An adult horse that does little or no work is said to be at maintenance. A mature, idle horse has very few physical demands placed on it and therefore has only basic nutrient needs. In fact, in many cases, if the horse has good-quality pasture and free-choice access to salt and water, little else may be needed for weight maintenance.
However, forage alone can’t deliver all of the nutrients a horse needs in the optimal amounts. Forage diets are typically lacking in trace minerals such as iodine, selenium, copper, zinc, and manganese. In addition, unless the forage is predominantly green pasture, the diet may also fall short in providing the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. For this reason, a special class of feed, called a balancer pellet, is often recommended for horses that are able to maintain an appropriate body condition on grass and/or hay with little supplemental feed. These low-intake feeds are excellent products for horses that do not require extra energy to maintain weight but need a source of nutrients that may be deficient in the forage.
In some cases, horses may gain weight on predominantly forage diets. This may result from very efficient feed conversion (easy keepers), excess intake, intake of higher quality pasture or hay than needed, or a combination of any of these contributing factors. In these cases, it is desirable to strictly minimize the addition of calories to the diet while maintaining the nutrient adequacy. For that reason, even the recommended intake of a balancer pellet may contribute too many calories. Supplying a concentrated vitamin and mineral supplement can provide optimal nutrient intake without excess calories to those with low energy needs, particularly those with metabolic issues or those that should lose weight.
Though idle horses have fairly low energy and nutrient needs compared to horses that are growing, working, or reproducing, they may still encounter challenges that can be overcome through targeted supplementation. Poor hooves, natural wear on joints, and inefficient digestion are just some of the issues at hand for all horses, even those considered to have only maintenance requirements. It is important to work with a professional nutritionist to help identify and additional supplemental needs your horse may require based on the risk factors in his environment and special needs.
Which solution is right for your horse?
Bio•Bloom™ PS. Prescription strength hoof and coat conditioner. A dual-action supplement designed to promote and maintain healthy skin, coat, and hoof condition from the inside out.
EquiShure®. Time-released hindgut buffer. Developed to combat hindgut acidosis, this innovative, one-of-a-kind delivery system allows for the buffering of the hindgut, the site of fermentation in the horse. Appropriate for horses displaying certain signs such as reduced appetite, chronic mild to moderate colic of unexplained origin, poor feed efficiency, stereotypical behaviors, and loose manure. Recommended for horses receiving large grain meals as well as those grazing high-fructan pastures, especially those with a history of laminitis.
Micro-Max. Ration fortifier. Micro-Max is a low-intake concentrated source of vitamins and minerals for mature horses. Micro-Max is ideal for horses that maintain body weight on diets of forage and small amounts of concentrate. The use of Micro-Max ensures that all vitamin and mineral requirements of mature horses and ponies are satisfied. Because of its low feeding rate, Micro-Max can be fed by itself or mixed with a concentrate.
Learn moreFeeding Horses - Just the Basics
Different Horse Feeds for Different Needs
Pasture Quality and Abundance Affects Contribution to Horse Diets
Assessing Energy Balance
Out of Work: How to Let Your Horse Down in the Off-Season
Revelations About Ponies and Pastures
Keeping Miniature Horses Healthy by Managing Diet