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The Case Against Pellets

At Sound Advice, we are frequently asked by clients which pelleted feed we recommend. That's like a parent asking whether we would suggest Coco Pops or Froot Loops for their kids. Did you know even Nutri-Grain has 24g of sugar per 100g? Pellets, like Kellogg's products, are cereals. Just because there's an athlete on the packaging doesn't mean it's a good choice. Here's why we want you focused on the opposite side of the aisle, buying whole products for your horse rather than pelleted ones. 





What's In a Pellet?

Part of the problem is that they frequently don't tell you what the ingredients are. Sometimes they say things like 'cereals', 'protein meal' or 'formulated with minimal grain' - if it's not grain, what is it? How much is minimal? How much is molasses? Are the ingredients the same every bag, or does it change? 


It's important, because unlike people, horses eat the same thing every day. If there is a major deficiency or excess, that can have a dramatic impact on health over time. 


Do You Know How to Read Nutritional Analysis?

Most pellets have inadequate minerals. Take the example of a 'supercool' pellet with a beautiful jumping horse on the front. It contains 1% calcium per kilo, and 0.5% magnesium per kilo.


If you feed the recommended 1kg a day, 10 grams will be calcium, and 5 grams will be magnesium. 


You would need to feed 3kgs per day to come close to meeting their actual needs. Who is feeding 3kg of pellets a day?  And if you did, that's more than 1 bag per week. It stops being a cost-effective way to feed your horse.


Or alternatively, pellets appear to supply enough minerals, but because minerals compete for absorption, the unbalanced ratios will result in your horse still showing symptoms of deficiency.



Oils Ain't Oils

Pellets frequently contain oils, but they are pretty much always the cheapest ones. Oils higher in omega 3s are anti-inflammatory, and oils higher in omega 6s and 9s are inflammatory. Therefore we are looking for oils that are higher in 3s than 6s or 9s for horses. Chia and flax/linseed, have far better ratios of omega 3s to 6s and 9s than canola or sunflower seeds, which are reversed, but they are also more expensive.


We would encourage you to avoid all sunflower, corn or canola-based products - even if they are cheaper, because - while they will make a horse shiny in the short-term, they may be contributing to inflammatory problems (like Itch, windgalls, arthritis etc) you are trying to solve. 



So What Do I Feed Instead of Pellets?

The main source of calories throughout all horse history is pasture and hay. That is what they are designed to eat. And then - because in the modern world, grass species are limited in our pasture and hay, we need to supply what is missing from pasture and hay. Sometimes that's more calories for a 'hard-doer' or horse in heavy work. Often it's additional protein. In the majority of cases it's minerals.


Instead of just buying pellets and hoping that will meet their needs, you can be far more strategic choosing feeds that are exactly what's missing from your horse's diet, and exactly what they say they are - not a lucky-dip!



The best thing is that when you get it right, you know. Skin problems subside. Hooves grow down strong and waxy - not cracked or flakey. Coat colour is rich, not washed-out or rusty. Eyes are clear. Wounds heal quickly. Your horse is calm, but athletic. So simple. If your horse is not like that, you need Sound Advice.






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