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Owners are not supposed to be nutritional experts and the easiest way to determine what is in a specific feed is to ask the company.

Teresa Hollands, chief nutritionist at Dodson & Horrell, says: “We can help owners choose the right feed. It helps if owners take an honest look at their horse’s condition, especially the neck and the ribs, and mention any concerns they may have.”

On the spot, the best way to evaluate a feed is to look at it.The choice between cubes or mixes remains a personal one, but mixes can be more heating than cubes as they have a higher starch content. Fussy eaters can find mixes more palatable, but for horses being fed in the field, cubes may be more convenient.

“I like to see a mix that looks good enough to eat myself,” says Teresa Hollands.

“It’s easier to hide raw materials in nuts, which can utilise low-quality ingredients,” says Derek Cuddeford. “With coarse mix, you can identify the recipe and check that all the dust and grit has been taken out.”

To make the feed look more attractive and be more palatable, a glucose syrup is often added, which also increases the feed’s energy levels.

“There are almost no compound feeds that contain a higher sugar level than that found in spring grass,” says Deborah Lucas. “Horses are similar to humans in that they have a slight bent towards sweet products and even cereals contain between 2 and 5% sugar.”

For the average riding horse, Derek Cuddeford says: “Owners tend not to believe that everything necessary has been put in to make up the product and they add supplements, herbs and goodness knows what.

“They should have faith in their product and take advantage of all the information available from the top feed companies, who have invested heavily in research.

“There can be no cheap gimmicks in this game. Find a quality product that suits your horse and stick with it”

Feeding factfile

  • To choose the right feed you need to know the horse’s height, breed, girth measurement, work load, age, how many hours he is turned out and how much hay is being fed.
  • Calculate your horse’s weight accurately using a weighbridge or tape.
  • Feed little and often. However, if the horse or pony lives out, hard feed may not be needed.
  • If workload increases and forage is reduced, add some good-quality fibre to the hard feed.
  • Quality of feed is important – you get what you pay for.
  • If your horse likes the feed and looks good on it, stick with it.
  • Check that the bag confirms the product is free from prohibited substances.
  • Check whether you need to add vitamins and minerals as they may already be included by the feed manufacturers.
  • Vegetable oils are a way of providing energy and help promote stamina, a shiny coat and good skin.
  • Make use of the helpline many feed companies provide.