Thinking of going off commercial grain and doing more of a forage set up.

This was suggested to me and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Her suggestion was, timothy pellets, Vermont blend supplement and flax with a choice to add beet pulp, alfalfa pellets or rice bran for more calories if needed. Thoughts? I currently have a ottb who is a hardish keeper with “ok” feet, he is barefoot and can be sensitive to ulcers. With a cup of aloe very juice daily, it seems to help wonders.

What are you currently feeding? Anytime you get off “non forage based” feed it’s a good thing. OTTB, hard keeper = free choice (best quality) grass + generous alfalfa. Add to that your VM package or ration balancer. If that doesn’t work then add fat based products, such as ground flax (my first choice). And plenty of turnout - with hay available if possible.

I think we need more details.

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That seems like a very standard diet plan.

But you need to have good quality hay, and feeding about 1/3 as alfalfa is often good for hard
keepers. Realize that the amount of hay pellets or beet pulp or even flax you can reasonably feed is not going to make a huge difference in calories. The hay pellets are just hay, and beet pulp is too bulky to feed in huge quantity. I would feed Tmothy hay free choice, plus about 5 lbs of alfalfa a day to start, and understand your hay pellets and beet pulp as a mash to carry your supplement and flax.

If he really will not keep weight on with this diet you can move to more oil based products. We have a local cool calories feed that is alfalfa meal plus soy oil. Some people put vegetable oil in the mash. Rice bran is also a fat source.

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Other than fashion, what reason to you have for doing this?

The diet you describe would no doubt be fine for many horses, but not for hard keepers, those in heavy work, or those needing a nutritional boost for poor feet/poor coat/what have you.

I have a hard-keeping TB myself, and he’d be a limp rack of bones on this combo.


I had no idea this was a fashion thing :lol:. This is why I posted my topic. I am just asking. Horse recently moved to a new farm. He is on about 25 acres of nice pasture with 11 other horses 24/7. He came from a similar situation but was only fed once a day. Here he is fed twice a day which is great. Both barns feed TCS. He also got a scoop of Alfalfa cubes at the old barn as well as timothy pellets. New barn is TCS only plus a half cup of flax. I do have the option to add alfalfa back to his diet which is what I will probably do FTR.

New barefoot trimmer suggested this new diet for him. Sounded like an option for his overall health and tummy. :confused:

Oh, hell yes.

I’m old, so I’ve seen a million horsey fads come and go: bitless bridles, Paddock Paradise, iron-free/blanket-free/grain-free/stall-free “natural” living, beat pulp, BOSS, magnesium, hair analysis, magnets, animal communicators, The 7 Games, The 4 Savvys, raw feeding, droopy brow bands, herbs, crystals, magical pink salt from the deepest caverns of the Himalayas . . .

I’ve even tried a couple of these myself. :wink:

But yeah, grain=evil is one of those things that an old-timer like me sees as silly and trendy, and many others see as perfectly normal and sensible. So try it and see if you like it. I personally wouldn’t with a hard-keeping TB, but it may work beautifully for you.


I am an old timer as well!!! I even bought The 7 Games :lol:. Wayyy back when, I kept a horse at a large full board farm for over 15 years that only fed oats. All the horses did great. Nobody did supplements, nada. It just gets you thinking. Are we doing too much?


TCS is a great feed. I would go with that and the flax and add the alfalfa in and see what you get!


Thank you Ob’s! That definitely will be the easiest route to start with!


That’s cute.

But yeah, I do know what you mean. I think feeding a dozen overpriced supplements and 19 pounds of grain every day, instead of simply getting off your ass and locating some decent hay, is totally nuts too, even though plenty of people do it.

I guess I just try to be common sensical about it.

If, say, I’m caring for a decorative mini or a fat Mustang or something, then sure - good forage, bare feet and an un-fancy multivitamin is probably going to be 100% fine. On the other hand, though, if I’m trying to keep a hard working, hard-keeping performance horse - especially one with bad feet - going strong, then no: I’m going to admit that this wholly artificial animal probably needs more than a “natural” lifestyle can provide. I mean, there’s a reason we don’t see horses that look like Winsome Adante careening around in feral herds, right?


A friend of mine just tried to do something similar. She wanted the “perfect” diet for her 7yo event horse. She didn’t want any regular concentrate feeds, did a custom mix vitamin/mineral supplement, Renew Gold pellets, and alfalfa cubes instead. The horse dropped weight and turned his nose up at her concoction. Our vet looked at her and said, you can draw up the ideal diet with number crunching and spreadsheets but it doesn’t do any good whatsoever if they won’t eat it.

she’s since switched to TC Senior and the horse is absolutely thriving on it. If it’s readily available at your barn and the horse will eat it, I’d go for that. We’ve put horses in our barn on TCS from underweight 4yo OTTBs fresh off the track to 20-something choke prone WBs and all have done well. Maybe I’m biased, but I really like it.


Trimmers and farriers always have lots of ideas. Some of which can be good and based on common sense, valuable experience and evidence, or could also be very bad and based on whatever wild crackpot theories they come up with on their own and then spout off to their captive audiences for hours at a time every 4-6 weeks like gospel. Most are somewhere in between. Keep that in mind.

TSC is a really nice feed. It is alfalfa and beet pulp based and has added rice bran. It also has wheat middlings and soy products and some amount of added sugar, but it is still a very nice forage-based feed with a fairly low nsc. Unless you are specifically trying to eliminate those products, which are fine IMO for most horses in reasonable amounts, then I really don’t see the benefit of reinventing it oneself with some willy nilly with some alfalfa pellets here, beet pulp there, add a little rice bran, then some random hay pellet or other product or whatever, plus a vitamin/mineral supplement. I mean it can be done, and it does benefit some horses that are especially sensitive to certain ingredients like soy, etc, but it is more often a pure unbalanced hassle.

I’d feed the recommended minimum TCS then titrate from there with TSC to desired horse weight. It is the most bang for you buck in terms of calories/volume and the simplest for the barn to feed. You could also add alfalfa pellets onto the TSC, but it will be less calories per pound than TSC at the same volume. If you believe that the alfalfa itself has stomach/ulcer benefits for your horse, then it might be worth doing for that reason. If you truly want to go pure forage products alone, then you will probably need to feed a larger volume of alfalfa and or beet pulp and hay pellets in whatever combo than the amount of TSC that he currently requires to maintain or gain weight. And also add a vitamin/mineral supplement.


Here is one more vote for not complicating your life, and not complicating the barn’s feeding program, if you can help it. Stick with the Triple Crown Senior. Maybe feed a third serving.

Another thing is that may or may not matter to you is that the standard serving size of Vermont Blend, for a 1000-lb horse, is half a cup. The standard daily amount of TCS is 6 lbs. My horse – who is on essentially the diet the OP’s hooftrimmer recommended-- would much rather tuck in to six pounds of Senior than to his half a cup of Vermont Blend (well, actually, he would rather have both).

I have no problem with things being in fashion or not; that’s not even relevant, if they’re good. But if a horse is boarded out and is well-served by a quality commercial product with heavy research and quality control behind it, I would look no further. That frees up time to worry about the best saddle, and the best bit, and the best stretching exercises, and the best saddle pad, and…


IMO concentrated feed should be the last thing you add to keep weight on a hard keeper and the first thing you take out when you’re trying to get them to lose weight. So IMO, if you’re maxing out the amount of hay you can give him, meaning he has 24/7 access to it, preferably with some alfalfa, and he can’t keep weight on, then time to move up to a concentrated feed.

In an ideal world, yes if you can keep weight on them just fine with hay/ forage and a ration balancer then do that. However, if that’s not enough you need a fortified feed in addition to the forage.

I see where your farrier is coming from but not every horse can be on a 100% forage diet. A lot can, not all. While we’re on this subject, not every horse can go barefoot either which is why I’m verrrryyyyy suspicious of “barefoot” trimmers. In the end I would make this a conversation to have with your vet and not your farrier.


Heavens yes. :lol: Is the farrier a nutritionist? I could say the same about most vets I know too.

At any rate I stand by my earlier comment: Barn is feeding TCS. Twice a day. How much per serving? Adding ground flax to that. You have the option to add alfalfa HAY - please take them up on it. You say 25 acres of reasonable pasture (lucky horse). Go with it. See where it gets you. Give it 3-4 mos. Then come back and see if you need to tweak anything.


I have personally been down the rabbit hole of feeding forage only to my horses. It got expensive, complicated, and time consuming pretty quickly. First, you have to order your vitamin/mineral supplement - and they are expensive for the good ones - and you need to order ahead since they can not be bought locally. Beet pulp and hay cubes need to be soaked, and of course those need to be bought locally. So every meal required soaking, mixing of the forage products, addition of vitamin/mineral, and then washing all of the wet buckets and setting up beet pulp, etc., to soak for the next feeding. When I went to write down feeding instructions for my husband I realized just how time consuming and complicated feeding had gotten. I also felt like I was adding dribs and drabs of things without really knowing what I was doing nutrient wise.

So, I went to TC Balancer Gold with a tiny bit of TC Sr Gold for my easy keepers. TC Sr Gold for my old pony. Everyone gets salt and flax added. Super easy, everyone likes it, and they all look great. I have since added some soaked Timothy pellets and alfalfa pellets back in for the pony, who is losing her ability to chew hay. Feeding this way is much easier and less complicated, and also less expensive in the end.


HAHAHAHA! True story! I just sold my dressage saddle and bought a close contact. Want to start jumping again. Soooooo many new things to look at :lol::lol:

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I kept my horses alive and thriving for years with Western oats, corn, alfalfa pellets, around 12 pounds of fescue hay a day, trace mineral salt and 20 minutes to 2 hours grazing a day. My horses were an Anglo-Arab, some Arabs, a Paso Fino mare and a POA. I adjusted each feed according to the condition of the horse and the weather, extra hay and corn in the winter. This went on for years.

No supplements, ration balancers or anything else.

I switched to straight grains because I got sick and tired of paying for molasses and inferior grain.

Ah. The farrier nutritional guru. I’ve got one. Love the man dearly. He does a JAM UP job trimming feet. He is the best kind of barefoot trimmer. He has the tools and experience to hot shoe and promises that if he can’t fix hooves with his barefoot trim he will shoe. Always on time. Horses love him. BUT he believes horses should only eat hay and live in dry lots. I nod and smile. I’ve got what I would call a medium keeper. He looks good, fleshy but not too heavy, on free choice coastal, a flake of alfalfa, 6 lbs a day of TCS plus EO3 oil and he is OUT of work right now. I’m not sure how much alfalfa hay I’d have to give him to eliminate the TCS. A lot? In moderate work, he packed away similar but with 3 flakes of alfalfa (or perennial peanut) and stayed in a similar body condition.


If you’re going to do something like this I’d suggest using something like FeedXL to get a look at the total nutrients provided…keeping in mind that more of something isn’t necessarily a good thing, and that includes vitamin/mineral supplements. IME the barefoot farrier diets are all rather whackadoodle, and my herd is all poster children for the type those approaches are for.

One shortcoming with FeedXL is that their hay analyses may not be accurate to your region. If you want to go that route, you really need to test your hay. How much grazing your horse has also matters as well.

I have a hard keeping senior pony now and hay, alfalfa, flax and salt cover everything for her. When I ran this diet through FeedXL it turned out it provided more protein for less money than TC Senior…if I can get better nutrition for less money with my own mix vs TC Senior I prefer that.

I’m not at all opposed to oats, especially for a TB. Mostly alfalfa is also totally fine for many horses.