The 'cost of living crisis is upon us, with people already seeing a difference to their standard of living.

Feed costs have risen astronomically across the board, so what can we do to make feeding our horses as economical as possible without cutting corners that will affect health and/or performance?

It is very easy to start to cut out expensive feeding stuffs and purchase the cheap and cheerful, but what are the 'non-negotiables' when it comes to ensuring our horses are still healthy and if in work, able to perform at the intended level?

Never compromise on:

1. Forage – it doesn’t need to be the highest in nutritional value but it must be clean, mould free and fed according to appetite.

Consider straw for good doers as a partial replacement and slow feeders to minimise waste. Buying in bulk will save money if you are able to do this.

2. Vitamins and minerals – Find a good quality, age and stage appropriate vitamin and mineral supplement (note not an expensive one necessarily) – make sure that it contains some chelated trace elements and is easy to feed (again to minimise wastage).

3. Water – the forgotten nutrient. This must be clean, fresh and accessible to the horse at all times.

4. Salt – even horse that aren’t in work need salt to thrive and survive and there will not be enough in your feed to fulfil requirements (guaranteed).

5. Quality protein for horses in work or growing or reproducing – whether this is done by feeding a balancer (which also fulfils point No 2 above) or by using linseed meal or full fat soya is up to the individual.

Quality protein is required to build and maintain muscle (topline) and also for growing and for good skeletal growth in younger horses.

Beyond this, it comes down to the individual horse and owner as to what is required/desired. However, consider the following points:

1. Does your horse need to have the world’s most expensive, glossiest feed in order to perform? Does your horse really need a “performance” feed?

Be honest about the level of work your horse is in. If you are not aiming for elite, high level competitions then often times stepping down to a leisure or horse and pony feed will still give the same performance and may even be beneficial as your horse now doesn’t have excess energy and spooks etc.

2. If your horse is carrying excess condition, you are not only compromising its health but wasting money on feed (or feeding the wrong type of feed). Excess condition is costly.

3. Look at non-branded feeds, sometimes although cheaper they are not necessarily of a lower spec'. Look at some alternatives – you may be pleasantly surprised.

4. Over supplementation – beware of feeding multiple supplements that are doing the same thing (or overlapping) – this is not only false economy it can also be deleterious to your horse’s health.

Speak to a qualified nutritionist if you are at all concerned. Never feed both a balancer and a vitamin/mineral supplement together (unless you are feeding both at half rate or other sensible proportioning).

5. Supplements – make sure any supplements you use are backed by science (either of the product itself or the constituent parts), remember that other species can be used as models for horses.

If you want to try a supplement on your horse for a genuine issue then only change one thing at once so that you know whether it is working for your situation. If you make multiple changes then you won’t know what has had the positive effect.

6. Beyond the five non-negotiables above, feed according to work done and/or condition.

Your chop, vitamin and mineral supplement (check out Harbro One Scoop) and quality protein source (linseed meal) can be boosted up for condition and/or extra energy (if required) very simply.

Use oil (for increased nutrient density in a small volume) for condition and slow release energy. Use starch based products for increased oomph, for example oats or a coarse mix. Sometimes a handful or two is all that you need.

Feeding can be a little daunting and in the current climate can put a big dent in your pocket. Have a look at your horse’s current regime and assess if there are things you can do now to make savings without compromising health and performance.

If in doubt, speak to a qualified nutritionist who can advise on actual nutrition with the breadth of knowledge required to advise you appropriately.