Feeding for Condition

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Improving your horse’s condition isn’t just about pumping him full of food but, if he needs to gain weight, he will need to consume more calories than he expends.  Very often, a look at what you are feeding now will reveal a shortfall, either because your horse is not getting enough feed or because the feed isn’t suitable for the job in hand.  

If it’s only a little extra condition you’re looking for and you find you’re under-feeding your current mix or cube, simply giving the manufacturer’s recommended amount may get the desired result.  In order to make a real difference though, a closer look at what you’re feeding is called for.

The key is to look at the energy (calorie) content of a feed, measured in Mega Joules per kilogramme (MJ/kg) and called Digestible Energy (DE).  The higher this is, the more calories are provided per scoop (per kg); this way meal sizes can be kept controllable whilst still increasing your horse’s overall calorie intake.  With an eye to meal sizes, all our products are made to be as digestible as possible so your horse is likely to get more per scoop of a Baileys feed than from a scoop of a less reputable brand, which may be cheaper but you’ll probably need to feed more of it.

What’s more, you can’t transform substandard ingredients into a good feed and, even with the highest quality ingredients, you still need the most effective processing techniques to make a healthy, nutritious feed.  Baileys have both the production technology and the skill to do just this, as well as the integrity to make no compromise on the quality of ingredients despite current market trends which may affect less reputable brands.  

And it’s not just the calorie content and digestibility of the feed that counts. Other nutrients like protein, oil, vitamins and minerals, all contribute to the development of the top line, muscle tone and coat shine that go with outstanding condition.  The skill lies in selecting ingredients that supply these in the most useful and available form so the horse gains maximum benefit from each mouthful.  It is not just a numbers game and high levels of a nutrient, vitamin or mineral are not always the answer, particularly if they are provided in a form that the horse cannot effectively absorb and utilise.  

Because each horse is an individual, Baileys have developed a range of feeds, containing a variety of energy sources, all of which can be fed on their own alongside ad lib forage to supply a fully balanced conditioning diet.  Use our advanced Feed Finder  tool to help you choose which is likely to be most appropriate for your horse, whilst full feeding guidelines are given on each sack as well as on our web site.  To make the most of your chosen feed, do follow these guidelines and divide the daily ration into as many small meals as you can.  Adding chaff or soaked sugarbeet is fine but be careful not to over fill your horse’s bucket; his stomach has limited capacity and large meals may not be digested effectively and can cause problems.

Having chosen a conditioning feed, avoid the temptation to “dilute” the effect by adding a lower energy mix or cube or to unbalance the diet with straights, like barley.  You are likely only to prolong the development of the condition you are looking for by reducing overall calorie intake or affecting other nutrient levels.  Once your horse is looking great, you may find that you can maintain this with a lower energy feed, especially if you’ve got spring grass to back it up.  Don’t forget to feed according to recommendations though, for a fully balanced diet, and be prepared to change again if workload increases or cold weather approaches.  Feeding a fully balanced diet year round, through work, rest or recuperation, will help your horse maintain internal nutrient reserves (not just fat), avoid huge fluctuations in condition and be a credit to you wherever you go.

Why not just more fibre?

If your horse is given ad lib forage he should be getting all the fibre he needs to keep his digestive system healthy and his mind happy.  Complementing this with a comparatively small volume of a highly digestible conditioning feed is the most effective way to promote weight gain and will suit all but the most highly strung of horses.   

For those who are poor eaters of traditional forages (hay or haylage), or if the nutritional quality of these is questionable, Baileys Alfalfa Blend or Alfalfa Plus Oil are useful alternative sources of digestible fibre and quality protein.  They are best fed in a separate bucket, perhaps with Speedi-beet or Fibre-beet, encouraging natural foraging behaviour and improving fibre intake and thus digestive efficiency.