Horse Feed - Advice about choosing the best equine mix

veteran horse feed mix Choosing the right balance of feed for your horse or pony is an art for which you may need expert advice about. Today there are many horse feed suppliers who manufacture scientifically formulated and balanced compound mixes of grains and ingredients such as sugar beet, oats, garlic, maize and molasses to provide the optimum equine nutrition whether your horse competes in equestrian events, goes trail riding, is in foal, or simply is a veteran horse enjoying his retirement

These compound equine feeds aim to provide highly digestible forms of energy and protein in the right proportions according to your horse's type, workload and nutritional needs.


The ingredients of these pre-mixed horse feeds can contain various ingredients including bruised oats, barley, flaked maize, cooked cereals, chaff, alfalfa, molasses, oils, micronised soya, micronised peas, soya oil and sugar beet pulp.

They can also often be fortified with a range of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, omega 3 oils and anti-inflammatory ingredients.

The advantage of feeding these equine mixes is that you know that you will be feeding the right nutritional balance to your horse. In addition there is the benefit of not having to store several different types of horse feed.

Although designed to be fed as a complete food, chaff and or sugar beet can be added to provide bulk and fibre to your horse or pony's diet.

When choosing a horse feed mix it is important to check that it contains a full range of vitamins ,minerals and nutrients.

Be aware that if you are using a cheaper or budget horse feed, it may contain lower levels of the more expensive vitamins to keep manufacturers costs down - compare the ingredients listed on the bags of different brands before you buy.


Mixes are formulated for different purposes.

Competition mixes are a quick release high energy mix full of nutrients which help to promote stamina during equestrian events.

Show and Conditioning mixes are formulated to produce a slow release of energy and to produce a shine to the horse's coat.

Cool Mixes are non- heating for excitable horses and ponies and are low in sugar and starch

Veteran/Senior Horse feeds usually include easily digestible, non-heating calories to promote condition in the older horse. Also amino acids, vitamins and oils to repair tissue wear and tear - they may also include natural anti-inflammatories.

Stud Mixes are an energy dense feed for mares in foal, lactating mares, and foals from 3 months to yearlings. They maintain condition and provide for foetal growth -usually fortified with vitamins minerals and amino acids.

Other equine feeds include working, dressage, oat-free, top-line, economy, endurance, pasture, herbal, racehorse and other mixes.

Some of these foods are described in greater detail below:

Non-heating or "Cool" mix

Some horses have excitable temperaments - excitability can never be completely eliminated - but excess energy resulting from feeding can be regulated.

Cereals contain starch which is digested relatively quickly by the horse producing “quick release energy”. This type of energy can cause some horses and ponies to become "fizzy".

"Cool mixes" provide the necessary nutrition for a working horse, yet keep down the excitability levels sometimes caused by the high starch content of cereals in some hard feeds.

As starch in grain can causes excitability in horses and ponies, a non-heating or cool mix provides energy in a less explosive form, by using higher levels of fat and fibre.

The fibre in cooling horse feeds may be provided in the form of grass pellets, alfalfa and smaller amounts of pulses, such as peas, and grains including barley, oats and maize.

A cooling mix is suitable for horses and ponies who do well on lower energy feeds. I can be fed to leisure horses and competition horses in early fittening work and light competition

TIP: If your horse is excitable look for a feed containing magnesium which is known for its calming properties

a dressage horse needs a wellbalanced feed

Competition Mix

A hard working equestrian athlete needs a lot of energy. Most equine performance feeds contain high levels of starch - a fast-releasing source of energy.

Competition horses also require quality protein to build and muscle and repair tissue damaged during exercise.

A competition mix is nutrient dense, with higher than average levels of vitamins and minerals,to ensure the horse’s demands can be met at all levels of work intensity.

The starch content in competition mixes is typically provided by cereals such as barley, oats and maize.

Beans and micronised peas usually provide energy and protein. Molasses or syrup bind the ingredients of the mix.

High energy levels in the feed are maintained by increasing amounts of digestible fibre and oil to overcome the digestive problems that can be caused by feeding too much starch.

Probiotics may be added to aid the balance of beneficial gut flora.

Antioxidants are another important ingredient. Exercise increases the production of damaging free radical molecules within the horse's body which increases the need for vitamins and minerals with antioxidant properties.

TIP: Check that the feed is guaranteed for use in competitions and is free of any banned substances

Competition mixes can improve jumping performance

Veteran or Senior Horse Mixes

As horses get older their digestive systems becomes less effective and they may no longer get full nutritional benefit from feed as they no digest protein so well.

Nevertheless increasing understanding of the and nutritional requirements of horses and ponies and their management means that many can remain active for many more years than in past decades.

A good veteran horse mix should ideally have high levels of digestible fibre - providing slow-release energy - this also reduces the chance of upsets to the digestive system.

These mixes are typically made up of of alfalfa and grass pellets, cooked cereals such as maize and barley, beans and peas for protein - Additional fat is providied in the form of soya or other oils.

They are designed to nutritionally support mobility and joint integrity, digestion, hoof, skin and coat condition.

Higher levels of minerals and vitamins are also often added as the gut in older horses is less efficient at absorbing trace elements.

A diet that cosists of 14-15 per cent protein will aid cell renewal and tissue repair in an older equine and help to prevent the loss of top line and muscle tone.

Dental problems may mean that the older horse may not eat as much hay or grass as he when younger - therefore Veteran horse and pony feeds must be high in fibre to keep the horse's gut healthy .

TIP: Some old horses find it hard to chew - feed may be soaked and mashed to help him eat.

Conditioning or "top line" mix

A conditioning mix is usually fed to horses that do not put on weight easily or add condition to prepare for the showring.

These feeds contain mostly slow-releasing energy sources to keep the horse calm while maintaining weight, so they are based on high-quality fibre and oil.

Soya is an especially good ingredient to look out for - its high in both protein and oil. Protein is vital for developing muscle tone and top line. Oil gives a good shine to the coat as well as maintaining weight.

Grains in a conditioning feed will usually be cooked to maximise the weight gain properties. Expect to see cooked, flaked or micronised barley - it is a more digestible energy source than oats.

These mixes will also typically contain many vitamins and mineral supplements including omega 3 oils.

TIP: Before choosing a feed to increase your horse's weight check other factors that can cause weight - age, workload, poor teeth, temperament, stress,illness or environment

Advice about feeding different types of horse mix, competition, veteran, calming mixes