Protein and Equine Ration Balancers: Let’s Do the Math

Nutritionist Dr. Clair Thunes explains why ration-balancer protein contents might seem high but aren’t.
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Equine Ration Balancers
Most equine ration balancers have a recommended daily intake of 1-2 pounds per day. | Photo: The Horse Staff

Q. I have been reading several of your commentaries and see that you recommend feeding equine ration balancers on predominantly forage diets. When I looked at ration balancers at my feed store I notice that they tend to be high in protein, often around 30%. Isn’t that too much protein? I thought mature horses only need about 10-12% protein in their diet. What am I missing?

Via e-mail

A. This is a question I get asked quite often, and at first glance you are quite right. But if we delve a bit deeper I think you will see why the ration balancer doesn’t, in fact, offer too much protein

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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.

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