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

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


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

Dear Dr. Getty

I have two horses with very different metabolisms and dietary issues and am looking for the best way to balance their rations.

Number 1 is a 13.2hh 725lb Paint/Welsh gelding, 6 years old. He is a very easy keeper. His current daily ration is:
-12 lbs of 1st cut hay (mostly grassy - 2004 was a very bad year for first cut hay, so is probably not that nutritious)
-1 lb of Purina Roughage Chunks
-Additional free choice hay while outside
-Pureform Glucosomine Plus, a glucosomine-chondroitin-MSM product
-Vit E/Selenium
Currently, he is not working due to winter weather, poor footing etc. I suspect he could get by without the roughage chunks, but he needs to have something while the other horse eats - What about a vitamin/mineral supplement in pellet form such as Purina Equilizer or Buckeye Grow N Win?

Number 2 is a 16.1hh 1050lb TB mare, 13 years old. She is the opposite of the pony – a hard keeper, prone to ulcers, picky about her hay – spreads it around and eats the best parts – hates anything too “stemmy”. Her current daily ration is:
-12 lbs of a 1st cut Alfalfa/grassy mix hay
-2-1/2 lbs of Purina Roughage Chunks
-Free choice of the grassy hay mentioned above while outside
-Glucosomine Plus
-1 cup of vegetable oil (canola/soy).
She has some arthritic changes in her hocks and fetlocks. She is also very “hot” under saddle and stresses when away from her “herd”. Also not working at this time.

Both also have salt blocks in their stalls and are getting 1 TBSP salt in the feed morning and evening to help encourage them to drink during the winter.

1.Can the pony eat a grass/legume mix safely without risk of laminitis? What sort of mix do I want in a first cut hay – equal grass and legume or more of one or the other?

2.I’d like to be sure they are getting the correct minerals and vitamins, especially the pony, as he gets so little feed. Any suggestions? Do I need a different supplement to complement the two different types of hay?

3.Should I make any changes to the mare’s feed to help her with her high-strung nature, and to help avoid future ulcer problems? She will not eat beet pulp.

I'm really enjoying reading this forum. It is very informative. Thanks for offering it!


Where are you from? Ontario, Canada

Re: Ration Balancing

Hi Lisa,

After taking a close look at what you are feeding your horses, I have several suggestions:

1. Feed both horses a 50/50 mixture of grass and alfalfa. No, alfalfa does not cause laminitis. This myth is based on old research where we once thought that protein was the cause of laminitis. We now know that excess carbohydrates in the hind gut are the main cause of this metabolic disorder.

2. Supplement a vitamin mineral supplement designed for diets that contain alfalfa. The Buckeye Grow N Win is not my first choice since it contains iron (which I do not recommend supplementing) and it does not contain any of the B vitamins. Instead, go with a more complete supplement. I prefer Select I by Richdel (for alfalfa diets) or Select II (for diets that have very little alfalfa).

3. I realize that you are giving your mare oil to help her gain weight, but the soybean oil is exacerbating her arthritis. Soybean oil is high in Omega 6 polyunsaturates and these fatty acids actually promote inflammation. So, when a horse already has inflammation problems (such as joint pain), I do not recommend soybean oil. Canola oil is good. But, better yet – give her a flaxseed meal – it is far more nutritious and contains valuable omega 3 fatty acids.

4. To help prevent future ulcers, your mare needs to be able to feed on roughage at all times (which I believe you are doing). And, I would strongly recommend a probiotic. I often recommend Ration Plus because it is also high in the B vitamins, which aid in calming the nervous system.

Thanks for writing! I’m pleased that you’re enjoying the website!

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Re: Ration Balancing

Hi Doctor Getty!

Thanks for your response. I've started the mare on flaxseed meal, which thankfully she seems to like (picky eater).

You also recommended Ration Plus and Select I & II minerals. I just noticed on another post "fat for weight gain", that Select II has microbials, so you advised the poster to another try B-plex instead, since her horse would get the microbials from the Select II and didn't need the ration plus. Would this be the same for my mare (who will be started on Select I for alfalfa diets shortly), or should I still try the rationplus because of her history of ulcers? Don't want to over-do anything. Or perhaps I should try her on the Select I for a bit and see how things go?

Thanks again - love the site!

Also, out of curiousity, you mentioned that you don't recomment supplementing iron - why not?

Where are you from? Ontario, Canada

Re: Ration Balancing

Hi Lisa,

Yes, that’s true – Select I does have microbials – it was the B vitamins I was after and the extra microbials are helpful in this case because of her history of ulcers. So I would still recommend that you use the Ration Plus.

I don’t like adding iron because horses are rarely iron deficient. They are able to store large amounts of iron in their cells and they get plenty of iron from hays.

Keep me posted!

Dr. Getty