Chances are, you have some of the same questions other horse owners do.

Why does my horse need a mineral and vitamin premix?

Minerals and vitamins are crucial to your horse’s health, they are involved in virtually every metabolic process. They are critically important to the ultimate health and performance of your horse. The hay you feed does contain many of the minerals required by the horse, but certainly not all of them and often not in the correct balance or sufficient quantity. The process of curing and storing hay destroys virtually all of the vitamins that were present in the fresh standing forage, therefore, it is necessary to supplement these. Select one of Mad Barn’s formulations to complement your feeding program or custom blend your own to meet your horse’s exact requirements.

How will my product be packaged and how long will it take to receive?

Most products are packed in a 1, 5, 10, or 25 kilogram resealable plastic pails, or in 20 or 25 kilogram bags. Standard products are typically shipped next day and delivery is 5-7 days within Canada, but in most cases it is less than that. Custom formulas are manufactured within two days of finalized formulation and again 5-7 days shipping within Canada. Products shipped to the US are generally received within 5-7 days as well.

What’s involved in receiving a custom formula for my horse?

Simply send a request for a custom formulation via the website and provide required information. This will include horse’s age, status (working, pregnant, maintenance etc.), body weight and current feeding program with appropriate feed analysis. It is imperative that a hay sample is provided and the amount of feed consumed by weight, not by volume. If you do not have an hay analysis and are not willing to take one, it is recommended that you purchase one of the standard mineral and vitamin premixes, as these have been formulated to provide adequate nutrition over a wide range of feeding situations. If you do not have a hay probe, most feed stores will have one they can loan you; have a representative take the sample for you; or at least point you in the right direction on how to obtain one. If you plan on testing hay on a regular basis you might consider obtaining your own forage probe, the attached link is a simple inexpensive forage probe. http://www.enasco.com/product/C06541N. This is not an endorsement of the product, there are many good options for hay probes and this is one of the more economical ones.

What is the advantage of a custom formula?

Many supplements or nutritional additives on the market today are not balanced properly to meet your horse’s requirements. They often have high levels of one or two nutrients and not enough of the others. This is particularly problematic with products marketed at a specific ailment (hoof supplements, blood builders, etc.). Others that may be balanced may contain a lot of extra additives that you do not want or need. The ability to make a specific blend for your horse, based on your feeds, allows you to provide your horse with the exact nutrients it needs. Furthermore, if there are particular additives you do want, it is easy to add them to the formula. Fill out the contact form to contact us directly and we can get started today customizing your horse’s diet, because just like you, your horse is a unique individual.

How do I take a hay sample and where do I get it analyzed?

A proper hay sample is taken with a forage probe that takes a core sample of a bale of hay. At least 5 to 10 bales should be cored to get a representative sample of your hay and mixed into one bag. A minimum of 100 grams of sample should be obtained and sent to an approved forage testing laboratory (see following list). It is best to download submission forms and select the appropriate forage analysis for horses. The following link provides an excellent overview of forage sampling and also provides laboratory services for analyzing hay: http://www.equi-analytical.com/TakingASample/TakingAHaySample.pdf

Other laboratory options include:





This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but you should be able to find a suitable location to have your hay tested among this group.

Where will my product be manufactured?

Mad Barn Inc. produces all products in a CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) inspected facility that only produces equine products. There is no risk of cross contamination with other ingredients or drugs used in the manufacture of feeds for other species, as we are strictly an equine production facility. Your horse’s health and safety is our number one concern.

Does my horse need a mineral and vitamin premix when on pasture?

When horses are on fresh grass, they generally do not need any vitamin supplements (A,D,E) as they are abundant in fresh forages and from the sun for vitamin D.  Some of the trace minerals may be adequate as well, depending on fertility of the soil, but it will vary widely by region and fertilization program.  There are some notable exceptions though, selenium, iodine and cobalt typically need to be supplemented as there will be inadequate levels of these nutrients.  A note on selenium.  Soil selenium levels vary widely across different geographical locations and due to its narrow range of safety, it is wise to determine the levels in feedstuffs before embarking on a supplementation regime.  A soil selenium map is provided at the link below, along with a wealth of information on selenium.


For the macro minerals, again it is likely the horse would obtain enough calcium, phosphorus and potassium from the grass, but is likely to be deficient in magnesium and most definitely in sodium.

Therefore, no your horse does not need a fully fortified mineral and vitamin premix when the majority of the feed intake is from fresh pasture.  Having said that, it may be more convenient to use a complete mineral and vitamin premix product like Omneity or Spartan to supply the deficient nutrients, but it would be cheaper to supplement just the missing nutrients.  This could be done by purchasing a trace mineral supplement, see Mad Barn Trace Mineral Pak, and adding salt and possibly magnesium oxide to balance out the pasture.  Alternatively, Mad Barn can make a custom blend for you to supply the nutrients required.  Please contact us directly to enquire about custom formulation.

How much selenium is safe? Should I be concerned about selenium toxicity?

The maximum tolerable intake of selenium for a horse (i.e. no long term deleterious effect) has been set at 5 mg/kg DM intake, but usually the literature recommends not exceeding 2 mg/kg of DM (dry matter) as the maximum tolerable intake.  At 2 mg/kg of DM this equates to about 20 mg of selenium per day for the average horse (500 kg body weight) which eats about 10 kg of feed as the maximum intake.  It is not advisable to try and reach these levels, as there is no need to feed that much selenium.  Furthermore, selenium is regulated in North America not to exceed 0.3 mg/kg of total dry matter intake, equating to 3-4 mg of selenium per day for the average size horse.  The daily minimum intake of selenium for a horse should be at least 1 mg, therefore the total diet needs to be at least 0.1 mg/kg of selenium, but not more than 0.3 mg/kg.  Please note, that mg/kg is the same as parts per million (ppm).

Omneity Equine Mineral and Vitamin Premix contains 20 mg/kg of selenium, which is all in the organic form, which is 5 to 10 times safer than inorganic selenium.  The maximum tolerable intakes were established based on inorganic selenium.  When feeding 4 scoops/day (120 g), that would supply 2.4 mg of selenium or 1.2 mg of selenium if you’re feeding only 2 scoops (60 g).

Given that concentration of selenium, you would have to feed 1 kg of Omneity Equine Mineral and Vitamin Premix per day to be at the maximum tolerable intake of selenium – i.e. you shouldn’t see any long term effects and you would have to feed in excess of 2 kg/day long term to start to see negative impact of selenium.  To have an acute toxicity case, it takes a dose of about 1.5 g of selenium.  That dose equates to feeding 75 kg of Omneity Equine Mineral and Vitamin Premix – clearly this level could never be consumed.  It is very unlikely any horse would voluntarily consume even 1 kg of the product, so toxicity is not a concern.

Toxicity is usually only a concern if you are using a specific selenium supplement that has a very high concentration of selenium – the polo horses in Florida come to mind, this was a case of someone making their own selenium supplement, and they obviously calculated or mixed it wrong.  That is why it is advisable to only deal with reputable companies and people.  It is a relatively straight forward calculation working out selenium concentrations, but there is always the chance for error if someone confuses the units or misplaces the decimal point, which was obviously the case in Florida.

Mad Barn has rigorous QC/QA procedures in place that ensure that all our products are made to specification and mixing or formulation errors do not occur.

A note on injectable selenium.  The abovementioned case of selenium toxicity in Florida was from an improperly prepared injectable supplement, with selenium mixed at 10 times the desired concentration.  Selenium toxicity from injection has a much lower threshold than oral administration, 15 times lower in fact.  0.2 mg of selenium per kg of body weight is acutely toxic when injected, which correlates to 100 milligrams of selenium for the average size horse.  Oral acute toxicity levels are 3 mg of selenium per kilogram of bodyweight or 1.5 grams (1,500 milligrams) of selenium for the average size horse.  Personally, I do not like the use of injectable selenium, for several reasons, but if a product containing selenium is to be injected, it should be done under the supervision of a veterinarian.

How do digestive enzymes work?

Enzymes are necessary to catalyze or speed up metabolic reactions, which can either synthesize products or break them down. In the gut of the horse, the enzymes are primarily involved in processes to break down the food so that it may be absorbed and assimilated in the body. The horse naturally produces their own enzymes, but supplemental enzymes can aid in the digestion of feed, ensuring increased digestion and less flow of rapidly digestible nutrients to the hindgut where they can compromise hindgut pH and ultimately negatively impact the hindgut microflora. Also, additional enzymes can help break down products that the horse does not have natural enzymes for. An example would be phytic acid, which is normally indigestible, but supplemental enzymes can help release minerals from phytic acid, reducing the need to purchase supplemental minerals. Research indicates that hindgut health is crucial to avoiding colic, laminitis and proliferation of clostridia.

Why yeast?

Specific strains of live yeast, as the ones used in Mad Barn’s formulations, have been scientifically proven to improve digestion of feeds and absorption of minerals. They also help maintain hindgut pH, therefore reducing acidity. This helps create a healthy environment for the good bacteria and improves digestibility of feed.

Are Omega-3’s necessary for my horse?

Alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid are required by the horse, they are considered essential fatty acids (EFA’s). NRC suggests a dietary minimum for linoleic acid of 0.5 percent of total dry matter intake. For a horse weighing 450 kg, this represents approximately 50 grams of linoleic acid, which is likely to be supplied in most normal equine diets. However, there appears to be poor conversion of the EFA’s to the longer chain fatty acids like EPA and DHA, which have extensive research in other species showing numerous health benefits and being generally anti-inflammatory. For this reason, if your horse is unthrift or suffering from inflammation, it may be worth supplementing some extra fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid and DHA. Typically, providing DHA had to be done through feeding fish oil, but with large scale micro-algae facilities, it is now possible to provide supplemental DHA without feeding fish oil. Get all the benefits of extra DHA without the fishy smell and fussiness associated with trying to feed it. See OmegaPHAT and Omneity IR on products page.

Magnesium for calming or IR horses – how much should I give?

Magnesium is a pretty safe mineral to supplement.  The NRC requirement for magnesium is pretty low (all calculations are based on 500 kg horse) 7.5 grams/day, which is less than 0.1% dietary concentration of magnesium.  Most hays will contain 0.2% magnesium or higher, so the hay alone should meet the requirement.  Having said that, minimum NRC isn’t really a marker for optimal health and certainly not one for ponies or horses that may have health issues.  As stated, magnesium supplementation is pretty safe. Up to 0.8% of the diet, which is equivalent to 80 grams/day of magnesium intake (total dietary magnesium intake) did not produce any negative side effects.  Based on other species and research, I would suggest not exceeding 40 grams/day long term, which would equate to 0.4% total dietary magnesium.  Most well balanced equine diets supply ~25-30 grams of magnesium, so adding another 10 grams of magnesium would be acceptable – that would be the equivalent of 18-20 grams of Magnesium Oxide – the preferred source of magnesium.  It is high availability and acts as a natural buffer, without the laxative effect of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts).

How much protein does my horse require? Does my horse require more protein when exercising?

Horses at maintenance do not require a lot of protein – NRC gives a range of 540 grams to 720 grams of protein per day for a 500 kg horse, which is equivalent to a diet of only 5 to 7 percent crude protein.  It is difficult to get feedstuffs that are that low in protein, so usually a decent quality hay alone will meet the horse’s protein requirements and if you’re feeding some flax on top of that you will be well covered.  Contrary to popular belief, heavy exercise does not increase the animals protein requirement to any great extent – they do lose some protein through sweat and exercising horses tend to have more muscle mass so that will also contribute to a small increase in requirement for protein.  The increase in protein requirement though is easily met by the increase in total feed intake of heavily exercised horses.  The NRC recommends an additional 0.354 g CP per kg of BW, which works out to an additional 177 grams of protein.  If you add that to the 720 grams for maintenance, it is still less than 1 kg of protein per day.  Given that the intake of an exercising horse is going to be higher – 20-30% more – the percent crude protein of the total diet still only needs to be 7%.  I typically recommend keeping the diet between 10-12% crude protein for mature horses.  Lactating mares and foals will need more than this.  Technically speaking, horses don’t actually have a protein requirement, they require amino acids.  Unfortunately, lysine is the only amino acid they have established a requirement for in horses.  It is possible to extrapolate data from other species though and apply it to the horse with some confidence.  Most feeding programs are well in excess of the amino acid requirements when the diets are at 10-12% protein.

Many people believe that hard working horses need to have a diet with a higher protein content, this is totally unfounded and in fact there is research in race horses that has shown feeding excessive protein actually causes horses to have slower run times.  The same goes for horses that are injured, there may be a nominal increase in protein utilization due to tissue injury, but not enough to warrant dramatically increasing the total protein content of the diet.  Excessive protein just makes the kidneys work harder and increases the amount of ammonia in barns.  Any protein the horse does not need has to be broken down – which means taking the nitrogen off the amino acids, turning that nitrogen into urea and then excreting.

There are feeding strategies for hard working horses where a high dose of protein is effective.  There is roughly a 2 hour window after heavy exercise that if you give horses a good dose of protein and simple carbohydrates is very effective in improving recovery from exercise.  Essentially, this strategy stimulates an insulin response, which will improve recovery from exercise.  Insulin is a potent anabolic hormone and very sensitive to dietary manipulation. Causing an insulin spike right after exercise will help stop muscle breakdown and shift the horse back to building muscle again.  This should only be done after heavy exercise though.  Even with this strategy, the total diet crude protein content should still be in the 10-12% range.

Soybean products for my horse, what are the different processing methods and which one is best?

There are 3 main processing methods for raw soybeans that are used in animal feeds: 1) the most common is solvent extracted soymeal 44 or 48 percent protein.  The soybean is crushed and separated, the outer hull (which is high in fiber) from the inner germ and the oil extracted with solvents.  This provides the most complete removal of oil from the soybean itself, leaving soybean meal with approximately 2-3% fat.  Some of the outer hull is then added back in to standardize the protein content to 44 or 48 percent crude protein. 2) Roasted soybeans, is pretty self-explanatory, they simply heat and roast the whole soybeans, this helps to destroy the anti-nutritional factors in soybeans and also makes them very palatable, and these beans will contain approximately 38% protein and 16-17% fat.  3) Extruded soybean meal/mechanically extracted soymeal.  Instead of using solvents to extract the fat from whole soybeans, they use mechanical extrusion to remove the fat.  This is far less efficient and thus the remaining soymeal has much more fat than solvent extracted soymeal (6-15%) depending on how efficient the mechanical extraction is. Mechanical extraction may leave more of the anti-nutritional factors intact, but they should not present an issue when fed in small amounts.

I certainly have no issues feeding soybean meal/roasted beans to horses.  The higher fat content in the extracted or whole roasted soy can certainly put a shine on a horse.  Of all the plant protein sources readily available it also has one of the best amino acid profiles, no question.

In terms of how much to feed, it largely depends on the quality of hay being fed, specifically the protein content.  Almost all classes of mature horses only need 10-12% crude protein for the total diet (the exception being late gestation and lactating mares).  Horses exercising hard do require more total protein per day than a horse at maintenance, but this extra protein is acquired by a higher rate of feed intake, so the percent protein in the diet remains the same.  How to figure out how much to feed:

Your average horse (weighing 450-500 kg) will consume approximately 10-12 kg of feed per day.  If the diet should be 12% protein, that means they consume (.12*11=1.32) 1.3 kg of protein per day.  If the hay is 10% crude protein, an additional 200-300 grams of protein will be needed.  The extruded soy is around 38% protein, therefore, need to feed (0.200/0.38=0.53 kg).  If the hay is over 13% crude protein, then technically you don’t need any of the soy, but could feed 100-200 grams to get the fat and a bit of extra high quality protein.  If the protein is too high in the diet, you just end up with a smelly barn (excess ammonia being excreted).

Raw or unprocessed soybeans should be avoided due to enzymes and anti-nutritional factors present.

Oats and their naked friends – what’s the difference and does it impact glycemic index?

Your traditional oat has stripped its hull and is now naked! The net effect of the oat breeding program was to grow an oat with no hull, which is the portion of oat that is high in fiber and low in energy.  Therefore, what you get is an oat with a much higher starch and fat content per kilogram than traditional oats.  The advantage of these oats, is that it vastly reduces the amount of processing that oats traditionally went through for human food consumption.  It wasn’t specifically bred for horses.

Oats were/are a popular feed for horses because they contain much less starch than corn (45% vs 75% respectively) and the prececal starch digestion of oats is higher than corn.  These 2 factors combined make the likelihood of excessive cecal fermentation (can be a cause of founder and laminitis) from oats much less likely than when feeding corn.  Oats also tend to be more palatable, although naked oats were shown to be less palatable than whole oats.  To say naked oats would have a lower glycemic index than traditional oats or corn is wrong, it would be higher because the starch availability in the small intestine is higher.  And if you don’t believe me, here’s a direct quote from the Merck Veterinary Manual:

, one of the most traditional grains for horses, may be fed whole, rolled, or crimped, which increases the bulk 20–30% and improves digestibility by ~10%. “Hulled” or “naked” oats are more energy dense than regular oats and should be introduced slowly to reduce the risk of founder or colic.”

I realize people think of corn as being the hot grain, so the above comments on starch digestion might seem off, but I think some of the misconceptions between corn and oats come from feeding by the coffee can or scoop and not by weight.  For example, if you fed 1 coffee can of each grain, you would be feeding 20% less oats than corn by weight, therefore, 50% less total starch when feeding the same volume of oats as compared to corn.  On top of that, because the oat starch is more digestible, the flow of starch to the hind gut would be much less with oats – vastly reducing the risk of digestive upset. Horses becoming hot from being fed corn is more likely a function of digestive discomfort from excessive hindgut fermentation than from the grain providing too much energy or hot energy.