by Jessica Hein
1. Don’t choose a feed product based on its name.
“Just because companies use the terms ‘safe,’ ‘ultimate’ or ‘premium’ doesn’t necessarily mean that they are,” says Haydt.
2. Look at the product’s ingredients.
Check out feed products’ tags, where you can find a list of ingredients and observe the terms used. Are they specific ingredients or generic terms? Also, most companies list ingredients based on weight, so the substance listed first should be present in the greatest quantity.
“It is critically important for companies to list specific ingredients on the tag, and in the proper order of inclusion,” Haydt says, “but remember, something that may be listed fourth on the tag may still be a small inclusion rate.”
Notice the amount of ingredients listed. Extra-long lists may indicate the inclusion of many ingredients in very small amounts, making it hard to determine how much of each ingredient your horse is really getting, Morris says.
3. Look at the product’s guaranteed analysis, found on the feed tag.
“The more guarantees that a company makes is a commitment to the customer that they are confident on their product’s contents,” Haydt says. “All guarantees are open to testing by state regulatory agencies.”
4. Consider a forage balancer.
If you live in an area with plentiful hay or pasture, Morris suggests feeding a forage balancer—a feed product concentrated in vitamins and minerals, designed to compliment a forage-based diet. These products may be more expensive per bag than other feeds, but are generally fed in smaller quantities than traditional grain products.
“This is the most economical way to feed your horse and make sure they’re still getting all of their vitamins and minerals,” Morris says. “Today, almost every company has one. It is designed to provide a very safe, very natural way to feed the horse. It allows more room in the digestive tract for grazing and hay, so they have a constant level of fiber flowing through the gut.”
5. Don’t choose a product on price alone.
“If there is a feed out there priced lower than everyone else, there is probably a reason,” Haydt says. “You get what you pay for.”
6. Call the manufacturer directly if you have questions.
Contact information for the manufacturer of any grain product can be found on the feed tag attached to the product’s packaging—or on-line in most cases.
“If in doubt, call your feed company directly, and you should get any answer you may have,” Haydt says. “They will not share proprietary formula information, but they should answer anything else.”
Jessica Hein is a freelance writer. Send comments on this article to [email protected].