The nutritionist's recommendation....seems extreme

I consulted with an equine nutritionist recently. My gelding isn’t in dire straits at all, but he’s a relatively hard keeper.

She suggested some very big changes to his diet. He already gets free choice hay (and is out on grass all night), and that – of course – wouldn’t change.

He’s currently eating 2 lbs equine senior and 1 lb ration balancer for breakfast and dinner. She suggested taking him off these altogether, and replacing them with soaked timothy pellets – creating an almost entirely forage-based diet (I say “almost” because there are some vitamin supplements and fat supplements she also recommended).

This feels extreme to me. I’m scared to even try it. Take a hard keeper off grain entirely? I would love the input of anyone experienced in this regard.

ETA: the reason she doesn’t like commercial grain per se is because it contains known inflammatory agents like soy, molasses, corn, wheat, etc. Also, it spikes blood sugar, whereas we want blood sugar to be stabilized.

I don’t think it seems extreme, thought she probably recommends this same path to all of her clients. My entire barn is on a beet pulp/alfalfa pellet mash with a vitamin/mineral supplement. None of them get commercial grain, even the hard keepers. Some just get more, some get less. And it makes it easier to create an “a la carte” blend for the ones that need something extra like a fat supplement or some oil.


My hard keeper, baby brain, OTTB is off all grain. 24/7 grass hay, beetpulp, lucerne chaff, balancer pellets. Oil if he need more cals. He looks shiny, and tones up in work. Grain sends him stupid.


2 lbs of which brand senior? Some are better quality than others. He’s already got free choice hay, but what quality is it? Does he get any alfalfa?
When you call him a hard keeper, why? What happens that makes him difficult to keep weight on? Does he pace around, worry a lot, things like that? Ulcers? Teeth attended to? How old is he? What is his workload?
What brands/products do you have easy access to?

Without knowing any of that… I would say that 2 lbs is not enough to “spike blood sugar” to a degree that would worry me (unless IR is involved?). I would not have any problem feeding him a mash of hay pellets with added VM. But, will he eat soaked food? Some horses will not. And even if they do, how much of it will he eat? When weight is an issue, sometimes the volume a horse will eat is key. Adding a fat - if they’ll eat it - might help. If this were mine… I would try it, I guess. Give it 30 days.

What were you hoping to gain by consulting with the nutritionist?


This does not sound extreme at all to me. Forage based diets are becoming well used, a d I would give it a go. The only question for me so far is to make sure there is balanced mineral nutrition.


What are this person’s credentials as a nutritionist?

Did the “nutritionist” see the horse in person?

Did the “nutritionist” test your hay? If so, what were the results?

Does your horse have inflammatory issues?

Other issues?


I’m doing it too and my horses have NEVER looked better.

I’m feeding a 1 cup timothy pellets, soaked to mush and feeding twice a day along with:

1 scoop (1IU) Elevate Vit E (since they get very little fresh grass d/t IR and PPID)
1 scoop Horse Tech Hay Balancer for grass hay
1 scoop Calcium/Magnesium supplement by Horse Tech
2 oz Stabilized Flax from Horse Tech
3/4 TBL loose white salt (and I provide three types of hard salt blocks in case they want more)

and I sprinkle Enrich Plus over the top and mix in. Otherwise they don’t finish their meals. The sprinkle ensures bowl licking. Something about that Enrich Plus. :grinning:

Also test my hay and supplements are fed to get the minerals right where they need to be.
Also supping my old guy with Tri Amino since he has less than perfect hoof quality.


This wouldn’t concern me at all. As long as you’re replacing calories with calories, covering the v/m bases and the horse is getting adequate protein and fat, it should be fine. I have been feeding a forage based diet that is probably similar for several years and have nothing but good things to say.

4lb/day total of senior grain doesn’t scream hard keeper to me, though. Unless it’s a pony or something.


All diets are forage-based :slight_smile: This change can be just as healthy as a commercial bagged “grain”, providing things they need, without things they don’t actually need (but that aren’t automatically harmful), or that they are sensitive to.

You’d need to make up the calories, probably in the range of 8200-8600, depending on the exact calories of (I assume Purina) Equine Sr, and the balancer. That’s around 8-8.5lb alfalfa pellets, to maybe 10-11lb Timothy pellets. Not all calories are equal, so for some horses, it wouldn’t take that many pounds of the hay pellets, and for some it might take a little more.

That’s a lot more volume, and definitely going to cost more.

I would seriously question their credentials. Where did they go to school? What degree do they have - MSc? PhD?

WAY more context is needed wrt inflammation and blood sugar spikes. I am automatically leery of anyone, “nutritionist” or not, who says those things automatically cause inflammation.

There’s nothing wrong with the new diet. But what made you seek a nutritionist - were there problems? Just wanted to know you were doing the “best” you could be doing?


But also - why 2lb of a ration balancer on top of 4lb of Sr? Calories? I would have gone to 5lb total of the Sr, and just 1lb of the Balancer


This is a very typical modern forage based diet. If you pick a good VMS then your overall nutrition is more comprehensive than with many ration balancers.

Hay quality really matters and if you are concerned about anything get it tested. Adding a couple of flakes of alfalfa is an excellent way to boost calories and protein for a hard keeper.


OP – not sure how a hard keeper would do on what the nutritionist suggested, but I’m more or less doing a similar diet with my easy keeper Morgan, though the goal is to reduce calories as much as possible, not increase them. She gets (now) 18 pounds of first-cut grass hay in 6 feedings, and the base for her “meals” is 1 cup of Purina Outlast since she has a history of ulcers. She also gets 1 scoop Thyro-L at each meal, Quiessence and SmartLamina pellets in the morning meal, and 1/2 cup Horsetech High Point Grass V/M pellets, an Equioxx tablet, ~8000 IU Ultracruz natural Vitamin E, and I scoop Animed Amiflex GL in the evening meal.

The point being, this is really a forage-based diet, since the V/M and Outlast are alfalfa-based with a small amount of wheat middlings. She’s in light work, and other than the constant battle to keep her weight down without causing ulcers, it’s a good choice for her.

If she was a hard-keeper, I’d be adding timothy and/or alfalfa pellets and/or soaked beet pulp, and increasing her hay. OR put her on a ration balancer at the max amount, plus these other things to keep her weight up.

Idk about extreme. I also wouldn’t consider a horse on the amount of grain your’s currently eats to be a hard keeper.

Like others have said, what are this person’s credentials? Are there other issues with your horse that you may have mentioned to her that you maybe didn’t get into here? Ulcers, loose manure, etc?



The dogmatic “No Grain!” people are about on par with the dogmatic “No Shoes!/No Blankets!” people in my book - that is, trendy and amateurish. But that’s just me. Tons of people love that shit, and swear by it nine ways to Sunday.

If I was considering this “lifestyle” for my horses, I’d look at the owners and trainers of horses whose performance and condition I most admire, and see what their regimens are like. In my personal experience, those people avoid dogmatism and trendiness in general.


I feed two of my equines a similar diet. Soy free ration balancer and beet pulp. One gets a full buffet of hay, other one get 4 lbs soaked hay, 3x a day double bagged.

Hard keeper gets all the second cut orchard/alfalfa he can eat and 12 lbs of TC Senior split over 3 meals.

I just ordered California Trace for my easy keepers to cut back even more calories and increase hay quality over the winter. My winter hay is a bit high quality for them.

So doesn’t sound odd to me.

Many forage balancers are fairly targeted in what they supply.
Ration balancers are broader-spectrum, and some balancers have as much of the trace minerals as some of the forage balancers, plus all the other nutrients.

Many forage balancers don’t macro minerals, or amino acids.

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I’m in this pocket market in Canada where we mostly have locally made products and all our ration balancers are kind of crap compared to a really good VMS like Mad Barn :slight_smile:

There may be much better RB in the US.


We have some excellent ration balancers for sure!

What’s an example of one you don’t like? I don’t know enough about some of the things in CN, other than the Purina products and Mad Barn.

I can try to get data from the local mills. Often it’s kind of hard to get. There are only 2 local mills in our market.

Ok, @JB the best I can do is send you some links that lead to PDF. Otter Co-op makes two lines, Matrix and Lifeline. There is a RB in both lines but it doesn’t have the minerals I consider important.