It may feel like a distant dream at the moment for many of you, but in the next few weeks many horses and ponies will have the pleasure of being out at grass 24 hours a day and their winter weary owners can breathe a sigh of relief.

How do you ensure that your horse is still getting all the nutrients they require when you no longer have total control over what they are eating?

Grass for all?

Grass during the spring and summer provides most horses at rest or in light work with all the energy, fibre and protein they require and for many it provides too much.

The majority of ponies at grass will have their grazing restricted in some way, usually by utilising a ‘starvation’ paddock or by strip grazing.

When a starvation paddock is utilised, well soaked hay (four hours plus) will be required to keep the ponies fibre levels up to ensure correct gut function.

If you have a horse that has struggled to maintain condition over the winter, then you will be glad that Dr Green has finally arrived and you will perhaps not be as concerned about restricting access to grazing.

In both these scenarios, however, if very little or no supplementary feeding is given, then the horse will be lacking in various vitamins, trace elements and minerals.

Working from grass

If your horse is working at a reasonable level over the summer, then it will more than likely be on some sort of hard feed appropriate to its level of work and temperament.

If you are feeding the full recommended daily amount, then you should require no extra supplementation of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. If, however, you are only feeding half of the recommended amount, or just a handful of feed, then your horse will require some sort of supplementation to make up for the shortfall.

There are a few ways round this problem. The first would be to move your horse down a level of feed so that you can feed him the full amount recommended.

This is, however, in many instances not practical due to the horse’s propensity to pile on the pounds or to get fizzy if fed too much.

The next option is to feed a broad spectrum mineral and vitamin supplement along with the feed to make up for the shortfall. A quick word of caution, remember that it is not necessary to feed the full compliment of the mineral if you are already feeding a proportion of feed.

For example, if you are feeding half the recommended amount of feed then you only need feed half of the mineral premix.


Balancers are great for the working horse that is also a good doer. It can provide all the protein, vitamins and minerals they require without any additional calories.

Select an appropriate chop with an appropriate energy level and if necessary, for further energy provision, supplement with oil and/or oats depending on the type of energy your horse requires (slow release or fast release).

Vit and mins

If your horse is out of work, in light work, or resting, you will find that it may not require any extra feeding at all as the grass and forage are more than adequate.

General purpose mineral and vitamin supplements can be put to good use in this scenario (check out the pelleted mineral supplement Harbro One Scoop, for ease of use). Fed with a low

calorie chaff, they will ensure that your horse receives all the trace elements and minerals etc that s/he requires to function and keep healthy.

Horses that are marginal for essential nutrients will have poor hoof quality and hair quality as easily visible indicators that something is lacking. These are particularly useful for veterans that hold condition easily and the good doer mare in the first two trimesters of pregnancy.

If you have a few horses to feed, then this method can be quite labour intensive as it involves providing each individual horse with a bucket feed once or twice a day. In this instance, a mineral lick will probably be the easiest option.

Horse lick

Feeding a mineral lick to your pasture kept horses can make a lot of sense, allowing free access for your horse to the vitamins and minerals it requires without the accompanying calories.

These are particularly useful where there are a lot of horses in a field that do not really require any extra feeding but do need their vitamin and mineral needs met. They can also be used as an alternative to topping up low levels of feeding with a vitamin and mineral supplement.

Allow your horse’s access to a mineral lick instead. Harbro Horse and Pony Vits and Mins lick has all the benefits of being practical and easy to use, like all horse licks, but with a few added beneficial extras.

Licks allow your horse to choose for him/herself when extra vitamins and minerals are required.

Healthy horse

So, no matter what your horse’s role in life and whether it is working hard or not at all, even at grass they will be marginal for trace elements, minerals and some vitamins.

By giving your horse a source of these important nutrients you will ensure that they remain healthy and happy.