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In today's modern world of technology, many of the key nutrients have
disappeared from our soil and subsequently our plants. In commercial foods
the nutritional value is even less because of the chemicals that have been
used through the various growth stages and the other processes to which the
fodder is subjected. The result may be a lack of immunity to disease, early
aging, ill health and destruction to the physical well-being of the animal.
By adding the natural nutrients back into the diet of your horse with the
use of supplements and natural remedies you can give your horse added
immunity to cancer, arthritis, and other disease; improving temperament and
behavioural problems and eliminating digestive, skin, bone and joint
The grain - Hay - Grass - supplements & even the Carrots are your horses
food. This food is all made up of these major components:
Protein - Energy - Vitamins - Minerals - Fiber - Water
Protein is really a cumulative term for amino acids
When one talks about a specific horse feed or a feeding program, some horse
owners routinely ask, "What is the protein content?" It is the opinion of
some horse owners, breeders, and trainers that protein is a magical feed
ingredient. Protein is often the only nutrient that some horse owners
consider, which may explain why some feeding programs work better than
others. Without a doubt, protein is normally misunderstood. The profile of
the protein ( Amino Acid Balance) matching the needs of your horse is the
most important factor.
PROTEIN = AMINO ACIDS
Proteins are made up of amino acid chains, which can be complex or simple.
Of the 22 amino acids, ten are considered essential and must be provided in
the diet. Non-essential amino acids do not have to be supplied via the
Protein. Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by microorganisms in
the horse's cecum and anterior portion of the large colon and by metabolic
processes in the body from vitamins. Amino Acid profiles vary widely from
every protein source. How the protein sources match up as well as the
protein input from high energy grains in your grain mix tell the whole
Essential Amino Acids must be consumed every day
Non essential Amino Acids the horse can make from other things
Horses receive protein from both their grain mix and the hay they receive.
Alfalfa hay of course is very high in protein and grass hays are lower.
Common sense would tell us that if you are feeding alfalfa hay,
your grain mix should be lower in total protein.
If you are feeding grass hay you should be feeding a grain mix that is higher in protein.
Grain mixes come in all types, but in general they are a combination of pellets, oats and corn.
Corn and oats both contain protein but are low in the essential amino acid lysine.
The pellets in your feed should contain additional protein sources.
These sources could be and more than likely are plant protein products such as soy bean meal
in combination with other of numerous processed grain by-products.
Soybeans as well as processed grain by products must go through some sort of heat process.
If over heated, this heat can destroy some of the most important essential amino acids for the horse.
Energy - Carbohydrates and Fats
Energy for horses is required for practically all life processes - for the action of the heart- maintenance of blood pressure - muscle repair - growth - normal body maintenance- transmission of nerve impulses - ion transport across membranes - protein and fat synthesis - the production of power.
A deficiency in energy is normally seen as stunted growth, body fat reserve losses and a lower production of power and speed. Sometimes energy deficiencies go undetected & not corrected for extended periods of time and, not until loss of condition, making visual identification easier, does correction take place.
It is common knowledge that horse diets must contain protein, fat & carbohydrates. Although each of them have specific functions in maintaining a normal body, all of them can be used as energy
Horses that need energy for slower or hard work can use fat as a energy source
Horses that need energy for speed or fast work need carbohydrates as an energy source
Horses will actively seek out sufficient feedstuffs to meet their energy needs. The main sources of energy are fats and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates in the ration are the sugars and starches of the grains and the cellulose (fiber) of the roughage and grain. Fats are the oils and related compounds in the grain and roughage and naturally make up about 2 to 4% of the ration. A horse can handle a ration higher in fat (as high as 15%) without digestive problems. Rations with more than 15% fat may result in loose stools and have not been shown to improve performance over rations of 12% fat. Fats are necessary in all rations, as they participate in metabolic functions and produce healthy sleek haircoats. Many people add one to two ounces of vegetable oil (such as corn oil) to the daily ration for the purpose of improving the haircoat. When adding oils yourself it is normally wise to give your horse a little additional vitamin E to keep the unsaturated portion of fatty acid profile stable. Fats produce 2.25 times more energy per pound than carbohydrates, and when used to produce energy, they produce the least amount of internal body heat. As a result, some endurance horses are being fed as much as a pint of vegetable oil each day when they are working.
Minerals are necessary for most of the chemical reactions occurring in the body and also
for the development and maintenance of the skeleton. Macro-minerals include calcium,
phosphorus, sodium, and chlorine (salt) and are needed in greatest quantity by the body.
Trace minerals (Micro minerals) are no less important but are needed in smaller amounts.
Selecting a Diet
The diet selected for different horses will depend on the nutrient requirements of particular classes
of horses and the combinations of ingredients chosen to meet those requirements.
Varying combinations of ingredients may be chosen depending on nutrient content, availability,
price of ingredients, and preference of the horse owner. All diets for horses should contain adequate
amounts of roughage. Thus, all diets must contain either pasture or some type of harvested roughage
such as hay or other forms of roughage described in Chapter 3. Varying the proportions of roughage
and concentrates can be used in the management of horses (1) to control energy intake,
(2) to maintain normal digestive tract fill, (3) to minimize digestive dysfunction, and (4)
to regulate consumption of feeds by horses that are fed in groups. Concentrate-to-roughage ratios,
as suggested in NRC Table 5-2, can be modified to suit individual situations. However,
it is highly recommended that all horses either have access to a pasture or be fed sufficient long
roughage in the diet to minimize the digestive dysfunction often attributed to feeding large amounts
of concentrates. A good rule of thumb is that horses should be fed at least 1 percent of their body
weight/day of good-quality roughage or be given access to a pasture for sufficient time to allow them
to consume at least 1 percent of body weight of dry matter/day. Grazing horses and horses fed
good-quality roughages ad libitum will voluntarily consume from 2 to 2.5 percent of their body weight
as dry matter in a 24-h period. When energy requirements of the horse require that the diet contain more
energy than can be supplied by roughages alone, the diet should contain at least 1 kg of roughage
DM/100 kg of body weight and sufficient concentrates to meet the animal's energy requirements.
Once the roughage has been selected, the concentrates must be balanced for all nutrients so that
the final ration will meet the total daily nutrient requirements of the animal in an amount of feed the
animal will consume.
Calcium & Phosphorus
These two minerals make up 70% of the mineral content of the body, with 99% of the calcium and 80% of the phosphorus in the bones and teeth. Calcium and phosphorus are needed in adequate amounts in the ration but are also needed in the correct ratio. Too much of either one interferes with the use of the other. A ratio of 1.2 parts of calcium to 1.0 part phosphorus is ideal for the horse. Adult horses can tolerate up to a 5:1 Ca:P ratio without much difficulty. Foals cannot tolerate more than a 3:1 Ca:P ratio.
Salt is a combination of the minerals sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). It is the only mineral compound a horse will actively seek out to eat and can be fed free choice to horses at all times
Salt can be provided in block or loose form. The block form is handy to use and decreases waste, but it takes longer for a horse to lick off what it needs. Loose salt is easier to eat, but is often wasted. In general, if a horse needs to consume a lot of salt, such as an endurance horse or race horse, loose salt is recommended. Most commerical grain diets contain .5% salt. Race horses or high performance horses need around 1% salt in their grain mix. Always provide plenty of clean water when feeding additional salt.
Trace or Micro Minerals
Some states are deficient in the trace minerals iodine and selenium, and sometimes deficient in copper and zinc. For a list of the common trace minerals needed by the horse,
Minerals for Horses
Although minerals are essential in the horse's diet, all of them can be toxic when supplied in amounts exceeding your horse's need for them or in an imbalanced profile. These trace minerals are the key to peak performance & the reason for poor performance as well when feed improperly.
Vitamins are nutrients that the horse requires in small quantities. The actual amount can vary from vitamin to vitamin and horse to horse.
Horses require vitamins for normal body functions.
These requirements are met by ;
1. Vitamins in the feedstuff.
2. By adding vitamins from supplementary sources.
3. By microbial synthesis in the intestinal tract.
Borderline deficiencies can exist in the horse without the horse showing any obvious problems. When this occurs, growth, maintenance, reproduction, & performance can be affected.
Horses that work every day in some form or fashion have shown to have an increased requirement for certain vitamins over that which are required for simple maintenance.
Vitamins A - D - E & the B group vitamins are vitamins that need to be increased for horses at higher levels of work.
Vitamin A, naturally present in green grasses and hays, is in the form of beta carotene. This form Of vitamin sometimes is poorly absorbed by the horse and can be adversely affected when is improperly harvested.
Water consumption will vary from horse to horse, Level of Work and the
Make sure that your horse has clean - fresh water at all times.
Additional electro-lites can be helpful in very hot weather
The Key to Quality Equine Nutrition
Feeding your horse correctly is a vital element of effective horse care. A
horse's natural grazing pattern is 'eat a little and eat often.' Mimicking
this, as closely as possible, is a good way of ensuring a healthy,
Horse Health: The essentials of horse health care and common medical issues.
Equine Nutrition: The influencing factors and horse feed types.
The theory behind feeding:
Food has the same purpose for horses as it does for humans. It provides
energy and warmth. It stimulates growth and the vital strength required by
the body to repair itself. For a normal balanced diet, aim for two-thirds
carbohydrate, one-sixth protein and one-sixth fat.
Factors that Influence Equine Nutrition
A horse that is able to graze freely during the summer months and is not in
hard work probably requires little supplementary feeding. Throughout the
winter months, however, when grass provides very little nourishment, horses
should be fed supplementary hay on a regular basis. Hard feeds (sometimes
referred to as complete feeds, or grain supplements) should be fed to horses
that are in hard work, or are particularly young or old. Generally, the
following elements affect the amount and type of horse feed:
Time of year - All horses require more feed in the winter to maintain a
suitable body temperature.
Workload - Horses in hard work require more hard food such as oats, grains,
barley and pelleted feed.
Temperament - A high-strung horse is best fed cooling mixes, whereas a more
sluggish horse may benefit from heating feeds such as oats.
Size - Pay attention to your horse's weight, rather than size, when
determining the amount of feed required. A horse should be fed approximately
2.5% of its body weight daily.
Age - Bear in mind that a horse's digestive system functions at its best
between the ages of eight and twelve years. Younger horses require more
protein for growth, whereas older horses require food that is easily
Quality of grazing - A horse will graze continually, given the chance! It is
necessary, therefore, to take into account the amount of time that your
horse spends out in the field and the quality of the pasture or grass.
Hay is the main bulk food given to horses. It acts as a grass supplement for
stabled horses or for horses on poor grazing land. Hay contains essential
minerals and proteins and aids digestion.
Compound feeds (complete feeds) in the form of either pelleted feed or mixes
contain the correct balance of all essential nutrients. Several mixtures are
available for horses engaged in different levels of work, or at different
stages of life. This type of feed is particularly suitable for one-horse
owners or inexperienced owners.
Oats are an excellent horse feed as they contain the correct balance of
nutrients. However, care is required, as some horses tend to become
over-excited on this type of feed.
Barley adds flesh to horses and can often tempt a horse that is not, for
whatever reason, eating sufficient bulk.
Maize or corn is a very fattening, high calorie feed and should be fed with
Sugar beet pulp should be soaked for 24 hours and is an excellent feed for
The essential nutrients are:
. water.ght or for improving a horse's condition. However, it is not
suitable for horses in hard work.
Above all, apply common sense when deciding upon the mix that is most
appropriate to your particular horse's temperament, lifestyle and workload.
Introduce any dietary changes gradually. If you are uncertain about what
your horse should be eating talk with your veterinarian or ask to be
referred to a reputable equine nutritionist.
Golden Rules for Equine Nutrition
. Clean water should be available at all times.
. Feed small amounts as often as possible and stick to regular feeding times.
. Feed the correct proportion of bulk and concentrates, depending on your
. Leave four hours between feedings.
. Always provide salt 'free choice,' particularly during the summer and
especially for horses in hard work.
. Leave at least an hour between feeding and exercise.
. Feed a fruit or vegetable, such as apples and carrots, every day.
. Never interrupt a horse while it is eating.
Copyright W3COMMERCE, inc. 2001. All rights reserved.
News on our number one killer
by Kenneth J. Kopp, D.V.M.
Article donated by the mane points horse resource center.
Although we have made great strides in the diagnosis and treatment of colic,
we still know frustratingly little about the causes.
This was the main point that struck me after hearing the lectures at the
Fifth Equine Colic Research Symposium, an international conference held in
Athens, Ga., this fall.
True we are now able to surgically and medically save more animals from
colic, with fewer complications, but we still cannot tell the horse owner
exactly why or how to prevent colic. Colic remains the number one killer in
As we have always suspected researchers confirm that colic has many causes,
so there will be no single preventative protocol.
Although many colic studies in the past were retrospective -- that is,
researchers gathered information about colic cases and looked for a common
factor -- a new study that was revealed at the conference was a prospective
analysis. It was conducted by the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of
Veterinary Medicine and local horse farms. These researchers followed
randomly selected horses over a period of time and obtained data. Then a
comparison was made between colicky horses and normal based on that data.
Here is a summary from my review of the new information from the
Virginia-Maryland study, and from other excellent retrospective studies in
Pennsylvania and Texas.
Keep in mind, however, that it's inappropriate to apply any of these
findings to any one particular colic case. Colic problems are best treated
with the help of a veterinarian.
Research supports the recommendation that feeding a horse good-quality fiber
(pasture or hay) prevents colic.
Some other interesting findings were that:
1. Horses that had access to several different pastures, or were on pasture
24 hours a day, were at less risk.
2. Horses that received less than 5.5 pounds of grain concentrate a day were
at less risk.
3. Horses that received more of their energy from grain than fiber were at
There was no apparent difference between sweet feed and pellets on the risk
of colic. While traditional horsemen have blamed pelleted feeds for colic,
research disproved this bias.
There was, however, a study that showed an increased risk of colic with
owners who top-dressed a horse's rations with corn. (This should not be
interpreted to say that corn causes colic.) Owners who mixed corn into the
ration possibly fed more grain energy than fiber energy, creating a
nutritional imbalance. But good quality corn mixed into a balanced
nutritional benefits and has not shown definitive association with colic, as
long as fiber remained the primary energy source.
Colic was highly related to feed changes. Two of the studies showed that
recent feed changes increased colic risk; farms with greater than six feed
changes per year were also at risk. The theory: feed changes have an effect
on the horse's intestinal bacteria.
Another major factor in the colic scenario was water management. Horses
turned out for exercise in a paddock with no water for as little as one to
two hours had a significantly increased risk of colic.
Breed, Use and History
Two studies showed that the Arabian horse was at risk of colic. Researchers,
however, were unsure if the data was biased. Perhaps the Arabian horse
reacts more to abdominal pain than other horses, or perhaps the owners of
Arabians watch their animals more closely and report colic more frequently.
In one study, it appeared that crossbred horses were at less risk of colic.
This finding may be biased because of the ways these owners use their
horses. Much more research is needed before we can definitely assign
relative risk of colic to certain breeds of horses.
The study also showed that horses cared for by someone other than the owner
are at higher risk of colic.
Horses used for riding lessons were at less risk than horses in race
Any changes in exercise regiments or stabling changes, increase the risk of
colic. Apparently horses that had a decrease in exercise and an increase in
stall confinement were at greater risk of colon impactions. Researchers
theorize that when a horse's exercise is decreased intestinal fluid shifts
can occur, resulting in a blockage.
Some of the most significant risk factors were for horses that have had
colic before. Once a horse has had colic, research showed that he is more
likely to suffer from it again. Also, horses undergoing treatment for
something other than colic are at higher risk of suffering colic as a
Another concern of horse owners is: to what extent do age and parasites
influence the incidence of colic?
Although age factors are still confusing, according to one study, horses
between ages two and ten were more likely to colic than older horses.
As for parasites, although they contributed to colic, they are no longer
thought to be the primary cause, and no correlation could be made between
deworming programs or fecal egg counts and colic. (Of course, deworming will
always be basic to good horse care.)
The question of mold toxins and colic has always been an area of concern.
Recently, researchers at North Carolina State University have looked at
whether certain mold toxins or combinations of mold toxins found in hay or
grain may play a role in colic. However, more definitive work needs to be
done before a particular mold toxin can be confirmed as the cause of a colic
Because most horse owners don't have adequate pastures to maintain their
horses entirely on grass, is there a way to alter the grain diet and lessen
the risk of colic? Possibly.
New pilot studies have shown that enzymes, digestive bacteria, yeast
cultures or ammonia scavengers (as offered in Triple Crown feeds) can
improve digestion and modify the intestinal environment. The most
inconsistent feed fed to horses is hay. Could the use of more consistent
"quality" forages lessen the risk of colic? Would the mixing of a consistent
fermentable "hay chop" (such as Dengie Forages) with grain rations alter
All of us should support future research projects on the causes of colic.
Get involved in your breed associations, horse clubs and universities to
help raise revenues to fund these costly but needed projects. Quality
research is our only hope of lessening the impact.