It’s on the Horse Feed Tag – Part 3
The purpose statement
Long gone are the days of feeding every horse in the barn a scoop of oats and a flake of hay. Decades of equine nutrition research have shown us that not all horses can or should be fed in the same manner. Life stages, workload, and overall health dictate the nutrients required by each individual horse.
Modern commercial feed manufacturers invest a lot of research and technical expertise into developing feeds that meet the unique nutrient requirements of today’s horses. This has resulted in the availability of a wide range of feeds from which a horse owner can choose, and this is why the purpose statement found on each feed tag is so important.
The intention of this statement is to describe what class of horse the feed has been formulated for. Such information goes a long way toward helping the consumer choose the right feed for his or her particular horse.
The purpose statement on a feed tag will read something like this: “For pregnant mares, foals and growing horses” or “High-fat, controlled starch formula for performance horses and hard keepers.”
Horses are typically categorized in classes based on life stage and usage. Each class has its own nutritional requirements. A horse may pass through many different stages in his or her lifetime. It is imperative to choose a feed that best matches your horse’s current class.
Common classes of horses:
- Growing horses: foals and yearlings
- Breeding stock: stallions, mares (pregnant and lactating)
- Performance horses: racehorses, show horses, horses in routine training, intensely worked horses
- Maintenance horses: recreational horses, horses that are mostly sedentary or lightly ridden, retired horses
- Senior horses: horses over the age of 18
Some feed manufacturers further break down the classes into easy and hard keepers, or they may add descriptive verbiage based on type of feed; for instance, a low-starch, high-fat or high-fiber feed.
A well-written purpose statement helps you determine which feeds might be appropriate for your horses. A word to the wise: when you purchase feed for your horse, be sure it is feed that has been specifically formulated for horses. Feed developed for livestock, although similar to horse feed, can include ingredients that are toxic to horses. For example, a commonly used drug in cattle feed, Rumensin, is lethal when consumed by a horse. If a purpose statement on the feed tag reads “For livestock,” you may want to avoid that particular feed for your horse!
The next piece of information you will want to review is the guaranteed analysis (GA), which is a summary of the nutrients contained in the feedbag. We will discuss how to understand the GA in parts 4 and 5 of the “It’s on the Horse Feed Tag” series.