Should I Feed a Ration Balancer Once or Twice Per Day?

Feed manufacturers design ration balancers to make feeding horses simple. But is it better to divide a daily portion into two feedings?
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Should I Feed a Ration Balancer Once or Twice Per Day?
Feeding multiple small meals is preferable because it more closely mimics how horses eat in their natural setting and, therefore, how their digestive tracts have evolved to handle food. | Photo: iStock

Q. I like to keep my horse care simple and reduce the amount of time spent on chores. I currently feed my horses a ration balancer once a day for efficiency. Is that okay, or should I divide the ration and feed it to them twice a day?

A. As you’ve probably heard, feeding horses many small meals per day is preferable to feeding infrequent large meals. This applies to both forage and concentrate meals and, whenever possible, free-feeding forage is ideal. Feeding multiple small meals is preferable because it more closely mimics how horses eat in their natural setting and, therefore, how their digestive tracts have evolved to handle food.

As a result of the almost constant trickle of forage they would consume in the wild, horses stomachs are relatively small. Similarly, their small intestine is short when compared to other monogastric (single-stomached) animals such as pigs. The small intestine absorbs simple carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. If feed doesn’t have enough time in the small intestine, the enzymes necessary for nutrient digestion won’t have enough time to break nutrients down into absorbable components. Likewise, these components might not have the opportunity to get absorbed before they leave the small intestine. Once in the hindgut, not only are most of these nutrients no longer absorbable, but some—such as starch and simple sugars—might disrupt hindgut microbial fermentation

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

One Response

  1. Can you feed a balancer twice daily, for the a.m. and p.m. feeding? At the recommended rate or split? With all the grass, I am cutting back on their feed so much that I think it is pointless to give it to them now so I am considering feeding the balancer for the morning and evening feedings. Thank you!
    -F

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