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

^ “Whackadoodle” is, truly, a wonderful word.

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Ok, I actually do subscribe to the same general diet guidelines as your trimmer is recommending. I love Vermont Blend, it does wonderful things for my horse - great feet, amazing topline, very healthy. A little too healthy. :lol: But it doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s not supposed to be a miracle cure. It does improve hoof quality, though.

If you want to try it, and the barn is willing to feed it, I don’t see a problem - no different than people putting their horse on 17 different useless Smartpaks to cure all their ills. :lol: Plenty of people who have switched to this style of diet report the horses are no longer hard keepers once the aminos/vitamins/minerals are at the right balance. If it sounds too complicated or expensive, you could simply add the missing elements to your TCS and give that a try instead.


My farrier has been drinking the same Kool aid. Barefoot trimmers have this belief that our soft manicured pastures cause all of our horses problems. Mine preaches dry lot, low use of commercial feeds, pea gravel to callous the hooves and sport boots.

Now, I believe in forage, free choice all day, forage based grains( half of my all guys ration is beet pulp/alfalfa pellets) then either a ration balancer or a performance feed depending on metabolism or work load. 2 of my stocky horses get ration balancer as suggested for weight, one TB gets ( 4lbs) of Nutrena Perform, my old mare gets 4lbs of TCS and the warmblood gets 7lbs a day Purina Ultium. All are fed 2x daily. Then add fat, I use BOSS, Cool Calories and Flax Seed meal. I use fat sources to control weight. Fat horse= lesser quality fat source. I have round, slick horses that live out 24/7 . My farrier comes early Saturday am and we usually stand around and talk while everyone is eating. He is always asking questions. He told me he switched his personal barrel horse to eating Ultium with Beet pulp,alfalfa pellet, BOSS, Cool Cal and Flax Meal and joint supplement. :winkgrin: He is also winning again at age 18 in his Old Mac sportboots.

To me feeding horses is about forage, fat and filling in the gaps for a balanced ration. You can actually take a grain bucket, make it up like a normal feed, mix really well, put some in a bag and take it with a hay sample to your local cooperative extension office and get it tested. Then you know what to supplement or that you are covered. I did this a couple years ago and made a few adjustments. I saved on unneeded supplements and horses looked better.

Not every commercially made horse is feed is perfect for your horse, I use three brands because that is what works best for the individual. Horses cannot wander over hundreds acres to supplement their diets, we have to provide that. With a busy life, few have time to correct prorate forage only rations. Plus not every alfalfa pellet has the same nutritional value.If a commercial (tested content) bagged feed fills the gaps, why not?


In general, obesity is the number one health problem among horses today ( as also with humans, cats, dogs). Once they get obese they tend towards metabolic syndrome (like pre Diabetes in humans) and you start to see laminitis.

The hope and claim of the forage based diet is that you can head this off, by cutting out concentrated carbohydrates (exactly like they tell human pre diabetics). However, I have watched easy keepers get obese and laminitic on a forage only free choice diet.

It’s important to look at the actual ingredients on a bag of feed, and the nutrient analysis. Many modern formulations like the one mentioned above are in fact non grain/low carb ingredients.

The big thing about diets is making sure the horse gets a full serving of vitamins and minerals. If you are able to feed the full amount of a fortified feed without the horse getting obese, that works. If you have an easy keeper, you might need to drop to a ration balancer or even a vitamin mineral supplement in a beet pulp or hay cube mash.

I have an easy keeper and I live in a part of Canada with no access to the big American feed brands. We have only two local mills, and only one of them does modern formulations. We are also in a grain exporting port. Plain beet pulp, alfalfa cubes, and oats are way cheaper than the bagged fortified feed. All this together makes the most sensible thing for me to do the VMS in a small mash route. I find it easy and useful to be able to vary the proportions and ingredients of the mash while keeping the VMS stable. I do also feed whole oats.

When I was looking after an anorexic OTTB mare, I followed this but also gave her 24/7 free choice hay in a wide hole hay net, so she could eat easily but not trample it. Getting enough good quality hay has to be the foundation of any diet whether you feed a commercial bagged feed or not.

Depending on where you are, pasture could be getting a bit skimpy this time of year and if horses are out all day foraging and nibbling they may not be actually getting that much to eat. My first thought if a horse on pasture is thin is to make sure he gets extra hay.

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How much TCS is he currently on?

Is the only reason you’re considering the switch because your trimmer suggested it? What explanation did she give as to why Timothy cubes and VB is better than Triple Crown Sr?

TC Sr is a forage-based commercial feed. There are no grains. There are grain sub-parts - the good stuff without/with less of the "bad’ stuff.

VB is not comparable to the nutrition from an appropriate amount of TC Sr. VB has a nice amino acid profile, very nice amounts of copper and zinc, no iron, biotin, selenium, but doesn’t have any vitamins - no A, D3, E - which is problematic for all-hay diets so you’d need to add your own

You’re going to be feeding around 50% more weight of Timothy cubes to hit that calorie range. If you’re only feeding a few pounds of TCS (which is under-feeding it to start), not a big deal. But if you’re feeding 8lb, then you’re looking at around 12lb of Timothy cubes, potentially

I have NO problem with the basic concept of DIY feeding programs. Picking a high end v/m supplement has the exact same process as picking a regular feed - without a forage analysis, it’s a best-guess situation. Some guesses are better than others, which is why hashing it out with a group can be beneficial. Most people are picking a commercial feed without any thought as to WHY it’s their choice, beyond price and/or location and/or taste and/or “it’s what the barn/friend/trainer/farrier uses”

You need to know WHY this is seen as a good move. If it’s the whole iron/copper/zinc deal, that’s easily resolved by adding cheap cu and zn do the TCS. If the trimmer just thinks all commercial feeds are bad, well, then… smile and keep her around for her trimming and seek nutrition advice somewhere else :winkgrin:


Vermont Blend is among the best nutritional supplements out there - with most forage, you are likely to be well covered in all essential nutrients. If you can test your hay to be certain, do so. If you can’t, you can often get a very good idea of the general nutrient profile of hay from your region from your local ag extension office. The nice thing about supplements like Vermont Blend (or California Trace, KIS Trace, Amino Trace + etc) is that they can pretty well remove the need to be a mad scientist figuring out ratios and concocting your own blend. The downside is that it’s more expensive, usually, than buying what you might need to balance your specific forage.I don’t use VB myself (hard to get for me), but I feed on similar principles and use a comparable supplement, and I’ll say that I’ve had absolutely no trouble keeping weight on my TB-types.

Lots of farriers and trimmers do, in fact, have solid education in nutrition. Nutrition has a massive impact on hoof health, and the principles behind a forage-based diet with appropriately balanced minerals are very sound.

Here’s the thing: some horses seem to manage well enough on a diet that would have forage-based advocates cringing in horror. Doesn’t mean those same horses wouldn’t grow a better foot or be easier keepers with some dietary tweaks - but if a horse is comfortable and happy, then all’s well. On the flip side, I’ve seen plenty of horses with issues from “just born with crappy feet” to significant lameness problems make leaps and bounds of progress by addressing diet - and not even necessarily mad-scientist style balancing: even simply cutting sugar as low as possible, replacing needed calories with no-molasses beet pulp, and upping CU + ZN intake can sometimes have a huge positive effect.

If your horse is in the first category and you still want to explore the changes suggested by your trimmer, don’t let someone scoffing and dismissing a “trend” stop you. I suspect your trimmer would be happy to point you in the direction of resources if you’d like to read up and learn more yourself, as well.

And if your horse is having any concerns with soreness, sensitivity, hoof quality, etc. - you say “ok” feet - which can mean many things :slight_smile: there is nothing in the diet suggested by your trimmer that is likely to cause any problems, so even if you are going in with some skepticism, there’s not much to lose. Though I will say when it comes to hoof quality, it pays to be somewhat patient - you do have to wait to see some new growth to be able to assess. For sensitivity, thrush etc. you may see much quicker results.

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My farrier thinks that the sugar content in the grass is too high and too variable to be safe. Between the sugar and the dew on the grass, he thinks horses are better off on the dry lot with hay. I guess I see his point, but my horse would be pretty sad if I never turned him out on grass!

IMHO, people who are calling this “new fangled” way of feeding a trend, or fad, are just uncomfortable with the idea of not using a professionally designed commercial feed.

IMHO also, this is becoming more widely talked about because when we know more, we uncover new options. The creators of these VB and CT and KIS Trace products created them to meet a need - balance the majority of forages in their area

It just so happens that their formulas also do a pretty good job balancing a lot of forages in the country

I’ve also seen more than a few hay analyses where a commercial ration balancer (Triple Crown 30, to be exact) did a better job balancing things than any of those.

All that means is what I said earlier - without a forage analysis, you’re guessing either way you go about it. And in the case of these forage balancers, they are not nearly as complete as regular commercial feeds. They simply have more of the things that tend to be the most deficient from an amino acid and/or trace mineral perspective.

If you’re feeding plenty of grass, VB might be just perfect. If not, plan to add Vit A and E. What THAT means is, just like you should have some basic understanding of nutritional needs and feed content when choosing a commercial feed, you need the same when choosing to go the route of hay pellets/cubes and a v/m supplement.


There are a LOT of trimmers it seems (and trimmers moreso than farriers, IME) who have gone so far to one side of all this, advocating that ALL horses need to be fed as if they are IR. Little to no grass, ONLY these “approved” feeds and supplements, etc.

I do think that in general, a larger % of trimmers have invested more time learning about nutrition than farriers. But there are absolutely farriers who have also done that. Some just take it to the extreme, with no tolerance for synthetic nutrients or added iron, insisting X type of mineral is better absorbed than others (despite research showing otherwise), and many other beliefs-presented-as-facts.


Yup. The man will tell you straight he treats all horses as if they are IR. He’s pretty good re minerals though. He knows we have a huge iron surplus locally and recommends VMS with no added iron and extra copper and zinc. I’m lucky to have him. He’s one of the very few guys I can find here that won’t leave me with long toes and under run heels. Plus he comes to the barn and trims my one horse, on time every time! Super guy, but yes he’s all for the hay only diet.

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I think that’s true, and you can see why it might pan out that way.

Placid, easy-keeping, IR-prone breeds, which are more likely to have amateur owners, less demanding workloads and lower nutritional needs, are more likely to be kept barefoot and need a trimmer.

High maintenance, hard-keeping sport horses, which are more likely to have professional or competitive owners, more demanding schedules and higher nutritional needs, are more likely to require certified farriers and shoes.

IOW, it’s kind of a self-sorting proposition - which is totally fine, so long as people realize that no one system is perfect for every situation.


I’ve been waiting for you. :smiley:

Reason for this switch? No reason really. It was just her suggestion and I got to thinking (silly me). I recently moved him from one 24/7 turnout to a new one. Original barn fed once a day, morning only. He got 1 lb TC 30, 3 qt TCS, 3 qt Timothy pellets, 2 cups rice bran, 3 qt soaked alfalfa cubes. New barn (just under 2 weeks here) now, 4 qt TCS am and pm. They started with less. Not sure why. Nice big barn so not worried about shadyness. Now that he has settled in, I would like to customize his feeding program for him. oh, they also add a cup of flax at pm feeding. I do have access to alfalfa and or timothy pellets to add if I like. Not sure how much and also on top of that should he also get any other supplements? He is a pretty big boy. 16.3 and pretty big bodied.

TCS is 1.08lb/qt, so he’s getting a bit over 8.5lb. That’s significant calories if you switched to just hay pellets, but the pellets could be lowered with the addition of rice bran or some other calorie-dense fat supplement. But then you’d have to add a v/m supplement, which means you’re complicating feeding time. If you’re not actively dealing with problems, the question is - is that worth it?

IMHO, the only real customization I would do is adding some copper and zinc, but even then, without a forage analysis, is it really needed?

I think it’s a good idea to explore the options, as it forces really learning what’s currently fed, and how you’d need to feed to also do a good job with nutrition. In THIS case, I personally wouldn’t change.


TCS is 1546 kcal/lb. So 8.5 lbs is 13,141 kcal. That’s a substantial number. Timothy pellets are around 800 kcal/lb. Alfalfa pellets are around 1000 kcal/lb.

If you wanted to make your life harder, you could cut down to the minimum feeding recommendation for TCS (6 lb.) to cover your bases on protein/vitamins/etc., and then make up the other 3,865 calories some other way.

Or you could go with a Rational Balancer like TCS 30 at 1266 kcal/lb. If you fed 2 lbs/day, you would then need to feed another 10,609 calories per day some other way.

Going with a ration balancer is sort of defeating the “commercial feed-free” idea though.

“Fashion” has nothing to do with going off grain for many horses.

I Have one who is grain and soy intolerant. I only found that out after I took my diagnosed insulin resistant horse completely off grain, products that use soy as the protein source, and products that have iron added to them.

The change, for the better, in the grain/soy intolerant horse’s attitude was so improved, even my non-horse husband asked “what happened to Rusty”.

I was raised on a dairy farm, granddad had beef and Welsh/Morgan’s. We fed the horses enough homegrown oats with added corn in the winter, to keep them coming to the barn at night. That was back before the lands were stripped of nutrients and before the phrase GMO became popular.

Much has changed in the landscape from that time. I took my first two Kkepers to ages 27 & 29 in the 80’s, feeding them oats & corn. One passed from cancer, the other developed high ring bone — nothing to do with metabolic issues.

To coin an English phrase, I was gobsmacked when one of my second group of Keepers developed metabolic issues. I put all of my easy keepers on that horse’s strict diet and darned if I didn’t have another horse develop even more serious metabolic issues five years later; I am still dealing with his IR/Cushings issues today - 8 very expensive years down the road…

I beg to differ with the word “fashion” when it comes to diet — some horses need to be “fashionable “ so they can live in today’s world, like it or not. If you have a horse that thrives on oats, corn and that gawd-awful sweet feed, I’m proud for ya—————


I have a hard keeping OTTB on a forage only diet that is looking better than ever. His vet pulled him off concentrates due to ulcers. He eats alfalfa pellets, beet pulp, flax, lots of good quality grass hay, and Vermont blend. He does also get succeed for colitis issues (just finishing and actually treatment so we will see if the succeed is enough).

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Sure. And some humans really can’t tolerate gluten.


Faddishness in animal feeding certainly does exist, just as it does in what humans feed themselves. Any horse/dog/poultry forum illustrates that amply. That doesn’t invalidate your experience in any way whatsoever, but it’s an observable sociological fact nevertheless.

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100% there are fashions and fads in diets. Some are harmful to individuals. Gluten intolerance became "fashionable " when everyone and their brother decided they were, stopped eating wheat (that they knew of, most still ate some because they weren’t educated enough to know), and “proved” they were intolerant when they lost some weight and slept better. No, they just started eating more real food and dropped a crap ton of sugar from their diet.


No kidding! :lol:

But there’s no profit in advertising campaigns for “EAT LESS CRAP!” so of course we get half-baked, barely understood food fads for humans and animals alike.

Some “fads” - if they ARE fads - I actually do support, though. The movements for locally produced, nonGMO and humanely raised foods, for example, I think are great. I have no idea whether they actually have any health benefits for the consumer, but they certainly are better for the environment, better for the animals and better for anyone who believes in food sovereignty, so I’m all for them.

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