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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Mineral supplements in winter

I,ve got an eight year old 14.2 cream highland mare. Does she need a mineral supplement during the summer grazing. During the summer she has 1 pound of pony cubes, a double handful of showing chaff in breakfast and dinner. The pony cubes is split between two a third in the morning and two thirds at night. A mineral supplement in the morning the full amount for a horse on less then four and a half pounds a day. About 10 - 12 pounds of hay soaked at night. She only needs 6 pounds of hay but it keeps her happy and stops her from banging the door.

During the winter when stabled up she has the same feed but three pounds of pony cubes and a double handful of sugar beet per feed.

When I brought her down from Scotland two and a half years ago to Benfleet,Essex she went through a weight change. She came down in a January weighing 627k slowly went down to 527k in the winter. The reason being she was allowed to eat as much self grown hayledge as possible. She still stays at that winter weight. During summer grazing she tends to be about 580-600k.

I can justify the full mineral supplement in the winter, but what do you think about using it in the summer? During the summer heat and swet work I use electrolytes as well.

Kevin Murphy

Where are you from? UK

Re: Mineral supplements in winter

Hello Kevin,

Minerals, in large dosages, can causes metabolic imbalances, so it is wise of you to be prudent in their usage. True, during the winter, when she is not grazing, she is not getting as much of several minerals. However, you are also increasing her intake of pony cubes and sugar beet. So, it would be helpful for you to do a little investigating into how much of each mineral she is getting, even during the winter, to see if the mineral supplement you are using is appropriate. You can assess this by looking at the feed tags and the analysis on your mineral supplement.

In looking at her overall diet, she is getting a good balance of vitamins and minerals, especially through the use of haylage. There is some concern about feeding haylage to horses due to the danger of mold and bacterial growth, if the packaging is compromised. But, if kept clean, it is very nutritious.

During the summer, I do not recommend a mineral supplement, especially if the pasture grass is of good quality. If she is not getting any legume grass or hay (such as alfalfa or clover), then you may wish to offer her some as part of her overall hay ration. Legume hays have a higher calcium content than grass hays, as well as more vitamins A, C, and E.

During the winter, when she cannot graze, I understand your interest in supplementing her diet. And, in fact, it is generally a good idea. However, mineral supplements tend to offer very high dosages, and while a little is good, too much can be quite harmful. Minerals interact with one another and too much of one can cause a deficiency in another. So, I prefer the use of an overall multiple vitamin/mineral supplement that is meant to supplement a good diet, but not overpower one.

In researching some UK products, I came across two that you may wish to consider:
1. Scientific Nutritional Products puts out a Horse and Pony multivitamin/mineral supplement that is a good overall addition to the diet, especially during the winter. I found it on line at :

2. Equivite Original is another good product to consider: It can be found at :

So to summarize, I would suggest that you continue to offer hay or haylage ad lib. Provide her with a multivitamin/mineral supplement year round, and feed enough of your regular feed to maintain her weight. If she starts to gain, you may need to cut back. If she should continue to lose weight, you may want to add conditioning cubes or more showing chaff to increase her fat intake. (More fat will provide extra calories, without the risks of feeding more grain.)

I hope this is helpful. Thank you for writing.

All the best,

Dr. Getty