This winter I made the decision to change my horses’ feed to Connolly’s Red Mills. I wasn’t concerned about what I had been feeding them, however, this year there have been quite a few changes made with Giselle being in foal and the addition of Luca, my very large 3-year-old Irish Sport horse gelding.
Now that I own three very different horses, I felt I needed to learn a little bit more about feeding to ensure that my feed regime is really appropriate for their individual needs and my bank balance!
Last October I read my friend Derv’s blog post on her own experience with an equine nutritionist from Red Mills and decided to find out more. Derv passed on the contact details for Louise, one of Red Mills equine nutritionists and from there our Red Mills journey began.
Prior to our Zoom meeting, Louise requested photographs of Solas, Giselle and Luca from the side and from behind so that she could assess their condition. I had already emailed her their details of why I’d like a consultation. I explained what they are doing and what they were currently being fed, which was a combination of mash and chaff with added biotin and copper supplements. They also get ad-lib hayledge.
My main aim from speaking to Louise was to find a feed that can cater for all three’s individual needs without denting the bank balance too much! Ideally, I didn’t want to be feeding them different products either, if possible.
My priorities were to:
- Meet the nutritional needs of my mare in foal, Giselle, and of my veteran good doer, Solas.
- Find the balance of correct feeding with out additional energy for my 3-year-old, Luca.
- And ideally find a feed that can be catered for all three to save money and resources.
During our Zoom call, I explained to Louise that Solas is gluttonous and is a very easy horse to feed. She felt that he was in great condition for a nearly 23-year-old but wouldn’t want him to put on any more weight. She also felt he had a little bit of a crest that we needed to keep an eye on.
She was also very happy with Giselle’s condition. Giselle was rising 19 years old and my biggest concern was that she may not be getting the nutritional balance needed for carrying her foal. She is also a good doer.
I learned a lot from our conversation and the importance of ensuring that she is getting the right nutrients as an older mare, whose colostrum may not be as good of quality as a younger mare. Furthermore, as she is easily fed, it is important to make sure she is not overweight coming towards foaling as overweight mares can develop insulin resistance and pass it on to their foals, as well as having difficulty foaling.
Finally, when we discussed Luca, Louise felt that he looked good overall but could do with a little bit more condition. My concerns with Luca were that he regretfully spends a lot more time stabled than I would like for a young horse and I did not want to over feed him if he was not getting the opportunity to blow off steam. As well as that, Luca’s coat was also a concern. Towards the end of the summer his skin had become flaky and gave his coat an overall dullness.
After our discussion, Louise recommended Red Mills GroCare Balancer for all three as well as the addition of Foran Equine Kentucky Carron oil for Luca’s coat condition and for both Solas and Giselle’s digestive health. For a main feed, we agreed that Luca and Giselle would benefit from a new product from Redmills called Horse Care Ultra, but that the Grocare Balancer would be sufficient for Solas.
What is GroCare Balancer?
A balancer has all the nutrients without the added calories. As I had never investigated feeding a balancer before I didn’t really understand what the difference of a balancer and normal feed was until speaking to Louise!
The GroCare Balancer is nutrient rich and specifically formulated for broodmares and youngstock. But it is also ideal for the veteran horse or goodoer, too. It also comes the added Red Mills Nutrition Care package.
It has been specifically designed for colostrum quality and milk production in broodmares, skeletal development, gastric and hindgut function and hoof condition and quality, amongst many other things.
As in Solas’ case, it can be fed as a sole feed for horses on a forage only diet and in Luca’s case, it is ideal for topping-up a low concentrate, low starch diet to meet micronutrient requirements.
It also is great for muscle and topline development, calorie-controlled diets (like Solas) or horses prone to laminitis, mares after weaning and for feeding during stressful periods like box rest or sales prep (like Luca).
What’s the Care package?
Redmills have a specially formulated care package that most of their feeds contain. The Care Package is rich in essential micronutrients, quality protein and amino acids. It is high in antioxidants such as Vitamin E, C and selenium, which plays a critical role in metabolism and helps boost the immune system.
It also contains a gastric acid buffer, added yeast and prebiotics, and elevated levels of biotin and associated nutrients including zinc and copper – which means I don’t have to supplement copper and biotin anymore for Giselle’s hoof condition.
Horse Care Ultra Cubes
Horse Care Ultra Cubes are a new product from Red Mills. It’s so new it doesn’t have a product design for its bag and comes in a plain white one for now!
Luca is a rising 3 year old by Caricello out of a Fernhill Vriend mare. Already standing at 16.2hh he is a big lad but luckily he has a great temperament, something that I want to maintain as he starts his training and ridden career. Ensuring that his nutritional needs are met but with out blowing his brain are my main priorities with his new feed plan (completely for my benefit!). That’s why Louise recommended trying the new Horse Care Ultra cubes.
Many of you are already familiar with Red Mills Horse Care range, like Horse Care 10 and Horse Care 14. Like the other products, the Horse Care Ultra cubes contain the same nutrients and high protein levels that Luca will need for development and condition, but the Ultra cubes have extremely low levels of starch to ensure that he does not get overly hot or stressed while stabled over the winter.
This was the ideal choice for him as he needs the calories to grow and develop but does not need any added energy sources, just yet!
Luckily, the Ultra cubes are also appropriate for Giselle’s feed plan.
After the consultation Louise emailed 3 comprehensive, individual feed plans. The plans contain the breakdown of nutrients each are receiving, recommended daily amounts and recommendations for any future changes.
Luca receives 2.5kg of Ultra cubes and 500g of GroCare balancer which I split between two feeds a day.
Giselle receives 250g of Ultra cubes and 750g of GroCare balancer in one feed per day.
And Solas receives 400g of GroCare balancer per day.
Each horse receives 60ml of Kentucky Karron oil and I also made the decision to continue feeding chaff to all, mostly to stop Solas and Luca from bolting their feeds.
The benefit of having specific feeding plans is it has allowed me to accurately work out how long a bag of feed and balancer would last based on the weight of their daily portions. Derv rightly recommended early on to make sure I weigh all the portions, as different scoops will actually have different weighted amounts, so it is best to weigh the feeds.
Having specific weighed out measurements has made budgeting and ordering feed 100% easier and more economical.
The Follow Up
It has now been two and a half months since putting Solas, Giselle and Luca on their new diets and I am extremely pleased with how they are looking. I am also very happy with how my bank balance is looking after keeping 3.5 horses well fed!
Luca spent a few weeks on Horse Care 14 as unfortunately, the wrong feed was delivered just before Christmas so I had to gradually change him back over to the Ultra cubes. The quality of his coat has improved immensely and I am delighted with how his frame has improved, especially his rear end!
Solas is still looking great and has lost a few of the additional pounds he was needlessly carrying, but us still his porky self! Most notably, the quality of his droppings has improved so this is a sure sign that his gastrointestinal health has improved on his new diet.
And Giselle is simply glowing. I recently contacted Louise again to ask should I make any adjustments to Giselle’s feed plan now that she is in the final trimester of her pregnancy. Louise said that the measurements should suffice unless G starts to lose any condition.
Having assessed her I feel that she could do with a few extra calories as for the next 2.5 months the foal is going to do 60% of it’s growing, which will inevitably put a strain on Giselle. She has wintered well but rather than waiting for her to lose condition I am going to increase her Ultra cubes by 200g and see how she goes for the next few weeks.
I cannot recommend the team at Red Mills enough for the quality service and sound advice Louise has provided. From the first consultation to being able to order feed directly to my local feed merchant (rather than driving 120km round trip every 2 weeks!) and most importantly the great condition that my horses are in despite living in one of the toughest areas of the west coast has been a godsend for me and the W.A.R. horses.
If you’re thinking of changing feeds and learning more I highly recommend getting in contact with Red Mills. The consultation service is a free and through out this process the staff at Red Mills have been extremely helpful.
I have peace of mind knowing that my three are getting what they need and that my future foal is getting the best possible start to life. I am very happy to say my horses are fed on Red Mills!