There are many ration balancer benefits, but the biggest one if you ask me, is that they COST LESS than other types of feed, while providing better nutrition!
Here is a calculation using an average low-cost sweet feed and a high-quality ration balancer to demonstrate the difference in cost:
Horse: 1000 lb. mature gelding, light work (like the one pictured below!)
Back to the calculation:
Sweet feed cost: $9/50 pound bag
Sweet feed directions: 8 pounds/day
Ration balancer cost: $25/50 pound bag
Ration balancer directions: 1 pound/day
Sweet feed cost calculation:
50 pounds/bag divided by 8 pounds/day = 6.25 days/bag 30 days/month divided by 6.25 days = 4.8 bags/month 4.8 bags/month x $9/bag = $43.20/month for the sweet feed
Balancer cost calculation:
50 pounds/bag divided by 1 pound/day = 50 days/bag 30 days/month divided by 50 days = 0.6 bags/month 0.6 bags/month x $25/bag = $15.00/month for the ration balancer
So, even though the ration balancer looks like it costs more than twice the amount of the sweet feed if you compare the prices of the bags, it actually costs less than half the price of the sweet feed when you compare what they cost per month for the same horse.
Side note: Whenever you are comparing feed prices, no matter what kind of feed you are looking at, make sure you always compare on a time basis (cost per day, month, etc.), not a per bag basis.
If you compare per bag basis, you are comparing apples to oranges, not apples to apples like a time basis gives you.
OK, on to the other ration balancer benefits:
Now, let's take a closer look at all of these benefits:
Since they are forage based, the horse's digestive system is more efficient at utilizing the nutrients and calories...a big ration balancer benefit!
Better digestive efficiency = less waste = less feed required.
As a side note, it also means less poop to clean out of stalls and paddocks -- something that should excite every horse owner!
Because balancers have very little (if any) grains included in the ingredients, they are ideal feeds for horses that have metabolic problems such as Cushings, insulin resistance, or glucose intolerance. This is one of the major ration balancer benefits in my opinion.
However, they are also ideal for the horse that shows no symptoms of these diseases, as a diet low in sugar may help prevent these diseases developing -- much like low sugar diets in humans may help prevent diabetes.
Don't be fooled by ingredients listed on the bag that may have the word grain in them. Take distiller's dried grains for example.
Sounds like a grain, but its not...though it used to be.
The distilling industry needs the starch and sugar out of the grain to make their products. So they take it out, and then essentially throw away the rest of the grain -- the fiber, protein, and all the good stuff.
That is where the feed industry comes in -- they take the leftover good stuff (which has already had all the "bad" stuff taken out) and put it into the feeds. It is a win-win-win situation. The distilling industry doesn't have to worry about disposing of their leftovers, the feed company (and therefore horse owners) save money, and the horse gets the good without the bad.
Because there is essentially zero sugar left in the grains, they are treated as forage products in the horse's digestive system -- they don't produce a glucose spike like the whole grain would.
The next of the ration balancer benefits is that they are nutrient dense, and meant to be fed in small amounts. Usually this is 1-2 pounds per day for the average horse.
This makes them ideal for easy keepers, because the horse gets all the nutrition it needs with very few calories (most ration balancers average about 1,300 calories/pound, and the average horse needs about 15,000 calories on a daily basis).
The low calorie content also makes them ideal for horses that are stalled for long periods, recovering horses that need to stay quiet, and horses that get "hot" on grain, horses that are not ridden regularly, and so on.
So they are ideal for pretty much any average horse...
It also makes it more economical to feed. If you feed 1 pound of ration balancer each day, your bag of feed is going to last one horse almost 2 months, as opposed to just over a week that most sweet feeds last if fed properly.
Another of the big ration balancer benfits is that they are one of the most versatile feeds available. They can easily serve as the nutritional base for almost any feeding program.
They also make it easy to quickly and safely change a horse's calorie intake as his needs change.
In the summer, my horses are on pasture and get no other supplementation except for their balancer.
Come fall and winter time though, they need more calories. Instead of having to wean them onto a completely new feed, I simply add more calories to their diet in the form of beet pulp or alfalfa cubes (in addition to their hay which replaces the pasture they had during the summer).
Come spring time, I just drop the beet pulp and alfalfa cubes out again. Very easy, and safe, as the feeds I am adding and dropping are only a small part of the horse's total forage intake, so I am making a smaller change in the digestive system than I would if I was adding and subtracting grain feeds.
Also, it makes my (and any one else who uses it) feeding program easy. I have five horses in my barn, ranging from middle-aged geldings who are lucky to get ridden once a week, to a growing filly, to a senior mare.
I can feed all my horses with just my ration balancer, alfalfa cubes, and beet pulp. Each horse gets the recommended amount of ration balancer for their age and workload, and then I add varying amounts of the other feeds (if needed) depending on how many extra calories they need.
It's also especially nice when I must have someone feed for me -- no worries about the obese gelding getting a high calorie grain meant for the filly. If my feeder messes up and feeds the wrong food to one horse, all they are going to do is cause a small change in calories for that day -- no worries about accidental colic and such, since all the horses are eating the same feed.
Or another example...horse in heavy training suddenly gets injured. Said horse is used for 2-3 hours of work 6 days a week, and turnout the rest of the time, and now goes on complete stall rest. Obviously that horse is going to suddenly need a LOT less calories.
If he's eating a diet based on a ration balancer, all his owner has to do is drop the supplemental calories from other feedstuffs and feed only the ration balancer until he's healed, when they can re-introduce the extra calories as they re-introduce the work load.