nutritional requirements. I think in a perfect world I might even go to feeding Amplify (the fat nugget Purina puts in everything) and a ration balancer with good hay, but that would definitely be the most expensive option since Amplify is hellishly expensive.

  4. I feed TC senior. I don’t feed a lot, generally. Rio gets maybe a quart twice a day (he’s a really easy keeper!) and the other two get about 2 quarts twice a day. I supplement with a chopped hay called Equisafe by seminole wellness. It’s really high in biotin which is great for everyone’s feet. It has done a great job keeping weight on the harder keepers. They also get hay three times a day. It’s just a grass hay, nothing fancy.

  5. I loved TC products when I used them, but lately have switched over to alfalfa pellets and Platinum Performance. Ok so Paddy just gets a teeny handful of pellets with his PP, Taran gets considerably more. Both have plenty of energy and are building muscle well (well Paddy’s building hair, but whatever).

  6. Due to similar access issues and $$ I feed Nutrena ProForce Fiber. It is a beet pulp based low NCS feed. I top dress with their extruded fat supplement and with Progressive Nutrition’s Pro Add, because we have 0 pasture and 1 very hard keeper. Both of my horses are in moderate work and younger than your kids, however, we have very little pasture and our hay isn’t awesome. I have found that it is better for me to get clean, well baled, low nutrition hay and make up the difference in feed. The sources for “better” hay usually are storing them for much longer and in our climate that always equals dust and moisture.

    I stay away from Purina, just personal preference.

  7. When I first bought Annie before we moved to Nashville I had her on Triple Crown Senior. It really helped her put some weight on. Now that we are in TN my barn feeds Tribute feeds or we can opt to feed KER. Annie is on Kalm Ultra and Essential K for a ration balancer and then has access to good hay in the pasture and in her stall. Quality hay has made the biggest difference for Annie.

    With Luna I opted to reach out to Tribute and was able to speak with an equine specialist re what they would recommend she be fed based on her age and size. Due to her access to good pasture and quality hay the specialist said that I could offer up to 1lb less daily than the recommended quantity. I was very concerned about over or under feeding due to the impact it can have on a developing horse.

    If what they are on has been working I would ditto others and suggest that you try feeding the recommended quantity to be able to cut out the alfalfa cubes. I have never fed alfalfa cubes though so not a lot of experience there.

  8. Cosmo has been doing well on Strategy GX (they also have an alfalfa based one) for the past year and half. I just upped his feeding to a scoop of Strategy and a scoop of rolled Oats twice a day (on top of grass hay, that has lately not been stellar) and he has been looking the best since I have had him. The extra work and conditioning is helping, too.

  9. The Soul of a Horse blog has a lot of information about feeding. I learned about CA Trace from that blog and add it to the grain I use. You may find the info interesting.

  10. I’ve had a lot of luck with Crypto Aero feed. Chimi in full work eats 1 cup 2x a day and he looks really good! I do add hay cubes to his diet only b/c he is prone to ulcers and i need them as an acid buffer. I’ve seen some horses I personally know (not just the promotional pictures) switch over to Crypto Aero and holy crap the changes are amazing. They looked great before C.A. but they look amazing now!

    Crypto Aero isn’t available everywhere but they are trying to be so it’s worth seeing if you have a rep in the area? They’re adding new stores all the time so even if you don’t have a rep now you might in the near future! I like it b/c you can feed less volume and still get the same or more nutritional needs as traditional feeds.

  11. I’ve seen great things happen with Purina Senior Active in our older horses. It contains loose beet pulp – we switched our older guys from a full beet pulp ration plus a full DuMor Senior ration to Active, and they look incredible on it. We only have a Tractor Supply near us, so feed types are pretty limited, but they do carry the Active. It comes in a blue bag (I think someone mentioned this already) and is pretty reasonable price-wise.

  12. You’re really lucky to have turnout to supplement. Ours only get hay. We supplement with our own beet pulp and ration balancer. Eugene and Nilla get rice bran when they’re in heavy work.

  13. We have several senior and non-senior horses at my barn that get Blue Seal Senior who all look amazing being in steady work.

  14. I used TC feed and liked it but they don’t have it up in Idaho. A friend turned me on to Renew Gold and I am obsessed with it. Its inexpensive because you don’t have to feed a lot.

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