Nutrition Articles

• Overweight Horse
• Basic Concepts in Nutrition
• Nutritional Considerations for Athletic Horses
• Nutrition As It Relates To The Hoof
• How Horses Digest Feed
• 1 Tips For Choosing The Best Ha! For "our Horse
• Nutritional #anage$ent of %regnant and &actating #ares
• Feeding "oung Horses for 'ound Develop$ent
• Bran %roducts
• Feeding "oung Horses( It)s Not the %rotein*
• Ten Tips for +eight Reduction in the O,ese Horse
• -ita$in . and ./uine #otor Neuron Disease
• +ar$ +ater
• Feeding Beet %ulp
• Ha! 0ualit! and Horse Nutrition( .valuating "our Horse)s Nutritional

Overweight Horse

Special Care and Nutrition
Feeding is one of the $ost rewarding chores of horse ownership1 But $an! horses2 given the
opportunit!2 will eat far $ore than the! need2 tipping the scale into an unhealth! ,alance1 No
$atter how $uch !our horse en3o!s eating2 !ou do it a disservice ,! overfeeding1 .4cess pounds
put a strain on virtuall! ever! ,od! s!ste$1 A far 5inder strateg! is to suppl! food and e4ercise in
proper a$ounts to 5eep !our horse fit and health!
#aintaining the ideal weight is not alwa!s eas! however1 'o$e horses are what we call 6eas!
5eepers16 The! re/uire $ini$al calories to $aintain opti$al ,od! condition1 %onies2 in particular2
see$ to store e4cess energ! as fat1 #an! adult horses too 77 especiall! those in their $iddle
!ears 77 ,egin to retain unneeded weight due to reduced activit! and a slow7down in $eta,olis$1
+hen weight gain ,eco$es e4tre$e2 we classif! the horse as o,ese1
.4cess weight and over7nutrition have a nu$,er of potentiall! negative effects2 including(
• Increased stress on the heart and lungs
• 8reater ris5 of la$initis or founder
• Increased ris5 of develop$ental orthopedic 9,one and 3oint: pro,le$s in !oung2 growing
• #ore strain on feet2 3oints2 and li$,s
• +orsened s!$pto$s of arthritis
• &ess efficient cooling of ,od! te$peratures
• Fat ,uild7up around 5e! organs which interferes with nor$al function
• Reduced reproductive efficienc!
• 8reater letharg! and $ore easil! fatigued
+hen it co$es to a horse)s ideal ,od! condition2 ,eaut! is often in the
e!e of the ,eholder1 For e4a$ple2 a co$petitive endurance horse is
usuall! leaner than a show7fit halter horse1
Because 6fitness6 is su,3ective2 e/uine health care professionals utili;e
a 6Bod! Condition 'coring6 s!ste$ to tal5 in relative ter$s1 The horse)s
ph!sical condition is rated on visual appraisal and palpation 9feel: of si4
5e! confor$ation points( 9'ee illustration: A7 the a$ount of flesh or fat
covering along the nec52 B7 the withers2 C7 down the crease of the ,ac52
D7 at the tailhead2 E7 ri,s and F7 ,ehind the shoulder at the girth1 'cores
range fro$ 17<2 fro$ poor to e4tre$el! fat1
Score o& '( )oor( Ani$al e4tre$el! e$aciated2 with spinous processes2 ri,s2 tailhead2 tu,er
co4ae 9hip 3oints: and ischia 9lower pelvic ,ones: pro3ecting pro$inentl!= ,one structure of
withers2 shoulders and nec5 easil! noticea,le= no fatt! tissue can ,e felt1
Score o& *( "er+ hin( Ani$al e$aciated2 slight fat covering over ,ase of spinous processes=
transverse processes of lu$,ar verte,rae feel rounded= spinous processes2 ri,s2 tailhead2 tu,er
co4ae 9hip 3oints: and ischia 9lower pelvic ,ones:2 pro$inent withers2 shoulders and nec5
structure faintl! discerni,le
Score o& ,( hin( Fat ,uildup a,out halfwa! on spinous processes= transverse processes cannot
,e felt= slight fat cover over ri,s= spinous processes and ri,s easil! discerna,le= tailhead
pro$inent ,ut individual verte,rae cannot ,e identified visuall!= tu,er co4ae 9hip 3oints: appear
rounded ,ut easil! discerna,le= tu,er ischia 9lower pelvic ,ones: not distinguisha,le= withers2
shoulders and nec5 accentuated1
Score o& -( .oderatel+ hin( 'light ridge along ,ac5= faint outline of ri,s discerna,le= tailhead
pro$inence depends on confor$ation fat can ,e felt around it= tu,er co4ae 9hip 3oints: not
discerna,le= withers2 shoulders and nec5 not o,viousl! thin1
Score o& /( .oderate( Bac5 is flat= ri,s not visuall! distinguisha,le ,ut easil! felt= fat around
tailhead ,eginning to feel spong!= withers appear rounded over spinous processes= shoulders
and nec5 ,lend s$oothl! into ,od!1
Score o& 0( .oderatel+ Flesh+( #a! have slight crease down ,ac5= fat over ri,s spong!2 fat
around tailhead soft= fat ,eginning to ,e deposited along side of withers2 ,ehind shoulders and
along sides of nec51
Score o& 1( Flesh+( #a! have crease down ,ac5= individual ri,s can ,e felt2 ,ut noticea,le filling
,etween ri,s with fat= fat around tailhead soft= fat deposited along withers ,ehind shoulders and
along nec51
Score o& 2( Fat( Crease down ,ac5= difficult to feel ri,s= fat around tailhead ver! soft= area along
withers filled with fat= area ,ehind shoulder filled with fat= noticea,le thic5ening of nec5= fat
deposited along inner thighs1
Score o& 3( E4tre5el+ Fat( O,vious crease down ,ac5= patch! fat appearing over ri,s= ,ulging
fat around tailhead2 along withers2 ,ehind shoulders and along nec5= fat along inner thigh $a! ru,
together= flan5 filled with fat1
For $ost horses2 ,od! condition scores in the #oderate to #oderatel! Flesh! range2 9scores of >
and ?: are ideal1 A co$$onl! recited suggestion is to 5eep !our horse where !ou can feel the
divisions ,etween his@her ri,s ,ut not ,e a,le to see the$1 However2 5eep in $ind that the 3o, of
!our particular athlete also has a ,earing on what weight is appropriate for $a4i$u$
perfor$ance1 %olo2 race and endurance horses $ight ,e perfectl! fit with ,od! condition scores
of A 9$oderatel! thin:2 while a ,od! condition score of B 9flesh!: $a! ,e re/uired for success in
the show ring1 However2 ,! feeding a horse to a level of C2 !ou are starting to push the li$its of
good health1 Horses with scores of C and < are definite candidates for a weight reduction plan1
"ou hold the 5e!s to controlling !our horse)s weight1 "ou)ll need to enforce sound nutrition
$anage$ent2 ,eco$e dedicated to a regular e4ercise progra$ and use restraint when
$easuring the ration1
+hen i$ple$enting a weight loss progra$2 it)s i$portant to do it in such a wa! so as not to stress
the horse1 Changes in ,oth e4ercise and nutrition should ,e gradual1
B! increasing the a$ount of e4ercise2 !ou can rev up the horse)s $eta,olic engine and ,u$ $ore
calories1 B! shifting to a lower7calorie diet2 !ou can create an 6energ! deficit6 so that the horse
,egins to utili;e its fat reserves as fuel1 However2 even though the ration provides fewer calories2
it should ,e ,alanced so that it continues to provide all the essential nutrients1 Develop a progra$
that will allow !our horse to reduce its weight without an! negative side effects1
Here are so$e guidelines to get !ou started(
• Be patient1 +eight reduction should ,e a slow2 stead! process so as not to stress the
horse or create $eta,olic upsets1
• #a5e changes in ,oth the t!pe and a$ount of feed graduall!1 Reduce rations ,! no $ore
than 1D over a B to 1 da! period1
• Trac5 !our horse)s progress ,! using a weight tape1 The tapes are re$ar5a,l! accurate
and provide a good wa! to gauge weight loss1 +hen the horse)s weight plateaus2
graduall! cut ,ac5 its ration again1
• 'tep up the horse)s e4ercise regi$en1 8raduall! ,uild ti$e and intensit! as the horse)s
fitness i$proves1 'o$e horses are natural pasture potatoes1 Ride2 longe2 drive or wor5
the horse on a tread$ill rather than rel! on free choice e4ercise1
• %rovide plent! of clean2 fresh water so the horse)s digestive and other s!ste$s function
as efficientl! as possi,le and rid the ,od! of $eta,olic and other wastes1
• 'elect feeds that provide plent! of high7/ualit! fi,er ,ut are low in total energ!1 #easure
feeds ,! weight rather than volu$e to deter$ine appropriate rations1
• 'elect feeds that are lower in fat since fat is an energ!7dense nutrient source1
• 'witch or reduce the a$ount of alfalfa ha! fed1 Replace with a $ature grass or oat ha! to
reduce caloric inta5e1 This will also satisf! the horse)s need to chew2 reduce ,oredo$ and
provide fill for its sto$ach1
• Feed separate fro$ other horses so the overweight horse doesn)t have a chance to eat
his portion and his neigh,or)s2 too1 In e4tre$e cases of o,esit!2 caloric inta5e $a! also
need to ,e controlled ,! li$iting pasture inta5e1
• Balance the horse)s diet ,ased on age and activit! level1 #a5e sure the horse)s vita$in2
$ineral and protein re/uire$ents continue to ,e $et1 A supple$ent $a! ,e added to the
ration to co$pensate for lower7/ualit!2 less nutrient dense feeds1
A 6ha! ,ell!6 $a! or $a! not ,e associated with true o,esit!1 #an! horses2 especiall! the ver!
!oung and old2 $a! e4hi,it ha! ,ellies without an associated ,uild7up of ,od! fat1 Ha! ,ellies are
a distension of the a,do$inal area due to the volu$e of grass or ha! the ani$al consu$es1 The
,ell! e4pands to handle the load1
To eli$inate a ha! ,ell!2 !ou need to reduce the total volu$e of feed that passes through the
s!ste$1 A well7,alanced co$plete feed $a! ,e a good wa! to reduce total volu$e without
adversel! affecting the a$ount of fi,er and nutrients re/uired for proper digestion and nutrition1
Also2 re$e$,er that parasiti;ed horses $a! e4hi,it the sa$e outward appearance of a horse that
!ou $a! thin5 has Eha! ,ell!1F #a5e sure !ou consult with !our veterinarian a,out proper
dewor$ing protocols and the possi,ilit! of their perfor$ing a fecal egg count to deter$ine
parasite load on !our particular horse1
Once !our horse has reached his ideal ,od! condition2 $aintaining the proper weight is a gentle
,alancing act1 "ou will pro,a,l! need to read3ust !our horse)s ration to sta,ili;e its weight1
.4ercise will continue to ,e a 5e! co$ponent in 5eeping the horse fit1 Because o,esit! can affect
a horse)s health2 5eep a good line of co$$unication open with !our veterinarian1 'chedule
regular chec57ups2 especiall! during the weight reduction process1
For $ore infor$ation2 contact !our veterinarian1
A$erican Association of ./uine %ractitioners
AB> Iron +or5s %ar5wa!2 &e4ington2 G" A>11
9C><: HII71AB
posted ,! Rose
posted( B@H@H>1 &ast updated( B@H@H>1

Basic Concepts in Nutrition
8+ 8+9 .ichael Ball: D".
The options and opinions on what to feed !our horse are nu$erous1 #! goal in this article
is to review the differences ,etween the 6si$ple7sto$ached6 creatures 9such as ourselves2 dogs2
cats2 etc1: and the horse1 In addition2 we will ta5e a loo5 at how do$estication has i$pacted the
horse)s digestive s!ste$ and su,se/uentl! how that i$pacts their general health1 +e will also
review the ,asic co$ponents of nutrition and the concept of ,alancing a ration ,ased on an
individual horse)s re/uire$ents and the factors that can affect those re/uire$ents1
The horse is considered a 6post7gastric fer$enter26 $eaning that after the si$ple sto$ach and
s$all intestine2 a large portion of the horse)s digestion co$es fro$ the fer$entation of fi,er within
the later portions of the digestive s!ste$1 Actuall!2 a,out ?D of the energ! a horse gets fro$ his
food can co$e fro$ volatile fatt! acids produced ,! the ,acterial fer$entation of fi,er within the
large intestine 9this is how $ost digestion occurs in the cow:= $ore on that later1
The nutritional Calorie 9Cal with a capital C: is a designation of energ! and is t!picall! referred to
as 65cal26 which is the unit used in hu$an food la,eling1 One Calorie or 5cal is the a$ount of
energ! re/uired to raise the te$perature of 1 5ilogra$ of water 1JC1 The ter$ #cal is e/uivalent
to 12 5cal1
The ,ul5 of the average horse)s feed ration is ha! 9as it should ,e:1 The nutritional /ualit! of ha!
can var! tre$endousl! ,etween a pure grass ha! such as ti$oth!2 which has a digesti,le energ!
content of a,out 11C #cal@5g and a crude protein content of a,out B1>D2 and a high7/ualit!
legu$e ha! such as alfalfa2 which has a digesti,le energ! content of a,out H1H #cal@ 5g and a
crude protein content over 1>D1
The nutritional content of ha! can also ,e affected greatl! ,! weather conditions at the ti$e of
harvest and other processing factors1 The ,est $ethod for deter$ining the nutritional content of a
particular load of ha! is to have a representative sa$ple anal!;ed1
The nutritional re/uire$ents of an individual horse var! with stage of growth2 se42 pregnanc! and
lactation2 and other outside factors such as healing and recover! fro$ illness2 cli$ate2 and
e4ercise1 For e4a$ple2 the average 1217pound 9>75g: $ature gelding re/uires 1?2A 5cal
9Calories or 1?1A #cal: with ?? gra$s of crude protein for dail! $aintenance1 This horse would
re/uire H pounds 9<11 5g: of our average ti$oth! ha! or 1?1I pounds 9B1A 5g: of the average
alfalfa ha! for dail! $aintenance1
A $are of the sa$e weight that 3ust foaled and is lactating re/uires HC2 5cal 9HC1 #cal: for
dail! $aintenance2 and a perfor$ance horse of the sa$e weight wor5ing intensel! 9a high7end
three7da! event horse in training: would re/uire IH2 5cal 9IH #cal: for dail! $aintenance1 This
$are would need IA1H pounds 91>1? 5g: of ti$oth! or HC pounds 91H1B 5g: of alfalfa ha!= the
perfor$ance horse would need I< pounds 91B1C 5g: of ti$oth! or IH pounds 91A1> 5g: of alfalfa
ha! to $eet his energ! needs1 Note that these values are appro4i$ate1 Knfortunatel!2 a horse
can onl! eat a,out ID of its ,od! weight in dr! $atter per da! 9a,out I pounds for a 127
pound horse:2 so the perfor$ance horse and possi,l! the $are would need a higher energ!
densit! feed 9such as grain: to $eet the energ! needs1
A general rule of thu$, for dail! $aintenance is to feed HD of the horse)s ,od! weight in pounds
of average /ualit! $i4ed grass ha!2 so it follows that the average 127pound horse would
re/uire appro4i$atel! H pounds of $i4ed grass ha! a da! to $aintain weight1 B! now it)s clear
that doing an! of this with re$ote accurac! re/uires weighing ,oth the horse and the feed1 In
place of a full7si;e horse scale2 the weight tape is fairl! accurate2 ,ut electronic scales suita,le for
use on large ani$als are availa,le and are ,eco$ing $ore co$$onplace in larger sta,les1 'o$e
t!pe of scale should ,e ac/uired for the feedstuff77the weight of a fla5e of ha! can var!
tre$endousl!2 and it is ver! hard to guess 9the sa$e is true for $an! grain products:1 "ou reall!
should feed grain rations ,ased on weight2 as well1
%rotein is co$posed of $olecules called a$ino acids1 There are HH a$ino acids used in the
construction of proteins1 Fro$ a nutritional standpoint2 the proteins within a foodstuff are ,ro5en
down ,! the digestive s!ste$ into individual a$ino acids and are a,sor,ed1 Fro$ there the
a$ino acids are used as needed to construct new proteins2 such as $uscle tissue1 In e4tre$el!
nutritionall! deficient states2 the proteins can ,e used to produce energ!2 ,ut at the e4pense of
nor$al protein tissues 9e1g12 heart and other $uscles:1
A note on protein77it is not a certain percentage of protein2 ,ut an actual gra$ a$ount2 that should
,e used to $eet re/uire$ents1 It should also ,e noted that a certain /ualit! of protein is
necessar! in order for it to ,e utili;ed1 The a$ino acid l!sine is the so7called rate7li$iting a$ino
acid for the horse2 $eaning there $ust ,e a certain $ini$al a$ount of l!sine 9HI gra$s per da!
for our 1217pound gelding: in order for the dietar! protein to ,e utili;ed properl!1 Feeding a
certain percentage of protein grain concentrate 91HD or 1?D: reall! does not sa! ver! $uch1 "ou
need to ,e aware of the total a$ount of protein !ou are feeding and understand the actual
/uantit! 9not percentage: contained in the dail! ha! and grain ration co$pared to that individual
horse)s dail! re/uire$ent77for e4a$ple2 the ??> gra$s@da! of our 1217pound adult gelding
Car,oh!drates can ,e si$ple 9also called solu,le car,oh!drates or $onosaccharides:2 such as
glucose and various other sugars2 or co$ple42 such as starches2 fi,er2 and the less solu,le
portions of grains1 The grains have ,oth solu,le car,oh!drates 9the inner parts of the seed or
5ernel: and insolu,le car,oh!drates 9the outer parts of the seed and re$ainder of the plant:1 The
grain products are 5nown as concentrates2 and are co$posed of the relativel! $ore solu,le
car,oh!drates than roughages1
The digesti,ilit! of the grains is also affected ,! the processing1 For e4a$ple2 cri$ped@rolled oats
or crac5ed@ground corn have solu,le car,oh!drates that are $ore availa,le to the digestive
process than their 6whole6 counterparts1 #ost of the solu,le car,oh!drates are ,ro5en down and
a,sor,ed in the s$all intestinal portion of the horse)s gastrointestinal s!ste$2 with the insolu,les
passing on to the colon and cecu$ to ,e fer$ented ,! ,acteria to produce volatile fatt! acids1
The glucose and volatile fatt! acids are then used ,! the horse)s ,ioche$istr! to produce energ!
or are stored in various tissues as fat reserves for later energ! production1 #ore on the
fer$entation process later1
Fats are also ,ro5en down and a,sor,ed ,! the s$all intestine1 Fro$ there the fats can either
enter the ,ioche$ical energ! production pathwa!s or ,e stored for relativel! long7ter$ energ!
storage1 Recent research has shown that the fats can $a5e up to 17HD of a horse)s dail!
energ! re/uire$ents and ,e well utili;ed1 In fact2 horses afflicted with $uscle diseases 9such as
t!ing7up or gl!cogen storage disease: can ,enefit significantl! fro$ lowering the solu,le
car,oh!drates 9grain ration: in their diets and increasing the a$ount of energ! that)s provided ,!
fat1 Fats contain two ti$es the energ! production a,ilit! on a gra$ per gra$ ,asis co$pared to
solu,le car,oh!drates or protein1
-ita$ins are i$portant to consider in the horse)s ration2 as $an! factors can decrease the vita$in
content of horse feed1 'o$e vita$ins are sensitive to sunlight2 heat2 and o4idation 9especiall!
vita$ins . and A:1 Ha! stored for a !ear or longer2 and ha! that was rained on ,etween cutting
and ,aling2 can have greatl! decreased concentrations of these vita$ins1 In addition2 the
processing of $an! pelleted feed products involves heat and pressure2 so it is i$portant to 5now
if the vita$ins were supple$ented2 and if so how were the! added1 The $ost co$$on vita$ins
added to horse feeds are A 9i$portant for reproduction:2 . 9a natural preservative@antio4idant that
helps ensure opti$u$ function of the reproductive2 $uscular2 circulator!2 nervous2 and i$$une
s!ste$s:2 and H 9a151a2 ,iotin2 which helps i$prove hoof and hair /ualit! and is needed for the
s!nthesis of fats2 proteins2 and glucose:1 Horses that don)t have access to fresh grass during the
winter $onths 9or at all: have ,een shown to ,eco$e significantl! vita$in . deficient during the
winter $onths1
The $inerals are relativel! sta,le 9don)t ,rea5 down: in feedstuff processing2 ,ut the
concentration of a particular $ineral within a plant is proportional to concentrations within the soil1
For e4a$ple2 it)s well 5nown that $an! areas of the Knited 'tates produce seleniu$7deficient
forage1 It is i$portant to 5now if !ou are in a geographic area that re/uires seleniu$
supple$entation 9as5 !our local e4tension agent or have !our soil tested:1 The $ost co$$on
$inerals added to processed feeds are calciu$2 phosphorus2 copper2 ;inc2 and seleniu$1
'eleniu$ deficienc! can cause $uscle disease in ,oth adult horses and new,orns1 Chec5 with
!our veterinarian or e/uine nutritionist regarding the supple$entation of seleniu$2 ,ecause the
difference ,etween the re/uired a$ount and a to4ic a$ount is ver! s$all1 Be careful to avoid
using three or four feed supple$ents that contain seleniu$= this can inadvertentl! cause to4icit!1
This holds true for all of the supple$ents77,e aware of e4actl! what the! contain and how $uch
of it and how that stac5s up against !our horse)s needs1
+ater is the $ost i$portant nutrient1 The horse could live for wee5s without ingesting an! feed2
,ut two to three da!s without water would cause severe illness or death1 The average 127
pound horse drin5s over 1C liters 9A1> gallons: of water per da!1 It goes without sa!ing that a
source of fresh2 clean water should ,e availa,le to the horse at all ti$es1 Inta5e will var!
so$ewhat ,etween individuals and will increase dra$aticall! in hot weather2 lactation2 and@or if
the horse is sweating a lot1
.lectrol!te supple$entation will increase water inta5e2 ,ut usuall! is not necessar! unless the
horse is sweating heavil!1 'weat contains significant a$ounts of the $a3or electrol!tes( 'odiu$2
chloride2 potassiu$2 and lower a$ounts of calciu$ and $agnesiu$1 These need to ,e replaced if
the horse is sweating heavil!1
'o$e horses will not drin5 water with electrol!tes added to it2 so I ,elieve it is ver! i$portant that
if !ou are adding an electrol!te supple$ent to the water2 that !ou also provide a ,uc5et of water
without the supple$ent1 +hite salt 9sodiu$ chloride: should ,e availa,le free choice at all ti$es1
The other electrol!tes 9potassiu$2 $agnesiu$2 and calciu$: are usuall! present in ade/uate
a$ounts in the feeds to ta5e care of nor$al sweat losses1 In cli$ates where the winter is cold2
!ou need to ,e careful to prevent the water source fro$ free;ing1 It is /uite li5el! that the slight
rise in i$paction colic cases we see in the winter $onths is associated with a decrease in nor$al
water inta5e in so$e horses1 It has ,een shown that offering roo$7te$perature water when the
a$,ient te$perature is cold will significantl! increase a horse)s dail! water inta5e1
The horse evolved as a gra;ing ani$al with a digestive s!ste$ opti$i;ed to slowl! ingest the
dail! ration of 1D grass over a HA7hour da!1 Two other factors I thin5 are i$portant are(
11 8ra;ing is lin5ed with al$ost continuous e4ercise= and
H1 The fact that grass is a,out ?D water1
Flash forward to the do$esticated horse and we find $an! that stand in a stall over H hours a
da! and their grass 9now processed ha!: is onl! a,out 1D water1 In addition2 do$estication puts
$an! horses in a situation where the! are eating onl! two $eals a da!1 #an! horses appear to
tolerate the do$esticated situation well2 ,ut I feel that so$e do not2 and it is i$portant to
recogni;e this1 I have cared for $ore than one 6chronic6 colic that responded well to splitting the
feed ration into three to four feedings per da! and $a5ing the effort to get the$ so$e ti$e out on
There are other factors affecting digestion in the horse that are worth considering in this
discussion1 The fer$entation that occurs in the hindgut of the horse is a ver! co$ple4 and
so$ewhat delicate process that can ,e disrupted ,! $an! factors1 #illions of ,acteria in the gut
have their own life c!cles of digesting the co$ple4 car,oh!drates of ingested ha!2 with the horse
,enefiting fro$ the ,acterial ,!products1 If so$ething occurs to 6shoc56 or change the population
of ,acteria2 the rate of fer$entation changes along with the ,!products of the fer$entation1 This
leads to the production of e4cessive a$ounts of gas1
In addition2 disrupting nor$al fer$entation can lead to rapid changes in the pH 9acidit!: of the
intestine2 which further i$pact the nor$al population of ,acteria and the digestive process1 There
are $an! species of ,acteria living within the colon2 including ones that can cause illness if their
population nu$,ers ,eco$e too high1 It is ,asicall! a situation where large nu$,ers of the so7
called 6good6 ,acteria actuall! 5eep the nu$,ers of the potentiall! 6,ad6 ,acteria under control
9co$petitive inhi,ition:1 This is one reason wh! the ad$inistration of so$e oral anti,iotics can
cause diarrhea1 This is also wh! it is e4tre$el! i$portant to $a5e an! changes in t!pe and
/uantit! of feed slowl!1
It is generall! a good idea to ,ring !our own feed to shows so !ou do not have to $a5e a sudden
change in feed during ti$es of other stress1 .ven with ha!2 it is pro,a,l! ,eneficial to feed half of
the 6old6 ,atch and half of the 6new6 ,atch for a,out a wee5 ,efore co$pletel! $a5ing the
change1 This also holds true for fresh2 lush grass in the spring77it is ,est to introduce horses a
little ,it longer each da! if the! are going to ,e turned out for long periods of ti$e1
Al$ost ever! winter I care for a horse e4periencing colic fro$ suddenl! receiving too $uch
solu,le 9fer$enta,le: car,oh!drate 9li5e crac5ed corn:1 In those cases2 the grain ration is
increased /uic5l! under the $ista5en idea that this will give the horse $ore readil! availa,le
calories to help hi$ 5eep war$ during the reall! cold season1 This is not onl! dangerous2 it is
'udden increases of the $ore easil! fer$enta,le feeds 9the concentrated grain products: cause
the fer$entation rate to dra$aticall! increase and certain species of ,acteria to proliferate1 This
increase selects out a species of ,acteria that produces $an! acid ,!products2 in turn dropping
the pH within the large intestine 9$a5ing it $ore acidic: and su,se/uentl! 5illing off so$e of the
6good6 ,acterial population1 This causes a severe disruption in nor$al fer$entation and
gastrointestinal $otilit!1
'o$e of these horses actuall! die fro$ the sto$ach rupture ,ecause of the pooling of e4cessive
fluid and gas since the horse cannot vo$it1 Others can develop severe diarrhea and@or la$initis
9founder:1 'o7called grain overload can cause ver! serious illness2 so it is i$portant to 5eep !our
grain products in a place where a loose horse can)t get at the$2 and never start feeding large
/uantities of a grain product suddenl!1
A significant percentage of ,od! heat in the horse can co$e fro$ the nor$al slow fer$entation of
fi,er within the large colon1 'o to help !our horse 5eep 6war$6 in the winter2 $a5e sure he has
access to good7/ualit! ha!1 For those who live in a cli$ate where the winter is cold 9,elow
free;ing:2 the caloric re/uire$ent in winter can increase H>D or $ore 9depending on how cold it
Does 'i;e #atterL
Another factor that affects the fer$entation process is the particle si;e of the feed $aterial
traveling through the colon1 If the particle si;e is too large 9as in an older horse with ,ad teeth that
can)t chew properl!:2 it will not ,e full! digested@fer$ented in the intestines1 Finding two7 to three7
inch long ste$s of under7digested ha! in the $anure can ,e a clue to this1
On the flip side2 if the particle si;e is s$all2 it is $uch $ore /uic5l! fer$ented ,ecause $ore
,acteria have access to $ore surface area of that a$ount of feed $aterial1 This is wh!
crac5ed@ground corn can cause pro,le$s1 In so$e cases2 feedstuff with ver! s$all particles can
actuall! $ove through the intestinal s!ste$ too /uic5l!2 thus not allowing enough ti$e for it to ,e
full! processed ,! the s$all intestine1
Ta5e7Ho$e #essage
./uine nutrition has e4panded ,! leaps and ,ounds in the last decade1 Nutritional i$,alances
have ,een proven to ,e lin5ed to such diseases as osteochondritis dissecans 9a ,one $aturation
disorder:2 and nutritional therap! has proven ,eneficial in t!ing7up and gl!cogen storage disease1
The t!pes of processed feeds and supple$ents availa,le are growing e4ponentiall!2 and !our
choices for an individual horse should ,e educated ones1
There are a nu$,er of e4cellent ,oo5s availa,le2 and one of the ,est general references is the
National Research Council)s Nutrient Re/uire$ents of Horses pu,lished ,! the National
Acade$! %ress2 +ashington2 D1C12 in 1<C< 9availa,le online at
www1nap1edu@,oo5s@I<I<C<A@ht$l:1 This ,oo5 is currentl! ,eing revised and the new edition
should ,e availa,le in the ne4t !ear or so1 Another good reference is &on &ewis) Feeding and
Care of the Horse 9second edition:1
In addition to !our veterinarian2 $an! state colleges have an agriculture or e/uine e4tension
agent who can ,e of great help with ration ,alancing and forage@feed anal!sis1 There is also a
growing nu$,er of private e/uine nutritional consultants1
However !ou choose to create a ration for !our horse2 $a5e sure it is one that suits the horse)s
age2 activit! level2 nutritional re/uire$ent2 and cli$ate1 It is said that !ou are what !ou eat2 and
the sa$e is true of !our horse1 .4cept that !ou as owner are responsi,le for choosing what !our
horse eats ever! da!1
Article appears courtes! of The Horse2 printed in the 'epte$,er HA issue1
posted( <@1?@HA1 &ast updated( <@1?@HA1

Nutritional Considerations &or Athletic Horses
8+ Ra+ ;< %eor: B"Sc: )hD: Diplo5ate AC"I. =source9 )resented
During the *>>, Horse5an7s Da+ Educational Event in New
Orleans: #A ?

Few will dispute that nutrition is i$portant for the opti$i;ation of athletic perfor$ance in horses1
However2 there tends to ,e less agree$ent a$ong horse$en2 nutritionists and veterinarians
regarding the $ost i$portant nutritional considerations for athletic horses1 'o$e will focus on the
virtues of the latest fad supple$ent2 while others will e$phasi;e the i$portance of getting the
,asics right2 i1e1 plent! of high7/ualit! forage supple$ented ,! grains or other energ!7laden
concentrates1 This article discusses so$e aspects of the feeding $anage$ent of athletic horses2
first focusing on the i$portant funda$entals2 and then e4a$ining the interpla! ,etween feeding
$anage$ent and the develop$ent of gastric ulcers and chronic t!ing7up2 disorders that
co$$onl! afflict perfor$ance horses1
Energ+ Re@uire5ents
As with an! feeding progra$2 the $ain consideration is whether the diet $eets the horseMs
nutritional needs N $eaning ade/uate water2 energ! 9calories:2 fi,er2 $inerals 9e1g1 calciu$2
phosphorus2 seleniu$: and vita$ins1 For athletic horses2 energ! is the $ost i$portant nutritional
consideration1 Dail! training and co$petition ,urns a lot of ,od! fuel2 particularl! $uscle
gl!cogen2 and these fuel reserves $ust ,e replenished1 .nerg! is not a nutrient per se ,ut rather
a $easure of a feedMs potential to fuel ,od! functions1 For horses2 energ! needs are e4pressed
as $egacalories 9#cal: of digesti,le energ! 9D.: where 1 #cal e/uals 12 5cal1 The 1<C<
National Research Council reco$$endations on the nutritional re/uire$ents of horses state that
dail! D. inta5e ,e increased ,! H>2 >2 and 1D a,ove $aintenance re/uire$ents for horses
engaged in light2 $ediu$ and intense e4ercise2 respectivel!1 These reco$$endations are ,ased
on data fro$ e4peri$ental studies2 feeding surve!s and practical e4perience1 &ight wor5 $ight
include e/uitation and other for$s of pleasure riding2 while horses engaged in racing2 hunting2 I7
da! events and endurance activities would fall into the intense categor! 9Ta,le 1:1 Clearl!2 if the
diet does not provide sufficient energ! to $eet the increased de$ands associated with these
athletic activities2 loss of ,od! condition and perfor$ance will ensue1 This situation $ost
co$$onl! arises in racehorses2 where the ade/uac! of feed inta5e can ,e a pro,le$1 On the
other hand2 pleasure horse owners have a tendenc! to overesti$ate the a$ount of wor5 9ph!sical
activit!: perfor$ed ,! their horses N the end result ,eing weight gain due to energ! inta5e in
e4cess of re/uire$ents1 For 'tandard,red and Thorough,red racehorses2 field studies and
o,servations have indicated that the NRC 91<C<: reco$$endations are appropriate2 at least for
horses engaged in heav! training and co$petition1 However2 it is i$portant to reali;e that the
NRC reco$$endations are 3ust a starting point1 There can ,e su,stantial variation ,etween
horses in ter$s of calorie needs and how $uch feed the! will eat in a da! N so$e horses ,eco$e
overweight when fed according to these guidelines while others lose weight1 #aintenance of ,od!
weight and condition are the ,est indicators of energ! sufficienc!1 'o2 on a regular ,asis 9ever!
$onth:2 it is i$portant to assess ,od! condition and to ad3ust feed inta5e accordingl!1 The ,od!
condition scoring 9BC': s!ste$ assesses flesh coverage N $ostl! fat N over different areas of the
,od!2 where a score of 1 indicates an e4tre$el! thin horses and a score of < an o,ese one1 For
$ost athletic horses2 ,od! condition should ,e ,etween a score of A1> and ?11
Recent studies have investigated the relationship ,etween ,od! condition score and co$pletion
rate during the Tevis Cup 91 $ile: endurance ride N the standard ,od! condition scale of 1 to <
was used1 The $ean ,od! condition score of horses that successfull! co$pleted the rides was
A1>2 whereas horses that were eli$inated for $eta,olic failure 9colic2 heat e4haustion2
s!nchronous diaphrag$atic flutter or Othu$psPor t!ing up: had a $ean condition score of H1<1
Horses that were eli$inated for non7$eta,olic reasons such as la$eness and over the ti$e li$it
had a $ean condition score of A1I1 The ta5e7ho$e $essage fro$ these studies is that there is an
opti$al level of OfatnessP for horses co$peting in endurance events2 and that training and feeding
progra$s need to ,e ad3usted accordingl!1 Thin horses 9condition score QI: $a! ,e at a
disadvantage ,ecause of low7energ! reserves and $uscle $ass2 while over7conditioned horses
could e4perience detri$ental effects due to the insulating effect of a thic5er fat cover and the
carriage of Odead weightP1
Another funda$ental consideration is how $uch feed we e4pect a perfor$ance horse to eat each
da!1 On average2 we $ight e4pect a horse to consu$e so$ewhere ,etween H and H1>D of ,od!
weight as feed per da! 9HH to I l, for an 11 l, horse:1 For argu$ents sa5e2 assu$e a
racehorse that needs I> #cal D.@da! will eat HC l,s of feed per da!1 This $eans that the overall
energ! densit! of the diet $ust ,e around 11H> #cal D.@l,1 Gnowing that even good /ualit! ha! is
usuall! no $ore than 1<7111 #cal@l,2 it is o,vious that ha! alone will not get the 3o, done1
Calorie sources
 Fer$enta,le car,oh!drates( co$ponents of dietar! fi,er or roughage that cannot ,e digested
,! the horseMs en;!$es ,ut can ,e fer$ented ,! $icroorganis$s in the hindgut
 H!drol!;a,le car,oh!drates( si$ple sugars and starch that are digested ,! the horseMs
 Oils and fats
 %rotein( not pri$aril! fed as an energ! source ,ecause $eta,olis$ of protein to usea,le
energ! is inefficient
Gnowledge of the horseMs digestive ph!siolog! and the i$pact of diet co$position and $eal si;e
on the efficienc! of digestive processes are i$portant in the selection of an appropriate ration and
feeding strateg!1 The horse evolved as a gra;ing ani$al and its gastrointestinal tract2 with a well7
developed cecu$ and large colon2 is highl! adapted to the utili;ation of fi,er7rich feeds that are
consu$ed on an al$ost continuous ,asis1 The hindgut 9cecu$ and colon: co$prises
appro4i$atel! ?AD of the total 9e$pt!: volu$e of the gastrointestinal tract2 whereas the sto$ach
9BD: and s$all intestine 9H>D: have a relativel! s$all capacit!1 'i$ilar to other $a$$alian
species2 the s$all intestine is the $a3or site of digestion of protein2 fat and h!drol!sa,le
car,oh!drates1 However2 the horse has a li$ited a,ilit! to digest and a,sor, h!drol!sa,le
car,oh!drates 9particularl! starch: in the s$all intestine1 &arge concentrate $eals $a!
overwhel$ the digestive capacit! of the s$all intestine and pro$ote the flow of undigested
h!drol!s,le car,oh!drate to the large intestine1 This not onl! reduces the efficienc! of feed
utili;ation2 ,ut also increases the ris5 for digestive distur,ances associated with e4cessive and
uncontrolled fer$entation of the undigested h!drol!sa,le car,oh!drate in the large intestine1
Fi8erAroughage needs
Fro$ the preceding discussion2 it is clear that forage 9roughage: should alwa!s ,e the foundation
of an e/uine ration1 Although a re/uire$ent for dietar! fi,er has not ,een esta,lished in horses2
so$e long7ste$ roughage is i$portant for $aintenance of nor$al hindgut function and thus for
nor$al digestion1 There also is evidence that diets low in long7ste$ fi,er favor develop$ent of
certain stereot!pes 9,ehavioral vices:1 Therefore2 ade/uate dietar! roughage $a! ,e i$portant
for prevention of so$e undesira,le ,ehavioral traits2 particularl! in horses 5ept in confine$ent1
'o$e trainers prefer to feed low7roughage diets ,ecause such rations $a! reduce the weight of
ingesta in the intestinal tract 9Odead weightP:2 there,! providing an energetic advantage during
so$e for$s of e4ercise1 The possi,le ,enefits of this practice should ,e weighed against the
increased ris5s of gastrointestinal d!sfunction 9e1g1 colic2 gastric ulcers: and ,ehavioral
a,nor$alities when horses are fed low7roughage diets1
This author reco$$ends at least H l, forage per H l, ,od!weight 9i1e1 1H l, for a 1H l,
horse:1 %astures and different for$s of conserved forages 9i1e1 ha!2 chaff2 ha! cu,es2 ha!lage:
are the pri$ar! source of roughage in horse rations1 Although several factors can affect the
nutrient value of conserved forages2 the $ost i$portant is the stage of $aturit! at the ti$e of
harvest N the energ! content2 digesti,ilit! and palata,ilit! of forage all decrease with increasing
$aturit!1 Therefore2 forages harvested at an earl! stage of plant $aturit! should ,e fed to wor5ing
horses to $a4i$i;e nutritional value and inta5e of the offered /uantities1 The relative use of
grass2 legu$e or cereal 9usuall! oaten: ha!s2 and the different for$s of preserved forages $ade
fro$ these species often depends on availa,ilit! and personal preference1
Energ+ concentrates
Cereal grains( Traditionall!2 cereal grains such as oats2 corn and ,arle! 9alone or in co$,ination:
have ,een a source of energ! in rations for athletic horses1 'tarch2 a h!drol!sa,le car,oh!drate2
is the pri$ar! co$ponent of cereal grains1 Oats are appro4i$atel! AB7>D starch while the starch
content of corn and ,arle! is ,etween ?> and BD1 Digestion of starch in the s$all intestine
!ields glucose2 the su,strate for liver and $uscle gl!cogen s!nthesis1 As $uscle gl!cogen is a
pri$ar! fuel during e4ercise2 the provision of so$e h!drol!sa,le car,oh!drate 9starch and@or
sugar: in the diet of an athletic horse is i$portant for replenish$ent of gl!cogen reserves1
However2 there is evidence that the horse has a li$ited capacit! to digest and a,sor, starch 9and
perhaps other si$ple car,oh!drates: fro$ the s$all intestine1 +ith the ingestion of large grain
$eals2 a su,stantial proportion of the ingested starch $a! escape h!drol!sis in the s$all
intestine2 with a resultant deliver! of this su,strate to the hindgut1 Rapid fer$entation of starch in
the hindgut ,! lactate7producing ,acteria can result in lactate accu$ulation2 e4cess gas
production2 cecal and colonic acidosis and increased ris5 of intestinal distur,ances 9colic:1
'everal strategies can ,e e$plo!ed to $itigate the ris5 of digestive distur,ances attri,uta,le to
heav! grain 9starch: feeding1 First2 it is advisa,le to li$it the si;e of individual grain7,ased $eals
to avoid Ostarch ,!passP to the large intestine1 'econd2 onl! cereal grains with high pre7cecal
starch digesti,ilit! should ,e included in energ! concentrates for horses1 Third2 energ!
concentrates for athletic horses should $a5e $ore use of non7starch car,oh!drates 9e1g1 sugar
,eet pulp: and vegeta,le fats1 Inclusion of these alternative energ! sources facilitates a reduction
in the level of starch feeding without co$pro$ising the caloric densit! of the ration1
A suggested upper li$it of starch inta5e in a single $eal is ,etween H and A g starch per 5g
,od!weight 91HD71AD of ,wt per feeding:1 Thus2 if a concentrate feed contains >D starch 9e1g1
plain oats: the $a4i$u$ reco$$ended a$ount of concentrate per feeding is appro4i$atel! > l,
for an 11 l, horse1 %re7cecal starch digesti,ilit! varies with the t!pe of grain and the nature of
an! $echanical or ther$al processing1 For e4a$ple2 whereas oat starch 9at up to I g@5g per
$eal: has a pre7cecal digesti,ilit! of greater than <D2 appro4i$atel! I>D of an e/uivalent dose
of cornstarch reaches the cecu$ undigested1 'i$ilarl!2 the pre7cecal digesti,ilit! of unprocessed
,arle! is su,stantiall! lower when co$pared to oats1 However2 heat treat$ents such as
$icronisation2 e4trusion and stea$ fla5ing significantl! i$prove the pre7cecal starch digesti,ilit!
of ,arle! and corn1 Overall2 oats appear to ,e the safest source of starch for horses2 although
,arle! and corn are accepta,le if the! are su,3ected to so$e for$ of heat treat$ent1
Fats and oils( The addition of fat to horse rations is now co$$onplace1 #ost co$$ercial fat7
supple$ented concentrates for horses contain a vegeta,le oil such as so!2 corn or canola1 Other
oils that $a! ,e used in e/uine rations include peanut2 safflower2 coconut2 linseed or fla4seed1
'ta,ili;ed rice ,ran 91C7HHD fat:2 fla4seed $eal 9AD fat: and copra $eal 9C7<D fat: are also
used in horse rations1 -egeta,le oils are ,oth highl! digesti,le 9<71D: and palata,le1 Rice
,ran is rich in phosphorus and has an inverted Ca@% ratio2 ,ut $an! co$$ercial rice ,ran
products contain added calciu$ 9e1g1 calciu$ car,onate: to correct this i$,alance1 Alternativel!2 a
$ineral supple$ent can ,e added to the ration to ensure an appropriate Ca@% ratio 9at least 1(1:
in rations containing rice ,ran1
Fat is often added to the diet to increase the energ! densit! of the ration2 which can offer an
advantage when dr! $atter inta5e li$its provision of ade/uate energ! to $aintain condition 9Ohard
5eeperP horses:1 Alternativel!2 su,stitution of fat for a portion of the grain in an energ! concentrate
allows for a decrease in h!drol!sa,le car,oh!drate inta5e1 This strateg! is advocated for horses
with so$e for$s of chronic e4ertional rha,do$!ol!sis 9see ,elow:1
The ideal a$ount of dietar! fat for horses has not ,een deter$ined1 Co$$erciall!2 the level of fat
or oil added to a concentrate is often li$ited ,! $anufacturing constraints 9e1g1 poor pellet /ualit!
when large a$ounts of oil are included in pelleted feeds= greas! appearance of concentrate
$i4es:1 Therefore2 fat7supple$ented concentrates designed for perfor$ance horses usuall!
contain ,etween > and 1AD fat 9as fed:2 providing ,etween C and ID of the D.1 However2 as
these concentrates are fed with forage2 the a$ount of fat on a total diet ,asis is $uch lower 9ID7
CD fat2 or A71>D of the D. fro$ fat assu$ing a >D concentrate2 >D forage diet:1 #an! horse
owners and trainers add vegeta,le oil to e4isting rations1 A suggested upper li$it of oil
supple$entation is 1 standard $easuring cup 9H g oil: per H> l, ,od!weight per da!1 There
should ,e a gradual introduction to oil feeding to avoid digestive distur,ances 9loose and oil!
feces:1 Initiall!2 R to S cup of oil@da! can ,e added to the ration1 Over a two to three wee5 period2
the a$ount of added oil can ,e increased to H to HS cups@da!2 divided into at least two to three
feedings1 Non7starch car,oh!drates( There are two $ain t!pes of non7starch pol!saccharides
used in e/uine rations( 1: si$ple sugars and H: highl! digesti,le sources of fi,er 9so7called
Ofer$enta,le fi,ersP:2 particularl! sugar ,eet pulp 9'B%: and so!a hulls and2 to a lesser e4tent2
citrus pulp1 'i$ple sugars in the for$ of $olasses 9a $i4ture of glucose2 sucrose and fructose:
are often added to grain $i4es at ?7CD ,! weight1
'B% or so!a hulls can ,e included as a su,stitute for cereals 9starch: in energ! concentrates1
'tudies in horses have de$onstrated that up to I1 g 'B% per 5g ,od!weight per da! 9i1e1 up to
I7l, of dr! 'B% shreds per da! for an 11 l, horse: $a! ,e fed to adult horses without an!
adverse effects on overall nutrient utili;ation or perfor$ance1 The inclusion of 'B% or so! hulls in
the ration can help to ensure ade/uate fi,er inta5e1
Although the feeding of straight grains or sweet feed $i4es to athletic horses re$ains a popular
practice2 there is increasing e$phasis on use of energ! concentrates in which so$e starch and
sugar has ,een su,stituted ,! fat and@or a fer$enta,le fi,er such as 'B% and so!a hulls 9so7
called Ofat and fi,erP feeds:1 'uch diets $a! reduce the ris5 of gastrointestinal distur,ances and2
as discussed ,elow2 are useful in the nutritional $anage$ent of horses with chronic e4ertional
rhado$!ol!sis1 Figure 1 co$pares the sources of digesti,le energ! in a traditional racehorse diet
9forage plus grain: and a diet in which a fat and fi,er energ! concentrate is fed1
Special considerations
8astric ulcers( 8astric ulcers are of particular concern for athletic horses2 and there is so$e
support for the idea that the feeding $anage$ent t!picall! practiced in training situations is a
contri,uting factor1 +hen a horse gra;es at pasture or ni,,les on ha! for e4tended periods2 a
great deal of saliva is produced1 'aliva contains sodiu$ ,icar,onate 9O,a5ing sodaP:2 and this
su,stance helps to ,uffer acid produced in the sto$ach and therefore $ini$i;e da$age to the
sto$ach lining1 In contrast2 when a horse eats a grain $eal2 saliva production is less than one7
half co$pared to an e/ual a$ount of ha!2 ,asicall! ,ecause less chewing is re/uired1 Bear in
$ind that the horses produce gastric acid on a continual ,asis1 Therefore2 if a horse is fed
$orning and afternoon@evening 9i1e1 two $eals@da!:2 the chances are that there will ,e length!
periods when the sto$ach is practicall! devoid of food ,ut full! e4posed to O,urningP effects of
gastric acid1 This $a! ,e one factor that contri,utes to ulcer develop$ent in athletic horses on
low7fi,er@high7grain diets1 It has also ,een proposed that large grain7concentrate $eals favor feed
fer$entation in the sto$ach and the volatile fatt! acids !ielded ,! this process have also ,een
i$plicated in the develop$ent of gastric ulcers1
All of this suggests that racehorses should ,e given free access to forage N and in an ideal world2
a few hours at pasture each da!1 'plitting the grain allot$ent into three to four $eals per da!2
rather than two2 also $a! ,e ,eneficial1 Finall!2 there $a! ,e so$e $erit in allowing the horse to
consu$e a little ha! 917H l,s: ,efore e4ercise1 Recent research has shown that the sto$ach
contracts 9i1e1 shrin5s in si;e: during e4ercise N this circu$stance also $a! favor a OsplashingP of
gastric acid over the areas of the sto$ach prone to ulcer for$ation1 On the other hand2 if a little
food and saliva are present in the sto$ach during e4ercise2 the ,urning effect of gastric acid
could ,e lessened1
Chronic t!ing7up( 'trict control of diet is particularl! i$portant for athletic horses that suffer fro$
chronic e4ertional rha,do$!ol!sis 9t!ing up: N including recurrent e4ertional rha,do$!ol!sis
9R.R: in Thorough,reds and pol!saccharide storage $!opath! 9%''#: in 0uarter Horses and
related ,reeds1 These horses $ust ,e fed concentrates low in starch and sugar1 'peciali;ed
co$$ercial feeds are now availa,le for horses with chronic t!ing up N these feeds have a
restricted a$ount of starch and sugar with $uch of the energ! supplied ,! fat and fi,er sources
such as ,eet pulp and so! hulls1
aBe(ho5e 5essage
Traditionall!2 cereal grains have ,een a dietar! $ainsta! for athletic horses1 However2 research
over the past H !ears has indicated that diets high in h!drol!sa,le car,oh!drate increase the ris5
of colic and increase the incidence of certain $edical conditions2 e1g1 chronic t!ing up1 Therefore2
$odern rations for athletic horses e$phasi;e alternative energ! sources such as fat and
fer$enta,le car,oh!drates2 with lower starch and sugar1
a8le '9 Digesti8le energ+ =DE? re@uire5ents =5egacalories per da+? &or an ''>> l8 horse
at &our di&&erent activit+ levels<
Activit+ E4a5ples DE Re@uire5ent =.calAda+?
#aintenance Horse at pasture 1?
&ight %leasure riding2 e/uitation H
#oderate Reining2 cutting HA
Intense Racehorses2 endurance horses IH
Figure 1: Graphical representation of the sources of energy in a traditional grain and hay diet
(Starch) and a contemporary fat and fiber energy concentrate and hay diet (Fat/fiber) fed to an
1100 lb racehorse requiring approximately 3 !cal of digestible energy ("#) per day$ %oth diets
include 1& lb of mid'bloom timothy hay and( on a total diet basis( pro)ide 1* crude protein$ For
Starch( the horse is fed +1, lb of an energy concentrate comprised of oats (-.*)( crac/ed corn
(3.*) and sugar cane molasses (,*)$ 0he same quantity of energy concentrate is fed in
Fat/fiber (+13* fat)( the primary ingredients of 1hich are beet pulp( rice bran( soy hulls and
)egetable oil$ Graph 2 depicts estimates of the absolute "# pro)ided by protein( fat( hydrolysable
carbohydrate (h3456 starch and sugar) and fiber carbohydrates (f345) in the respecti)e diets$
Graph % sho1s the percentage contribution of the four energy sources to the total "# inta/e$
7ote the dramatic reduction in h345 inta/e in the Fat/fiber 1hen compared to the Starch diet$
5e!words( nutrition for the perfor$ance horse2 perfor$ance nutrition 1
posted( 1@B@HA1 &ast updated( 1@C@HA1

Nutrition As It Relates o he Hoo&
8+ B+ Scott Cing: D<"<.< courtes+ o& )urina .ills: ##C<
Co$$on factors influencing the /ualit! of the hoof are genetics2 environ$ent2 farrier! and
nutrition1 The horseMs hoof is $ade up of or affected ,! all co$ponents of the e/uine diet2
including protein2 fat2 car,oh!drates2 vita$ins and $inerals1 'ince there is no one nutritional
panacea for hoof health2 ,alancing these co$ponents 9,ased on the horseMs age and lifest!le: is
i$portant for the overall health of the horse and its hooves1
It is also i$portant to review the research that has ,een conducted on how different nutrients $a!
affect the growth of the hoof1 And2 to understand how nutrition can help or hinder the hoof2 it is
essential to understand how the horse digests and a,sor,s different co$ponents of its diet1
Digestive %h!siolog!
The horse has evolved as a continuous gra;ing2 non7ru$inant her,ivore2 although it has a
significant capacit! for digesting cereal grains1 Its digestive trac5 is well adapted to s$all2 high7
fi,er $eals due to the continuous $icro,ial fer$entation that occurs in the cecu$ and colon1 The
fact that $an has do$esticated the horse and increased its energ! de$ands has ,rought a,out
the need to supple$ent their diet with higher7energ!2 well7,alanced concentrates1
The digestive tract of the horse can ,e ,ro5en down into two s!ste$s1 The first s!ste$2 including
the sto$ach and s$all intestine2 is ver! si$ilar to that of $an and dog1 The second2 the hindgut
of the horse2 has $an! si$ilarities to the foregut of the cow1
The sto$ach of the horse has two functionall! different sections1 The non7glandular s/ua$ous
$ucosa and the glandular region1 The non7glandular region has a population of lacto,acteria2
which have a s$all capacit! to h!drol!;e starchs to lactic acid1 Once the ingesta reach the
glandular region2 the $icro,ial action is halted due to the presence of sto$ach acid1 This gastric
acid $i4es with the ingested feed and aids in digestion1 Food re$ains in the sto$ach for
appro4i$atel! H $inutes1 This region of the digestive tract has received $uch attention recentl!
due to a large nu$,er of perfor$ance horses that have ,een found to have gastric ulcers1 It is
thought that those horses who are allowed to eat $ultiple s$all $eals a da! and 5eep so$ething
in their sto$ach to neutrali;e the acid will have fewer gastric ulcers1 There is increasing evidence
that intensel! e4ercising horses are su,3ect to gastric co$pression2 which $a! push acid into the
s/ua$ous region of the sto$ach1 This $a! ,e another reason wh! perfor$ance horses develop
gastric ulcers in this region 9#erritt AT-R HH:1
The s$all intestine is the site of en;!$atic digestion1 'ince the horse has no gall ,ladder these
en;!$es are continuousl! released fro$ the pancreas1 %roteol!tic en;!$es ,rea5 down protein
into a$ino acids1 %rotein is used for $uscle tissue growth and regrowth and is not considered to
contri,ute to the e4cita,ilit! of horses1 'tarch is ,ro5en down ,! the a$!lol!tic en;!$es2 is
a,sor,ed as si$ple sugars 9,lood sugar:2 and stored predo$inantl! as gl!cogen1 'tarch can ,e
supplied fro$ oats2 ,arle! and corn1 Overloads of these grains can lead to la$initis1 8l!cogen is
the pri$ar! energ! source for short duration2 high7intensit! anaero,ic e4ercise1
The efficienc! of starch digestion is e4tre$el! i$portant in the horse1 If the s$all intestine is
overloaded with starch fro$ a large concentrate $eal2 then that starch passes though to the
hindgut where it is h!drol!;ed ,! ,acteria and results in lactic acid ,eing produced in the cecu$1
This change in pH can ,e ver! detri$ental to the horse1 It has ,een suggested that no $ore than
Hg of starch@Gg of ,od! weight ,e fed to a horse in one $eal1 Corn has appro4i$atel! BD starch
and co$plete feeds 9those with the forage portion ,uilt in: have a,out HD starch 9N'C:1
.ven though the adult horse did not evolve consu$ing diets with higher levels of fat2 it does have
a great capacit! for fat digestion and a,sorption once the s!ste$ has adapted to it1 9It $ust ,e
5ept in $ind that $areMs $il5 is 1>D fat on a dr! $atter ,asis1:
Fats are ,ro5en down ,! lipol!tic en;!$es and a,sor,ed into the l!$phatic s!ste$ or so$e are
a,sor,ed directl! into the ,lood1 Fat is then stored as ,od! fat1 The dietar! fat7solu,le vita$ins A2
D2 . and G are also a,sor,ed in the s$all intestine in association with dietar! fat1
Digestion and a,sorption in the cecu$ and colon is dependent upon $icro,ial fer$entation1
Dietar! fi,er undergoes fer$entation in the large intestine and results $ainl! in the production of
volatile fatt! acids 9-FAs:1 The $a3orit! of these -FAs are a,sor,ed and converted to glucose or
fatt! acids2 and stored as ,od! fat or gl!cogen1 %ropionates ,eing the onl! -FA that can go
through gluconeogenesis and ulti$atel! ,eco$e gl!cogen1 This pathwa! is not as efficient in
energ! production as starch digestion in the s$all intestine1 However2 fi,er is a significant source
of energ! for the horse and should not ,e thought of onl! as ,ul5 for a health! intestinal
%rotein not digested in the s$all intestine will enter the hindgut where it is predo$inantl! utili;ed
,! the ,acteria to perpetuate ,acterial s!nthesis1 -er! little is utili;ed ,! the horse1 This is
i$portant for foals2 ,rood$ares and perfor$ance horses ,ecause the! re/uire high7/ualit!
protein in their diet and will need to ,e fed a ration for$ulated with a specific a$ino acid profile1
'tarch that enters the hindgut is h!drol!;ed ,! lacto,acilli and lactic acid is produced1 This acid
environ$ent can decrease the fi,er digesting capacit! of the hindgut and possi,l! predispose the
horse to i$paction colic1 If the pH drops enough it can also set the horse up for la$initis1
The other i$portant nutritional event that occurs in the hindgut is the s!nthesis of the water7
solu,le B7co$ple4 vita$ins 9including ,iotin: ,! the resident $icroflora1 The ,od! tissues produce
-ita$in C1 High starch diets can result in i$paired fer$entation and therefore ,e detri$ental to B7
co$ple4 vita$in production1 +ater7solu,le vita$ins are not stored in the ,od! of the horse1 This
re/uires a constant source of vita$in production in the hindgut1 This is significant ,ecause so$e
horses $a! re/uire supple$entation if hindgut function is su,opti$al1 B7co$ple4 vita$ins are
thought to affect appetite and therefore horses with i$paired hindgut function $a! have poor
appetite and need B7co$ple4 supple$entation1
Now with a ,asic understanding of the digestive functions of the horse2 we will review the 5e!
ele$ents of e/uine nutrition that are critical to the develop$ent of the hoof1
Balanced Nutrition
Horses re/uire four ,asic nutrients in ,alanced a$ounts( protein2 vita$ins2 $inerals and energ!1
.4cesses or deficiencies of these four ,asic nutrients can affect a,sorption and utili;ation of
The ele$ent that can change $ost dra$aticall! is energ!1 The dail! calorie re/uire$ent for
horses ranges fro$ 1?2 cal@da! for $aintenance to $ore than I2cal@da! for lactating
,rood$ares and so$e perfor$ance horses1 The life stage or wor5load will deter$ine the a$ount
of dietar! calories re/uired1
The t!pe of e4ercise the horse is perfor$ing will deter$ine what the horse utili;es as energ!1 In
horses2 aero,ic e4ercise perfor$ed for a long duration at low intensit! t!picall! results in a heart
rate of less than 1> ,eats per $inute 9B%#:1 Anaero,ic e4ercise perfor$ed for a short duration
at high intensit! results in a heart rate of greater than 1> B%#1
Horses also have three fuel tan5s fro$ which to draw energ!( fat2 gl!cogen and protein1 Horses
can fill those fuel tan5s fro$ four sources( solu,le car,oh!drates 9starch:2 insolu,le
car,oh!drates 9fi,er:2 fat 9vegeta,le oil: and protein 9a$ino acids:1
'tarch is the $ain source of energ! for anaero,ic $eta,olis$1 A,sorption of starch results in
elevated ,lood glucose and is so$eti$es associated with a OhotP or Ohigh horse1P
Fer$entation of fi,er 9insolu,le car,oh!drates: in the hindgut results in -FA production1 A diet of
fi,er alone cannot support $a4i$al wor5loads2 especiall! anaero,ic wor51 The horse cannot fill
the gl!cogen fuel tan5 fro$ ha! alone1 A horse perfor$ing intense e4ercise $a! need a ha!7to7
grain ratio of A(? percent to $eet its energ! de$ands1 Horses should alwa!s ,e fed at least
one percent of their ,od! weight in roughage to $aintain proper gut function1
The $aturit! of ha! greatl! affects the digesti,ilit!1 &eaving grass growing even an e4tra H da!s
will decrease the digesti,ilit! significantl!1 Also2 if the ha! is cut ver! earl!2 the fi,er content can ,e
ver! low and can cause pro,le$s for the horseMs digestive tract1 The vita$in content of ha! will
also decrease with storage ti$e1
Fat is a ver! energ! dense source of calories1 It is added to the ration of the horse in order to
$eet high7energ! de$ands without running into starch overloading1 -egeta,le oils are ver!
palata,ilit! and also i$prove the hair coat1 Fat is the pri$ar! source of energ! for aero,ic
%rotein is a $eta,olicall! e4pensive source of energ!1 Horses re/uire certain a$ounts of protein
for different stages of life not certain percentages1 Adult perfor$ance horses re/uire Ag
protein@#cal of energ!1 8rowing horses re/uire >g protein@#cal1 #ost straight grains will ,e
deficient in specific a$ino acids li5e l!sine1 &!sine is necessar! for proper growth in foals so it
should ,e added to ,alance a feed1 %rotein re/uire$ents increase with e4ercise ,ut the protein7
to7calorie ratio does not1 %rotein is used to repair and ,uild $uscle1
'pecific Nutrients Affecting The Hoof
There are several nutrients that can influence hoof growth and /ualit!1 There is ver! little
evidence to suggest that the addition of e4tra nutrients to an alread! ,alanced diet will pro$ote
hoof growth in the nor$al horse1
.nerg! has ,een shown to affect the growth of the hoof in growing ani$als 9Butler U Hint; 1<BB:1
The energ! inta5e was restricted in one group of growing horses while the other group was fed ad
li,itu$1 A reduced rate of hoof growth was seen in the energ!7restricted group1 It is possi,le that
an!thing that restricts ,od! weight gain will also restrict growth rate of the hoof1
The hoof is predo$inantl! 5eratin2 which is an insolu,le protein1 %rotein deficienc! can have the
sa$e effect as energ! deficienc!1 The hoof growth of weanlings fed 1D protein was onl! two
thirds that of weanlings fed 1A1>D protein1 Investigators have failed to show an effect of specific
a$ino acid supple$entation on the growth of hooves1 Although2 if a horse is fed a diet deficient of
a specific a$ino acid and ,alancing that diet pro$otes weight gain2 then it $a! also pro$ote hoof
growth 9Hint;2 Current Therap!2 1<CI:1
The a$ino acid concentration has ,een shown to ,e different within the horn of good /ualit!
hooves as co$pared to that of poor /ualit! hooves 9Coenen 1<<B:1 The essential a$ino acid
$ethionine is thought to cause depletion of iron2 copper and ;inc if fed in e4cess1 This can lead to
inco$plete 5eratini;ation and is thought to ,e associated with cru$,ling horn and white line
disease 9Ge$pson:1
Fats are needed ,! the hoof to create a per$ea,ilit! ,arrier1 Intercellular lipids are essential for
creating the per$ea,ilit! ,arrier in the horn2 which also assists in cell7to7cell adhesion 9Ge$psen
and Ca$p,ell 1<<B:1 %er$ea,ilit! ,arriers help prevent ,acteria and fungi fro$ penetrating the
horn1 Diets containing ade/uate levels of fat can therefore ,e ,eneficial to the hoof1
A proper ,alance of $inerals is also i$portant in hoof growth and /ualit!1 'eleniu$ is i$portant
as an antio4idant in the protection of cellular $e$,ranes1 It is also i$portant in $an! en;!$e
s!ste$s1 .4cess seleniu$ in the diet can lead to su,stitution of sulfur in the 5eratin fi,ers with
seleniu$2 resulting in little to no structural integrit! 9Ge$pson 1<<C:1
#an! supple$ents as well as co$$erciall! $anufactured diets contain added seleniu$1 There is
the possi,ilit! of seleniu$ to4icit! fro$ over7supple$entation1 'eleniu$ accu$ulating plants 9e1g1
Astralagus spp: in seleniu$7rich soils can ,e to4ic if consu$ed ,! horses1 'eleniu$ to4icit! can
occur when the level in the diet reaches H$g@5g 9NRC 1<C:1 Chronic seleniu$ to4icit! can result
in hair loss2 coronitis and ,leeding of the coronar! ,and as well as sloughing of the hoof and even
la$initis1 A shortage of seleniu$ inta5e is not associated with the develop$ent of hoof pro,le$s
9Coenen 1<<B:1
Vinc has ,een shown to ,e i$portant in the nor$al 5eratini;ation hoof= therefore2 inade/uate
levels can lead to co$pro$ised hoof health and /ualit!1 Horses with insufficient hoof horn
strength had less ;inc in the hoof horn and plas$a than did horses with no hoof horn da$age
9Coenen 1<<B:1 Vinc deficienc! has ,een associated with reduced growth rate and para5aratosis
in growing foals 9Harrington et al12 1<BI:1
Calciu$ and phosphorus and their ratio to each other are related to nor$al hoof develop$ent1
Calciu$ is needed for cell7to7cell attach$ent in the hoof horn1 Calciu$ is also i$portant in the
$eta,olis$ of the intercellular lipids1 .4cess phosphorus can ,loc5 the a,sorption of calciu$
fro$ the s$all intestine1 This can result in a calciu$ deficienc! and a disease called Bran
Disease1 Bran Disease causes wea5 and a,nor$al ,ones1 Calciu$ deficienc! can affect cell7to7
cell attach$ent and $eta,olis$ of intercellular lipids1 Co$$erciall! $anufactured feeds are
,alanced so that when fed with good /ualit! ha! the proper Ca(% ratio will ,e achieved1
There has ,een a plethora of investigations into the effect of ,iotin on the growth rate and /ualit!
of hooves1 Biotin is a water7solu,le vita$in that is nor$all! produced in the hindgut of the horse1
Controlled studies have had var!ing results on whether or not ,iotin supple$entation has an
effect on the growth of hoof horn1 Reill! 91<<C:2 Bains 91<<>: and Buffa2 et al12 found that ,iotin
supple$entation increased hoof growth1 8e!er and 'chul;e 91<<A: and Tossec52 et al12 91<<>:
found no difference in growths rates and Dittrich2 et al12 91<<A: showed a decrease in hoof growth
during ,iotin supple$entation1
Despite this confusion $an! horses are supple$ented with ,iotin in hopes of i$proving their hoof
growth or /ualit!1 It is generall! accepted that ,iotin i$proves the /ualit! of hooves and $an! do
,elieve that it will shorten the Orenewal ti$eP of the hoof capsule1
Dosages for ,iotin range fro$ B1> $g@da! to ? $g@da! for a $ature horse1 The a$ount of ti$e
re/uired for supple$entation in order to see results in the hoof also varies fro$ five to nine
$onths1 Biotin deficienc! has not ,een reported to cause a pro,le$ with hoof develop$ent1 No
controlled studies have ,een pu,lished to esta,lishing a dietar! re/uire$ent a,ove that which is
produced ,! intestinal s!nthesis 9NRC 1<C<:1 +hile ,iotin supple$entation $a! help so$e
horses2 it is not re/uired ,! $ost of the population1 Co$$erciall! $anufactured feeds utili;ing
/ualit! ingredients will contain naturall! occurring ,iotin1 'o$e feeds for$ulated for senior horses
that $a! have i$paired hindgut function will have added ,iotin1
-ita$in A is a fat7solu,le vita$in that pla!s an i$portant role in cell differentiation and integrit!1
Inade/uate levels $a! result in hoof dr!ness1
To deter$ine if !our horse has a good ,alance of protein2 vita$ins2 $inerals2 energ! and
nutrients2 a ,od! condition scoring s!ste$ can ,e applied1
Bod! Condition 'coring '!ste$
A good $ethod to deter$ine whether or not !ou are $eeting !our horseMs energ! de$ands is ,!
using a ,od! condition scoring s!ste$1 This s!ste$ ran5s horses fro$ 17< ,ased on the a$ount
of stored ,od! fat and s5eletal $uscling1 A score of O1P is an e$aciated horse1 A score of O<P is an
o,ese horse1 A score of O>P is considered ideal for an athlete1
Horses that are not wor5ing or reproducing $a! get all the energ! the! need fro$ good /ualit!
ha! or pasture to $aintain a ,od! condition score of >7B1 However the! will not get their $ineral
needs $et fro$ this alone= therefore2 the! will need a $ineral supple$ent1 A trace $inerali;ed
salt ,loc5 is <CD salt and will not $eet the $ineral re/uire$ents1 A horse on pasture alone will
re/uire a real $ineral supple$ent in ,loc5 or loose for$1 A plain salt ,loc5 should ,e availa,le at
all ti$es also1
+hen tr!ing to ,alance a horseMs diet2 it $ust ,e 5ept in $ind that straight grains alone are going
to ,e deficient in several nutrients1 Oats2 for e4a$ple2 are a good source of fi,er ,ut are varia,le
in protein and inade/uate in trace $inerals and vita$ins1 And2 feeding horses ,! volu$e instead
of ,! weight is a co$$on $ista5e1 A coffee can of oats2 corn and a co$$erciall! pelleted feed
will all weigh different a$ounts1
In su$$ar!2 the ,alance of protein2 vita$ins2 $inerals and energ! is $ore i$portant than
supple$entation of 3ust one of the$1 The re/uire$ents of the ,asic nutrients will var! ,etween
the life stage and or wor5load of the horse1 The horse should ,e fed good /ualit! roughage at a
rate of no less than one percent of its ,od! weight along with a ,alanced concentrate1 These
should ,e fed at a rate to 5eep the horse at a ,od! condition score of >7B1 If this is done2 then !ou
will consistentl! $eet the nutritional needs of the horse while providing for health! hooves1
posted( I@?@HI1 &ast updated( I@?@HI1

How Horses Digest Feed
8+ Ra+ ;< %eor: D".: )h<D<
The following article is provided as a courtes! and service to the horse industr! ,! %urina
#ills2 &&C12 an AA.% .ducational %artner
How does the horse digest feed and therefore $a5e use of the nutrients contained within the
feedstuffs it consu$esL This /uestion is of funda$ental i$portance to e/uine nutritionists2 and
while it is not necessar! for !ou to ,eco$e ,ogged down in the intricacies of e/uine digestive
ph!siolog!2 a ,asic understanding of how the horse digests feed is necessar! for the selection of
appropriate diets and feeding practices1
At the outset it is useful to re$ind ourselves that horses evolved as forage eaters2 gra;ing for
upwards of 1?71B hours each da! and traveling considera,le distances as the! gra;e1 The
horseMs digestive s!ste$ is well suited to this feeding ,ehavior N the sto$ach and s$all intestine
are designed to cope with the al$ost continual entr! of s$all a$ounts of food while the large
intestine is geared toward the e4traction of $a4i$u$ nutritional value fro$ the fi,rous feeds1
Now consider how the pressures of do$estication have dictated changes in diet and feeding
,ehavior( Continual access to pasture is ,ut a drea$ for $ost horses2 and $an! spend a
considera,le part of the da! in a stall1 As well2 our own schedules dictate feeding progra$s N
rather then continual gra;ing2 horses are often fed large $eals $orning and night1 The high7
energ! re/uire$ents of the perfor$ance horse have necessitated inclusion of $ore energ!7dense
ingredients such as cereal grains and fat in horse diets1 All of these factors can contri,ute to
digestive upsets2 so$e of which can ,e avoided ,! returning the horse to a $ore OnaturalP
feeding circu$stance1
Twists and Turns
The ,asic co$ponents of the digestive tract are si$ilar in all $a$$als N the $outh 9including
salivar! glands:2 esophagus2 sto$ach2 s$all intestine2 cecu$ and large colon1 +e can divide the
horseMs digestive s!ste$ into two sections1 The pre7cal section 9esophagus2 sto$ach and s$all
intestine: function $uch as in $an2 dog and pig1 On the other hand2 the cecu$ and large intestine
wor5 li5e the foresto$achs of a ru$inant 9e1g1 cow or sheep: N there is continual $icro,ial
fer$entation of dietar! fi,er1 For this reason2 horses are classified as hindgut fer$enters1 In fact2
nor$al function of the hindgut is heavil! reliant on an ade/uate suppl! of dietar! fi,er1 This is a
5e! point N without ade/uate dietar! fi,er2 the horse is predisposed to nutritional i$,alances and
colic pro,le$s1
The digestive process ,egins with the prehension of food2 that is2 food is grasped using a
co$,ination of the lips2 tongue and teeth1 +hen eating tightl! pac5ed ha!2 larger $uscles of the
head and nec5 are also used to gra, and pull feed into the $outh1 After prehension2 the food is
chewed 9$asticated: N this is an e4tre$el! i$portant part of the digestive process N digestion is
$ost efficient when ha! and other fi,rous feeds are ground into s$all pieces1 %roper $astication
of whole grains such as oats is also i$portant to ensure opti$al digestion in the s$all intestine1
That is wh! it is so i$portant that the teeth are in good wor5ing order1 %oor teeth2 a co$$on
pro,le$ in older horses2 will result in decreased feed inta5e and weight loss2 particularl! in horses
on an all7forage diet1 0uidding2 the dropping of partiall! chewed feed fro$ the $outh2 is a sure
sign of dental woes1 Cho5e 9the lodging of a food ,olus in the esophagus: and i$paction colic
can also occur when a horse has poor dentition1
The t!pe of feed has a dra$atic effect on the speed of ingestion1 A horse will chew ,etween I>
and A> ti$es per 5g of dr! ha! consu$ed2 ta5ing a,out A $inutes to eat each 5g of ha!1
Therefore2 if 1H 5g of ha! is provided each da!2 the horse will spend at least C hours feeding1
+hen grains and other concentrate feeds are su,stituted for fi,er in the diet2 the total ti$e spent
feeding will ,e $ar5edl! reduced N 1 5g of oats can ,e consu$ed in 1 $inutes or less2 re/uiring
onl! C> chews1 'o2 a diet of B 5g ha! and > 5g oats will decrease feeding ti$e ,! H7I hours1
'uch reductions in feeding ti$e are thought to cause ,oredo$ and other ,ehavioral pro,le$s
9e1g1 sta,le vices:1 This is another reason wh! fi,er is such an i$portant part of the horseMs diet1
The horse produces saliva during chewing1 'aliva $oistens the ingesta there,! easing the
passage of food fro$ the $outh to the sto$ach1 'aliva is rich in ,icar,onate2 which helps to
,uffer the acid secretions produced in the sto$ach1 Here2 the nature of the feed is also i$portant
N on a dr! $atter ,asis2 twice as $uch saliva is produced when horses eat ha! or grass
co$pared to rains and other concentrates1 Diets high in grain and low in forage will therefore
decrease saliva flow and result in low gastric pH values2 a ris5 factor for the develop$ent of
gastric ulcers1
Onl! a li$ited a$ount of digestion occurs in the sto$ach1 The sto$achMs $ain 3o, is to further
li/uef! the inco$ing food and OfeedP the ingesta into the s$all intestine2 where digestion reall!
cran5s into gear1 However2 gastric acid helps to ,rea5down so$e of the feed particles and the
en;!$e pepsin initiates protein digestion1 In fact2 the sto$ach produces gastric acid on a
continuous ,asis N this wor5s well when horses are gra;ing or ni,,ling on ha! for $uch of the
da! ,ecause the inco$ing feed soa5s up these gastric 3uices1 However2 if the horse is $eal fed
9$orning and evening: the sto$ach will e$pt! for long periods1 In this situation2 the acid can
cause in3ur! to the nonglandular portion of the sto$ach lining2 gastric ulcers ,eing the end result1
The actual e4traction and a,sorption of nutrients contained within food ,egins in earnest ingesta
enters the s$all intestine2 a tu,e7li5e organ a,out ? to B feet in length1 Despite this
considera,le length2 the ingesta traverse the s$all intestine /uic5l!1 'o$e food enters the cecu$
within one hour and $uch of the ingesta will reach the fer$entation vat ,! I hours after eating1
This rapid transit reflects the coordinated activit! of the nerves and $uscles contained within the
walls of the s$all intestine1
Factors such as $eal si;e2 feed t!pe and e4ercise will influence transit ti$e1 Big grain $eals
result in rapid gastric e$pt!ing and intestinal transit and a reduction in the digestion of the
availa,le starch1 #ore on this later1 %elleted and ground feeds also tend to $ove faster through
the s$all intestine than fi,rous feeds such as ha! and grass1 .4ercise also results in a $oderate
speeding of intestinal transit1
'ugar2 Fat2 and %rotein
The s$all intestine is the pri$ar! site for the digestion and a,sorption of sugar and starch2 protein
and fat1 The fat7solu,le vita$ins 9A2 D2 . and G:2 calciu$ and so$e phosphorus are also
a,sor,ed fro$ the s$all intestine1 &etMs first deal with sugar and starch1 #olasses is perhaps the
,est7recogni;ed source of dietar! sugar for the horse N so$e Osweet feedsP are up to 1D
$olasses although the current trend is for lower a$ounts1 However2 pasture grasses are ,! far
the $ost i$portant source of sugar= a horse gra;ing full ti$e could consu$e up to H 5g of sugar
9nutritionists use the ter$ water7solu,le car,oh!drate or +'C:1 'un7cured ha! has a lower +'C
content as there is loss following harvest1
'tarch is the plant worldMs version of gl!cogen2 the ,od!Ms storage car,oh!drate N a huge nu$,er
of glucose $olecules are lin5ed ,! che$ical ,onds2 for$ing a single structure1 'tarch is a $a3or
co$ponent of cereal grains N oats are a,out >D starch while corn is ,etween ?> and BD
The si$ple sugars in $olasses and grasses are easil! digested= glucose is a,sor,ed directl! into
the ,loodstrea$ while en;!$es located on the s$all intestinal lining $a5e other sugars availa,le
to the ,od!1 'tarch is a slightl! different stor!= the first step involves its ,rea5down to s$aller
sugars1 Then2 the en;!$es on the intestinal lining act on s$aller sugars until the! are in an
a,sor,a,le for$1 A$!lase2 an en;!$e released ,! the pancreas when ingesta enter the
duodenu$2 is the catal!st for the first step1
Knfortunatel!2 co$pared to other $a$$als2 a$!lase is in short suppl! in the horse1 As a result2
the horse has a li$ited capacit! to digest starch N the upper li$it pro,a,l! varies ,etween horses
,ut as a general rule2 a single grain or concentrate $eal should contain no $ore than > l,1 The
starch stor! is further co$plicated ,! the fact that digesti,ilit! of starch varies ,etween the grains1
For e4a$ple2 the starch in whole corn is ver! poorl! digesti,le1 Fortunatel!2 $ost $anufactured
feeds contain grains that have ,een processed to greatl! i$prove starch digesti,ilit! in the s$all
intestine1 .ven so2 with grain feeding2 9particularl! large $eals: there is alwa!s a ris5 that
undigested starch will reach the large intestine1
The digestion of protein and fat is $ore straightforward1 .n;!$es fro$ the pancreas and those
present on the intestinal lining digest proteins to their constituent a$ino acids2 which are
a,sor,ed into the ,loodstrea$1 .ven though the OnaturalP e/uine diet is ver! low in fat2 horses
can digest fairl! large /uantities1 'tudies have shown that horses can tolerate a 1D fat diet 9total
diet:2 although there should ,e a gradual increase to this level to allow the digestive s!ste$ to
The Boiler Roo$
The large intestine ,egins with the cecu$2 a structure that lies in the right flan5 area1 This organ
is I to A feet long and holds up to 1> gallons of fluid and ingesta1 Ad3oining the cecu$ is the large
colon2 the largest single structure in the digestive tract 9a,out AD of total capacit!:1 &i5e the
ru$en of the cow2 the cecu$ and large colon wor5 li5e a fer$entation vat1 &iterall! ,illions of
$icroorganis$s 9,acteria and proto;oa: do the digestive wor52 producing en;!$es that are a,le
to ,rea5down the fi,rous portion of the diet1 This process is $uch $ore ti$e7consu$ing
co$pared to digestion in the s$all intestine and the ingesta dwell in the large intestine for
upwards of I?7AC hours1
Dietar! fi,er is the portion of the ingesta not affected ,! the horseMs own digestive en;!$es1
There are $an! 9confusing: che$ical and ph!sical definitions of dietar! fi,er2 ,ut ,asicall! we are
tal5ing a,out the structural co$ponents of plant $aterial1 'o$e of this fi,er can ,e digested ,!
$icro,ial en;!$es2 particularl! cellulose and he$icellulose1 On the other hand2 lignin N another
fi,er for$ N is not digesti,le and will ,e passed in the feces1 The t!pe of dietar! fi,er greatl!
influences its nutritional value N for e4a$ple2 over7$ature grass ha! with relativel! high in lignin2
which depresses digesti,ilit! of the fi,er1 Other fi,er sources such as !oung grass2 ,eet pulp and
so! hulls are highl! digesti,le1
The products of the fer$entation process are the volatile fatt! acids 9-FAMs: acetate2 ,ut!rate and
proprionate2 heat2 water and gas1 The -FAMs are a,sor,ed into the ,loodstrea$2 providing an
e4tre$el! i$portant source of energ! for the horse1 #icro,ial en;!$es also ,rea5 down
undigested proteins2 which enter the large intestine2 although the horse does not use this protein1
Instead2 the $ain end product of this process N a$$onia N is used ,! the ,acteria to produce
proteins that are needed for their own growth and survival1 On the other hand2 vita$in G2 another
product of $icro,ial activit!2 is a,sor,ed into the horseMs ,loodstrea$1 As a result2 in $ost
circu$stances the horse does not re/uire vita$in G in its diet1
Another ver! i$portant function of the large intestine is the a,sorption of water1 .ach da!2 a huge
/uantit! of water is secreted into the s$all intestine as part of the digestive process N a,out I
gallons 91 liters: for a > 5g 911 l,: horse1 As the ingesta $oves down the various
secretions of the large colon2 $uch of this fluid is rea,sor,ed allowing the for$ation of se$i7solid
fecal $aterial1 The final step in the digestive process occurs in the s$all colon2 where the waste
$aterial is for$ed into fecal ,alls that are evacuated through the rectu$ and anus1
In conclusion2 re$e$,er that the horseMs digestive s!ste$ functions ,est when it is fed a
predo$inantl! forage diet on an al$ost continuous ,asis1 %ro,le$s are $uch $ore li5el! when
the! are fed a relativel! high concentrate2 low forage diet2 particularl! when given two 9or even
one: large $eals per da!1 "es2 the perfor$ance horse needs $ore energ! than can ,e supplied
,! an all7forage diet2 ,ut tr! to spread the dail! grain@concentrate allot$ent over $ore $eals e1g1
three rather than one of two1 Finall!2 allow the horse to ni,,le on ha! 9or ,etter2 pasture: as $uch
as possi,le1
posted( 11@B@HH1 &ast updated( 11@B@HH1

'> ips For Choosing he Best Ha+ For !our Horse
The following article is provided as a courtes! and service to the horse industr! ,! the
A$erican Association of ./uine %ractitioners1
High7/ualit! ha! can ,e an i$portant source of essential nutrients in !our horseMs diet1 A horseMs
protein and energ! re/uire$ents depend on age2 stage of develop$ent2 $eta,olis$ and
wor5load1 A $ature horse will eat H to H1>D of its ,od! weight a da!2 and for opti$u$ health2
nutritionists reco$$end that at least half of this should ,e roughage such as ha!1 For a 17
pound horse2 that $eans at least 1 pounds of roughage each da!1
Ha! generall! falls into one of two categories N grasses or legu$es1 &egu$e ha! is higher in
protein2 energ!2 calciu$ and vita$in A than grass ha!s1 +hile ha! alone $a! not $eet the total
dietar! re/uire$ents of !oung2 growing horses or those used for high levels of perfor$ance2 high7
/ualit! ha! $a! suppl! a$ple nutrition for less active adult horses1
Once !ouMve deter$ined the ,est categor! of ha! for !our horse2 $ost people select ha! ,ased
on how it loo5s2 s$ells and feels1 Kse the following tips fro$ the A$erican Association of ./uine
%ractitioners to select the ,est ha! for !our horse(
11 ItMs whatMs inside that counts1 As5 that one or several ,ales are opened so !ou can evaluate the
ha! inside the ,ales1 Do not worr! a,out slight discoloration on the outside2 especiall! in stac5ed
H1 Choose ha! that is as fine7ste$$ed2 green and leaf! as possi,le2 and is soft to the touch1
I1 Avoid ha! that is overcured2 e4cessivel! sun7,leached2 or s$ells $old!2 $ust!2 dust! or
A1 'elect ha! that has ,een harvested when the plants are in earl! ,loo$ for legu$e ha! or
,efore seed heads have for$ed in grasses1 .4a$ine the leaves2 ste$s and flowers or seed pods
to deter$ine the level of $aturit!1
>1 Avoid ha! that contains significant a$ounts of weeds2 dirt2 trash or de,ris1
?1 .4a$ine ha! for signs of insect infestation or disease1 Be especiall! careful to chec5 for ,lister
,eetles in alfalfa1 As5 the grower a,out an! potential pro,le$s in the region1
B1 Re3ect ,ales that see$ e4cessivel! heav! for their si;e of feel war$ to the touch2 as the! could
contain e4cess $oisture that could cause $old2 or worse2 spontaneous co$,ustion1
C1 +hen possi,le2 purchase and feed ha! within a !ear of harvest to preserve its nutritional value1
<1 'tore ha! in a dr!2 sheltered area out of the rain2 snow and sun2 or cover in the stac5 to protect
it fro$ the ele$ents1
11 +hen ,u!ing in /uantit!2 have the ha! anal!;ed ,! a certified forage la,orator! to deter$ine
its actual nutrient content1
Re$e$,er that horses at different ages and stages of growth2 develop$ent and activit! have
different dietar! re/uire$ents1 Consult !our veterinarian or a /ualified e/uine nutritionist when
for$ulating !our horseMs ration1 He or she can help !ou put together a ,alanced diet that is safe2
nutritious and cost7effective1
For $ore infor$ation a,out choosing ha!2 as5 !our e/uine veterinarian for the OHa! 0ualit! and
Horse NutritionP ,rochure2 provided ,! the AA.% in partnership with Ba!er Corporation2 Ani$al
Health2 and %urina #ills2 Inc1
The A$erican Association of ./uine %ractitioners2 head/uartered in &e4ington2 G!12 was founded
in 1<>A as a non7profit organi;ation dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse1 Currentl!2
AA.% reaches $ore than > $illion horse owners through its ?2> $e$,ers worldwide and is
activel! involved in ethics issues2 practice $anage$ent2 research and continuing education in the
e/uine veterinar! profession and horse industr!1
posted( 1@I@HH1 &ast updated( 1@I@HH1

Nutritional .anage5ent o& )regnant and #actating
8+ B< Scott: )hD: Dipl
%resented at Horse$an)s Da! H1
Authors( B1 'cott2 %hD2 Dipl1 A$erican College of Ani$al Nutrition= %rofessor and .4tension
Horse 'pecialist2 Depart$ent of Ani$al 'cience2 Te4as A U # Kniversit!2 College 'tation2 Te4as
Brood$ares have specific nutritional re/uire$ents that differ fro$ other classes of horses1 There
are differences ,oth in the a$ount of feed $ares need and the nutrient concentration needed in
that feed1 Throughout the !ear2 the pregnant ,rood$are goes through three different phases2
each with a different nutritional de$and1 'he is either in earl! gestation2 late gestation or
lactation1 To $aintain these c!cles consistentl! re/uires proper health care and nutrition for the
Bod! condition $a! ,e the single largest factor affecting the reproductive perfor$ance of $ares1
#ares $aintained in $oderate to flesh condition(
X C!cle earlier in the !ear
X Re/uire fewer c!cles per conception
X Have a higher pregnanc! rate
X Are $ore li5el! to $aintain pregnancies than are thin $ares
Because of the su,3ective nature of ter$inolog! such as Oflesh2P Ogood condition2P etc12
researchers developed a nu$eric scoring s!ste$ to o,3ectivel! identif! the ,od! condition of a
$are1 Ksing this s!ste$2 research has deter$ined that a $are in a condition score of less than >
$a! not have enough stored ,od! fat to support efficient reproductive perfor$ance1 Those $ares
are $ore li5el! to s5ip a ,reeding season than are $ares with a condition score of > or $ore1 This
is especiall! prevalent in $ares that are 1> !ears of age or greater1
Reproductive perfor$ance often can ,e i$proved in thin $ares when the! are fed to gain weight1
However2 putting weight on a thin $are2 particularl! during lactation2 can ,e costl! and dangerous
due to the high levels of feed inta5e re/uired to achieve gain1 +hile no foaling difficulties have
,een shown in $ultiparous $ares in o,ese condition2 there are no reproductive advantages to
5eeping $ares in condition scores of C or <1 Therefore2 scores of >1> to B1> represent the
opti$u$1 #anage$ent of the $areMs ,od! condition should ,e supported ,! careful selection of
feedstuffs and accurate ration for$ulation1 These are i$portant factors in pro$oting nor$al foal
Total dail! feed inta5e ,! $ares 9ha! and concentrate: nor$all! ranges fro$ 11>D to I1D of
,od! weight2 with HD serving as an average1 Dail! feed inta5e depends on(
X The t!pe and /ualit! of ha! or gra;ing
X The crude fi,er level
X .nerg! densit! of the concentrate
As the fi,er level increases and energ! densit! decreases2 the a$ount of feed re/uired to $eet
energ! de$ands will go up1 However2 as forage /ualit! decreases2 voluntar! inta5e often
decreases as well1 This can present a pro,le$ in providing enough energ! to $aintain the
desired ,od! condition1 Further$ore2 dail! feed inta5e can var! ,etween individuals1 Feed inta5e
$a! have to ,e increased for hard 5eepers or heav! $il5ers2 and decreased for other $ares who
are easier 5eepers1
A non7lactating2 pregnant $are in the first eight $onths of gestation has nutrient re/uire$ents
ver! si$ilar to those of an! $ature2 idle horse1 The developing foal gains onl! 1H pounds@da!
during this ti$e and does not present a significant nutritional de$and on the $are1 It is usuall!
considered sufficient si$pl! to $eet the $areMs nutrient re/uire$ents for $aintenance1
This $a! ,e acco$plished ,! free7choice gra;ing of /ualit! pasture1 In this situation2 $ares $a!
consu$e as $uch as ID of their ,od! weight2 which can $eet their needs for protein and energ!
during this stage1 However2 $ineral re/uire$ents $a! not ,e $et2 particularl! in $ineral7deficient
pastures1 Therefore2 a good reco$$endation during this ti$e would ,e to provide supple$ental
$inerals1 High7/ualit! ha!s can also ,e e4cellent for $aintaining dr!2 pregnant $ares in the earl!
stages of pregnanc!1 As an average2 $ares will re/uire fro$ 11>D to 11B>D of their ,od! weight
in high7/ualit! ha!1 8ra;ing and@or ha! will usuall! $aintain a $are that is alread! in accepta,le
,od! condition2 ,ut often will not put sufficient weight on $ares in $arginal condition1
'o$e t!pes of gra;ing and ha! can ,e potential health ha;ards for ,rood$ares1 Certain h!,rid
sorghu$@sudan grasses have ,een reported to cause c!stitis s!ndro$e or prussic acid poisoning2
which can cause death1 8rowth of these forages ,efore gra;ing $ust ,e $onitored and horses
should ,e re$oved fro$ gra;ing for several da!s when weather changes occur1
Fescue can ,e good roughage for horses in general2 ,ut is har$ful to $ares if it contains
endoph!te fungus1 %ro,le$s such as total a,sence of $il52 earl! foal death2 and thic5ened
placenta have ,een associated with ingesting fescue fungus1 Fescue should ,e tested for
endoph!te fungus and $ares should ,e re$oved fro$ /uestiona,le pastures at least < da!s
prior to foaling1
+hen pasture or ha! /ualit! declines2 or is not availa,le in ade/uate a$ounts2 $ares will need
supple$ental concentrate to $aintain ,od! weight and condition1 A /ualit! concentrate fed at
1>D to 1B>D of ,od! weight will help 5eep $ares in good shape1
&AT. %R.8NANC"
As a $are enters the last few $onths of pregnanc!2 nutrient re/uire$ents increase ,ecause the
un,orn foal is growing $ore rapidl!2 averaging 1 pound@da!1 During this ti$e the inta5e of protein2
energ!2 calciu$2 phosphorus and vita$in A needs to ,e increased1 .ven in situations where
forage is sufficientl! $aintaining $ares in accepta,le condition2 it is i$portant that the! receive
/ualit! concentrate supple$entation to provide the protein2 vita$in and $ineral ,alance
necessar! to properl! support the growth and develop$ent of the foal1
Nutrient ,alance is of $a3or i$portance2 ,ecause $ost fetal growth occurs during the last three
$onths of gestation1 It is during the tenth $onth that the greatest a$ount of $ineral retention
occurs in the un,orn foal1 In addition to this2 $areMs $il5 is practicall! devoid of trace $inerals2
such as copper2 that are essential for proper ,one develop$ent1 Therefore2 ade/uate nutrition of
the $are is crucial for nor$al fetal develop$ent1 Ade/uate $are nutrition also will provide
sufficient $ineral reserves for the foal to draw upon these nutrients after ,irth1
Research has shown that diets containing added fats or oils can ,e used to help $ares in
unsatisfactor! condition to gain the desired weight1 Feeding these t!pes of fat7added diets has
advantages1 Bod! condition can ,e i$proved without having to feed e4cessive a$ounts of
concentrate ,ecause higher fat diets tend to have a higher digesti,le energ! level1
At foaling2 a $areMs dail! nutrient re/uire$ents increase significantl!1 The protein and energ!
re/uire$ents al$ost dou,le fro$ earl! gestation to lactation2 as do re/uire$ents for calciu$2
phosphorus2 and vita$in A1 The re/uire$ents $ust ,e $et in order for the $are to recover fro$
foaling stress2 to produce $il52 and to re,reed2 all without losing ,od! condition1 This is a critical
nutritional period for the $are1 Knderfeeding of $ares during earl! lactation will surel! lower $il5
production and cause weight loss1 This $a! not pose a pro,le$ if the $are is in flesh! to fat
condition1 However2 earl! lactation weight loss in $ares that foal in thin condition will often affect
the $areMs a,ilit! to raise her new foal and ,eco$e pregnant again1
#ares produce an average of HA pounds 9I gallons: of $il5 dail! during a >7$onth lactation1 This
represents A> gallons of $il5 over 1> da!s1 High7producing $ares produce as $uch as IH
pounds 9A gallons: of $il5 dail!1 The average production in the first HH da!s of lactation is H?1>
pounds per da!1 %roduction appears to reach a pea5 at I da!s and slowl! declines fro$ there1
Nutrient content of $areMs $il5 follows a $ore drastic downward curve1 In the fourth $onth of
lactation2 a $areMs $il5 provides less than ID of the total energ! needed ,! her foal1 %roviding
lactating $ares with a concentrate that includes added fats or oils and high /ualit! protein can
help slow the downward curve of production and i$prove nutrient content of the $il51 This will
translate into an earl! growth advantage for the nursing foal1
A lactating $are will usuall! consu$e ,etween H to ID of her ,od! weight in total feed 9ha! Y
concentrate: dail!1 Because of the significant difference in nutrient re/uire$ents fro$ gestation to
lactation2 it would ,e safer for a gradual increase in feed inta5e to ,egin prior to foaling1 This
would prevent a drastic change at foaling ti$e2 which could increase the ris5 of digestive
disorders1 Also2 providing the total dail! feed in two e/ual feedings allows $ares to $ore safel!
consu$e the a$ounts needed during lactation1 Heav! $il5ers $a! re/uire as $uch as 11B>D of
,od! weight in concentrate feed each da!2 depending on the /ualit! and nutrient densit! of that
concentrate1 +hen possi,le2 $ares fed in groups should ,e sorted according to feed inta5e or
,od! condition to insure each $are receives the appropriate a$ount of concentrate to $eet her
needs1 %roviding individual feed troughs for each $are2 plus one e4tra trough for $ares that get
runoff fro$ their feed2 or providing plent! of space at group troughs will help insure that $ares
consu$e the feed the! need1
Free7choice2 spring gra;ing will $eet so$e of the $areMs nutrient re/uire$ents2 ,ut considera,le
a$ounts of supple$ental concentrate will ,e needed1 &ess supple$ental feed will ,e needed for
$ares gra;ing on s$all grain pastures1 In $ost cases2 ,od! condition of $ares on high7/ualit!
pasture or ha! can ,e $aintained with concentrate provided at 1B> to 11H>D of ,od! weight
dail!1 This will var! significantl! depending on the /ualit! and /uantit! of forage availa,le and the
nutrient content of the concentrate1
In the fourth2 fifth2 and si4th $onths of lactation2 dail! re/uire$ents ,egin to decline1 However2 ,!
this ti$e $an! horse$en will have had foals on a good creep feed to prepare the$ for weaning
,! the fourth or fifth $onth of age1 Once the foal is weaned2 the dr!2 pregnant $are can ,e
$anaged as an earl! gestating $are once again1
Nutrient content of $areMs $il5 follows a $ore drastic downward curve1 In the fourth $onth of
lactation2 a $areMs $il5 provides less than ID of the total energ! needed ,! her foal1 %roviding
lactating $ares with a concentrate that includes added fats or oils and high7/ualit! protein can
help slow the downward curve of production2 and i$prove nutrient content of the $il51 This will
translate into an earl! growth advantage for the nursing foal1 Once the foal is weaned2 the dr!2
pregnant $are can ,e $anaged as an earl! gestating $are once again1
posted( ?@1C@HH1 &ast updated( ?@1C@HH1

Feeding !oung Horses &or Sound Develop5ent
8+ B< Scott: )hD: Dipl
%resented at Horse$an)s Da! H1
Authors( B1 'cott2 %hD2 Dipl1 A$erican College of Ani$al Nutrition= %rofessor and .4tension
Horse 'pecialist2 Depart$ent of Ani$al 'cience2 Te4as A U # Kniversit!2 College 'tation2 Te4as
Industr! trends dictate to a large e4tent the $ethods used in $anaging horses1 It is co$$on
5nowledge that earl! growth and develop$ent are i$portant in halter futurit! contenders and
foals that will enter race training as !earlings1 But even without the de$ands of $ar5eting or
co$petition2 it is i$portant for all foals to develop soundl! to ensure their longevit! and
An i$portant decision for horse owners is whether !oung horses are to ,e fed for $oderate or
rapid growth1 .ither rate produces $ature horses that are as ,ig as their genetic ,ase will allow1
However2 rapidl! growing horses reach their $ature height and weight $uch earlier than those
fed for a $oderate rate of growth1
To help prevent s5eletal pro,le$s such as develop$ental orthopedic disease 9DOD:2 diets for
!oung horses should ,e for$ulated carefull!1 Nutrients such as protein2 calciu$2 phosphorous2
other $inerals and vita$ins $ust ,e provided in correct a$ounts relative to each other and in
,alance with the a$ount of energ! or OfuelP a horse is eating1 Careful selection of high7/ualit!
feedstuffs and accurate ration for$ulation will help ensure that the 3uvenile s5eleton develops
ade/uatel! as ,od! weight increases1
CR..% F..DIN8 FOA&'
Although ,rood$ares can produce large a$ounts of $il52 the nutritional densit! of the $il5
declines over ti$e1 The energ! received fro$ a $areMs $il5 $a! not $eet the re/uire$ents of a
four7$onth7old2 or even !ounger2 foal1 Nursing foals show an interest in eating soon after ,irth2
often consu$ing s$all a$ounts of feed fro$ the $areMs trough1 However2 foals have ver!
different re/uire$ents than $ares2 so a creep ration should ,e provided1 Foals $a! gain H1> to I
pounds dail!2 and with the right feed2 owners can ta5e advantage of this earl! growth potential1
Creep feeders can ,e constructed in a pasture or corral and should ,e $are7proof1 %lacing
feeders in areas where $ares nor$all! congregate2 with eas! access for foals2 will encourage
foals to start eating a creep ration and will $ini$i;e in3ur!1
Creep feed should ,e introduced slowl! and usuall! should ,e $ade availa,le on a free7choice
,asis1 Having free access to creep feed i$proves the li5elihood that foals will consu$e it in
fre/uent s$all $eals2 si$ilar to nursing1 Feeders should ,e chec5ed dail! to $onitor the a$ount
eaten and prevent feed fro$ ,eco$ing spoiled ,! weather2 ,irds2 rodents or other factors1 Careful
$anage$ent is necessar!2 especiall! where several foals are using the sa$e feeder1 'o$eti$es
one foal $a! ,eco$e highl! do$inant and consu$e large a$ounts of creep feed while
preventing the other foals fro$ entering the feeder1
The concentration of protein2 $inerals and vita$ins needed in a good creep feed is influenced ,!
the a$ount of energ! 9calories: a !oung foal will eat1 Feed tags do not usuall! indicate how $an!
calories are in a feed2 ,ut the! do list the percentages of crude fi,er and fat1 Both fi,er and fat are
indicators of caloric densit! and can ,e used to deter$ine the $ini$u$ a$ounts of protein and
$inerals that should ,e in the feed1
A grain $i4 with no supple$ental fat usuall! contains I to I1>D fat2 the a$ount that occurs
naturall! in $ost grains1 'upple$ental fat increase the total energ! densit! of a grain $i41
Therefore2 at a given crude fi,er level2 feeds with supple$ental fat need higher percentages of
protein and $inerals than grain $i4es or concentrates containing no supple$ental fat1
Feed tags will alwa!s show the percentage of crude protein2 ,ut $a! or $a! not include
percentages of $inerals1 As5 the retailer or call the $anufacturer directl! to o,tain this
infor$ation1 Fro$ a practical standpoint2 creep feeds should alwa!s contain at least 1?D crude
protein2 1CD calciu$ and 1>D phosphorous1 +hen lesser a$ounts are provided2 it is hard for
!oung horses to consu$e enough protein 9particularl! l!sine: and $inerals in a reasona,le
a$ount of dail! feed1
#an! top7/ualit! ,rood$are feeds are well ,alanced and contain a,out 1AD crude protein1 But
even though these feeds have suita,le protein and calciu$(phosphorous ratios for $ares2 the! do
not $eet the re/uire$ents of foals1 Relative to the a$ount of energ! provided2 such feeds often
provide no $ore than <D of the protein and ?>D of the calciu$ needed ,! foals1
'uch feeds $a! cause a deficienc! of l!sine2 the pri$ar! a$ino acid needed for growth1 "oung
horses on ,rood$are feeds $a! consu$e enough energ! to gain weight while receiving an
inade/uate nutrient suppl! for proper growth and s5eletal develop$ent1 The result is often fat
foals with i$properl! developed $usculos5eletal s!ste$s1 In the a,sence of creep feeding a
,alanced foal ration2 the onl! wa! to avoid such a situation is to feed ,rood$ares a grain $i4 that
will $eet the nutritional re/uire$ents of the foal1 In $ost cases it is $ore econo$ical to creep
feed the foal in a separate feeder1
.ven when foals do have access to a ,alanced feed the! should ,e o,served carefull! to $a5e
sure the! do not sort2 there,! consu$ing an un,alanced diet1 Because foals tend to ,e pic5!
eaters2 pelleted creep feeds are prefera,le to te4tured feeds when sorting is a pro,le$1 The! are
not har$ful to horses if the feeds are of top /ualit! and the pellets are fir$ enough to force horses
to chew the$1
F..DIN8 +.AN&IN8'
Research has shown that graduall! weaned foals e4hi,it less stress than a,ruptl! weaned foals1
+henever foals are weaned2 the transition will li5el! ,e s$oother and growth of foals will ,e
i$proved if the! have ,een creep fed1
The weaned foal that will weigh 121 pounds at $aturit! is e4pected to gain 11> to H pounds
dail! at ? $onths of age1 Total dail! inta5e of ha! and concentrate will usuall! range fro$ H to ID
of the horseMs ,od! weight1 Higher levels of inta5e are difficult to achieve and $a! overwhel$ the
digestive capa,ilities of a weanling1
At weaning2 $an! horses are placed in confine$ent to facilitate a fitting progra$ of so$e t!pe1
An e4clusive diet of oats and alfalfa ha! continues to ,e popular with $an! horse$en1 +hile ,oth
are e4cellent feedstuffs2 a B(I ratio of oats to alfalfa ha! provides onl! C?D of the l!sine and
C1D of the calciu$ needed ,! a weanling2 relative to the caloric densit! of that diet1 Also2 a >(>
diet of oats and alfalfa2 which is co$$onl! fed2 provides even less of the re/uired nutrients1
This does not $ean that oats and alfalfa ha! should not ,e fed as part of the dail! diet= ,ut the
diet is un,alanced and supple$ental nutrients are needed to help prevent swollen ph!ses2 3oints
and other s5eletal pro,le$s1 In one stud!2 horses fed onl! oats and alfalfa were co$pared to
horses fed a ,alanced concentrate with alfalfa1 Horses eating onl! oats and alfalfa got fatter2
while those eating the ,alanced concentrate gained $ore height1
"oung horses can ,e developed e/uall! well with either grass of legu$e roughage1 The t!pe and
/ualit! of ha! or gra;ing availa,le will influence the nutrient concentration needed in the grain or
concentrate $i41 Research has shown that high /ualit! alfalfa is $ore digesti,le than grass ha!2
,ut good /ualit! grass ha! is $ore digesti,le than average /ualit! alfalfa1 The added O,loo$P that
so$e horse owners recogni;e when feeding alfalfa is due to the additional energ! in alfalfa as
co$pared to $an! grass ha!s1 This sa$e appearance can ,e achieved when grass ha! is ,eing
used as the roughage source ,! ensuring that the grain $i4 has ,een ,alanced for nutrients
according to the nutrient content of the ha! ,eing fed1
+eanlings with access to good /ualit! alfalfa ha! generall! need less protein and calciu$ in the
concentrate $i41 However2 the grain $i4 should alwa!s contain at least as $uch calciu$ as
phosphorous and enough protein to $eet a$ino acid re/uire$ents1 Although alfalfa contains
$uch $ore calciu$ and protein than grass ha!s2 so$e of the calciu$ $a! ,e unavaila,le and
$uch of the protein is not a,sor,ed in the for$ of a$ino acids needed for growth1
F..DIN8 ".AR&IN8'
As !oung horses ,eco$e !earlings2 the nutrient concentration in proportion to energ! levels in
feedstuffs ,eco$es lower ,ut no less i$portant1 "earlings not ,eing fitted for sales2 futurities or
earl! training can ,e developed at a $oderate rate of growth on all forage diets1 Forage
availa,ilit! is as i$portant as forage /ualit! in deter$ining growth rates1 "earlings ,eing fitted or
conditioned and receiving forced e4ercise will re/uire a co$,ination of roughage and
concentrate2 regardless of whether $oderate or rapid growth is desired1 "earlings receiving top
/ualit! grass ha! or gra;ing can ,e fed a ,alanced ration2 at a ?>(I> ratio of grain(ha!1 If lower
/ualit! ha! is ,eing fed 9less than B1>D crude protein:2 a ration higher in protein and other
nutrients would ,e re/uired1 "earlings fed top /ualit! alfalfa ha! 9$ini$u$ 1>D crude protein: will
re/uire a grain or concentrate containing at least 1HD crude protein1 'ince ha! /ualit! is /uite
varia,le2 serious horse can ,enefit ,! ta5ing core sa$ples fro$ the ha! suppl! to ,e anal!;ed for
nutrient content1
'o$e of the ver! ,est for$ulated rations do not !ield desira,le results si$pl! ,ecause of the
$anner in which the! are fed1 .ven the $ost carefull! ,alanced grain $i4 will onl! ,e as effective
as the feeding $anage$ent progra$ in which it is used1 Ha! and grain inta5e varies according to
the individual and is influenced ,! e4ercise1 Bod! condition should ,e $onitored routinel! and
horse$en $ust increase or decrease the feed allowance ,ased on a horseMs appearance1
Re$e$,er that all horsesM re/uire$ents are on a weight rather than volu$e ,asis1 Feed inta5e
should ,e increased graduall!2 $a5ing sure that ha! inta5e re$ains ade/uate1
posted( ?@1C@HH1 &ast updated( ?@1C@HH1

Bran )roducts
8+ Nanc+ S< #oving: D".
,! Nanc! '1 &oving2 D-#
+ith the availa,ilit! of $ore feed additives on the $ar5et toda!2 there see$s to ,e $ore than a
little confusion as to what is what and how !ou)re supposed to feed 6it6 to !our horse1 One su,3ect
that has created considera,le consternation is that of ,ran products1
6heat Bran
To start2 the $ain two products causing all the fuss are wheat ,ran and rice ,ran1 +heat ,ran is
$ore si$ilar to the ,ran products hu$ans eat for its la4ative effect1 However2 in horses it would
ta5e at least a > gallon dru$ full of wheat ,ran to e4ert an! 5ind of la4ative effect si$pl! due to
the uni/ue intestinal design of the horse1
However2 wheat ,ran $a! i$prove !our horse)s water consu$ption especiall! when feeding it as
a wet $ash1 Although there is no direct la4ative effect fro$ the ,ran2 it $a! i$prove water inta5e2
in general1 Too $uch ,ran can ,e constipating2 so should ,e li$ited to a volu$e e/uivalent to
less than a one pound coffee can each da!1 +heat ,ran is also e4tre$el! high in phosphorus so
should ,e fed to foals and growing horses with caution as it could create dietar! i$,alances of
calciu$ and phophorus ratios1 On the other hand2 ,ecause of its high phosphorus content2 it is
useful to counter,alance the high calciu$ co$ponent of $ost legu$e ha!s1 Consult !our
veterinarian in how ,est to $anage the $ineral ,alances in !our horse)s diet1
B! weight2 wheat ,ran has 1H D less energ! than oats and H> D less energ! than corn1 B!
volu$e2 corn has four ti$es $ore energ! than wheat ,ran2 while oats has twice as $uch energ!
as wheat ,ran1 'o to use this product as an energ! su,stitute would ,e false logic1
Rice Bran
On the other hand2 rice ,ran products are invalua,le as an energ! dense feed2 particularl!
applica,le to the energ! de$ands created ,! aero,ic e4ercise1 Because hard7wor5ing e/uine
athletes are often una,le to consu$e as $uch feed as necessar! to $aintain a high level of
e4ercise2 we need to find concentrated foodstuffs that suppl! calories without creating intestinal
fill1 Rice ,ran is one such su,stance that fits this criteria1
To give !ou a general co$parison of caloric value of rice ,ran relative to other products2 consider
that 1 pound of rice ,ran is co$para,le to 11I pounds oats or C fluid ounces of corn oil1 The fat in
rice ,ran products is at least C>D digesti,le2 ,ut $a5e sure the product !ou purchase is heat
sta,ili;ed as the fat rapidl! ,eco$es rancid1
There reall! is no close su,stitute to feeding vegeta,le oil as a $eans of pac5ing the calories and
energ! to !our horse1 -egeta,le oil has ,een fed with success to perfor$ance horses for !ears
,! adding up to 1D of the diet as fat1 In other words2 a 1 pound horse will readil! consu$e
as $uch as 1 cup vegeta,le oil twice a da! added to so$e grain1 If feeding rice ,ran2 a horse can
safel! consu$e 1 cup 9Z 1 pound: twice a da!1 Dietar! fat is particularl! effective in providing
usea,le energ! to horses involved in aero,ic athletics2 li5e distance trail horses or .vent horses1
It is palata,le and efficientl! $eta,oli;ed to fuel aero,ic activities1
A stud! ,! the Gentuc5! Research2 Inc co$pares different products as sources of fat for the
perfor$ance horse1
Sources o& Fat &or the )er&or5ance Horse
Percent fat
Energy Density (mcal DE/#)
Corn oil 100
Soybean oil 100
Coconut oil 100
Animal fat 100
Flax seed 40
ice bran 20
"#ole soybeans 1!
As !ou can see fro$ the chart2 so! $eal products are si$ilar to rice ,ran in ter$s of caloric
densit!2 however so! products with their high protein content are $eta,olicall! e4pensive for the
horse to process2 and are e4pensive to purchase as well1 High protein is not used as efficientl! as
high fat 9oil or rice ,ran: ,! the horse2 and high protein places an added ,urden on the 5idne!s to
eli$inate e4cess urea1 This also results in a higher a$$onia content to the urine which in winter
ti$e can add to respirator! irritants in a stalled environ$ent1 And2 high protein is not as useful for
aero,ic energ! $eta,olis$1
As !ou review this chart2 consider also the ease of feeding rice ,ran as co$pared to the potential
$ess of $easuring out vegeta,le oil in the feed once or twice a da!1 Also thin5 a,out how to
handle oil in our winter cli$ate so it flows fro$ the 3ug1 Then consider the cost value of rice ,ran
vs1 oil1 Both are e4pensive2 ,ut ulti$atel! the oil $a! ,e $ore cost effective in energ! densit!1
And2 there is no need to feed corn oil= an! for$ of vegeta,le oil is effective and palata,le1 The
less e4pensive2 the ,etter1 If !ou ,u! oil in ,ul52 ,e sure to store it appropriatel! so it doesnMt
,eco$e rancid1 The ease of adding rice ,ran to a s$all a$ount of grain supple$ent $a5es it an
especiall! appealing source of fat1 Both rice ,ran and vegeta,le oil will wor5 for our purposes of
suppl!ing energ! dense food to our horses2 so choice ,eco$es a $atter of personal preference1
cop!right 1<<B
A,out the Author( Nanc! &oving is a private practitioner in Boulder2 Colorado and a $e$,er of
the A$erican Association of ./uine %ractitioners1 Dr1 &oving has authored three ,oo5s and
fre/uentl! writes articles on horse health topics for several horse pu,lications1
posted( ?@1C@HH1 &ast updated( ?@1C@HH1

Feeding !oung Horses9 It7s Not the )roteinD
8+ Sarah Ralston ".D: )hD: Dipl< AC"N

$ay 2001
%enetics& exercise& and nutrition all 'lay a role in t#e occurrence of
de(elo'mental ort#o'edic disease )*+*, in youn- #orses. .#ere are& #o/e(er&
conflictin- t#eories re-ardin- t#e role of eac#. 0reeds selected for ra'id -ro/t#
are at an increased ris1& but -ro/t# rate alone does not cause t#e 'roblem. For
exam'le& trauma due to excessi(e concussion mi-#t increase t#e incidence of
*+*. 2o/e(er& restrictin- exercise also unfa(orably affects bone -ro/t# and
de(elo'ment. .urnin- t#e foals out for as lon- as 'ossible is #i-#ly
recommended& but strenuous& forced exercise s#ould be a(oided.
.#e most confusion re3-ardin- *+* is related to nutrition. $ineral imbalances
#a(e been /ell3documented as a cause of *+*. 4xcessi(e 'rotein /as blamed
as a cause in t#e 1570s& but later studies dis'ro(ed t#e connection. estrictin-
'rotein will not result in im'ro(ed bone -ro/t#& and actually can be #armful to
t#e animal. +n t#e ot#er #and& o(erfeedin- ener-y33-reater t#an 1006 of t#e
7ational esearc# Council8s )7C, 15!5 recommendations33/ill result in
'roblems& es'ecially if mineral inta1e is not increased at t#e same time. )See t#e
7C8s recommendations in The Nutrient Requirements of Horses online at
///.na'.edu9boo1s90305035!549 #tml9index.#tml.,
Nutritional Recommendations
1. Foals s#ould be introduced to concentrates /#en t#ey are one to t/o mont#s
of a-e. .#e concentrate s#ould contain 1431!6 'rotein and #a(e added calcium&
'#os'#orus& co''er& and :inc )see table, in a formulation desi-ned s'ecifically
for -ro/in- #orses. .#e #i-#er 'ercenta-es of 'rotein and calcium s#ould be
used if only -rass #ay is a(ailable. .#e lo/er 'ercenta-es of 'rotein and calcium
can be used /it# le-ume or le-ume9-rass mix #ays. Concentrates s#ould be fed
at t#e rate of 0.531.06 of body /ei-#t /it# t#e em'#asis on maintainin- -ood
body condition. .#e dam s#ould be fed t#e same concentrate if t#e foal #as
access to t#e mare8s feed.
2. *on8t let t#e foal -et obese )/it# an ob(ious crease do/n t#e bac1 and ribs
t#at cannot be felt easily, or excessi(ely t#in )ribs t#at are easily (isible& #i'
bones t#at are 'rominent& #air coat t#at is dull and s#a--y,.
3. "eanlin-s s#ould be fed t#e same ty'e of concentrate as /#en t#ey /ere
nursin- and at t#e same rate mentioned earlier )not more t#an t#ree to four
'ounds of concentrate 'er meal,. .#e -oal is to maintain steady -ro/t# and
-ood body condition. ;lain /#ite or trace mineral salt and a -ood& clean source
of /ater s#ould be a(ailable free c#oice.
4. <f si-ns of e'i'#ysitis )inflammation of t#e -ro/t# 'lates of bones,& suc# as
#eat or s/ellin- at t#e -ro/t# 'lates abo(e t#e 1nee or fetloc1& or ot#er
deformities a''ear& t#e amount of concentrate s#ould be reduced temporarily
/#ile t#e total ration8s nutrient content is assessed. )For more on e'i'#ysitis& see
=4'i'#ysitis= in t#e $ay 1555 issue of The Horse&
#tt'>99///.t#e#orse.com9?'@fidA315Bd'tA6., Any deficits or excesses
s#ould be corrected& and a 'ro'erly balanced ration s#ould be re3introduced as
soon as 'ossible. Feedin- only -rass #ay and oats for a 'rolon-ed 'eriod of time
/ill result in /ei-#t loss and 'oor -ro/t#& and /ill not correct t#e 'roblem.
Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, is an assoiate professor in the
Department of Animal Siene at Coo! Colle"e, Rut"ers, The State #ni$ersity of
New %ersey. Her researh o$er the past ei"ht years has fouse& on
"luose'insulin meta(olism an& "rowth in youn" horses. She has also &one
stu&ies on $itamin supplementation, transportation stress, an& nutrition of a"e&
horses. )y&ia Miller, DVM, is the AA*P +wner *&uation Consultant.

1, title> Feedin- Coun- 2orses> <t8s 7ot t#e ;roteinD 2, aut#or> Sara# alston 3,
bio> E$*& ;#*& *i'l. ACE7 4, source Forum
#tt'>99///.t#e#orse.com9(ie/'@fidA3054 5, date> $ay 2001 6, menu
cate-ory> nutrition& foals and /eanlin-s
AAEP Mission Statement
To improve the health and welfare of the horse, to further the professional
development of its members, and to provide resources and leadership for the
benefit of the equine industry.
American Association of Equine Practitioners
4!" #ron $or%s Pi%e
&e'ington( )* 4"++
(,,) -../+4!

posted( ?@1C@HH1 &ast updated( ?@1C@HH1

en ips &or 6eight Reduction in the O8ese Horse
8+ AAE)

As a horse owner2 !ou pla! an i$portant role in controlling !our e/uine co$panionMs weight1
'ound nutrition $anage$ent2 a regular e4ercise progra$ and veterinar! care are 5e! to 5eeping
!our horse fit and health!1 #aintaining the ideal weight is not alwa!s eas!2 however1
+hen i$ple$enting a weight loss progra$ for the overweight horse2 itMs i$portant to do it
graduall! and under the supervision of an e/uine veterinarian1 Follow these guidelines fro$ the
A$erican Association of ./uine %ractitioners 9AA.%: to get !ou started(
11 Be patient1 +eight reduction should ,e a slow2 stead! process so not to stress the horse or
create $eta,olic upsets1
H1 #a5e changes in ,oth the t!pe and a$ount of feed graduall!1 Reduce rations ,! no $ore than
1D over a B to 17da! period1
I1 Trac5 !our horseMs progress ,! using a weight tape1 +hen the horseMs weight plateaus2
graduall! cut ,ac5 its ration again1
A1 'tep up the horseMs e4ercise regi$en1 8raduall! ,uild ti$e and intensit! as the horseMs fitness
>1 %rovide plent! of clean2 fresh water so the horseMs digestive and other s!ste$s function as
efficientl! as possi,le and rid the ,od! of $eta,olic and other wastes1
?1 'elect feeds that provide plent! of high /ualit! fi,er ,ut are low in total energ!1 #easure feeds
,! weight rather than ,! volu$e to deter$ine appropriate rations1
B1 'elect feeds that are lower in fat since fat is an energ!7dense nutrient source1
C1 'witch or reduce the a$ount of alfalfa ha! feed1 Replace with a $ature grass or oat ha! to
reduce caloric inta5e1
<1 Feed separate fro$ other horses so the overweight horse doesnMt have a chance to eat his
portion and his neigh,orMs too1 In e4tre$e cases of o,esit!2 caloric inta5e $a! also need to ,e
controlled ,! li$iting pasture inta5e1
11 Balance the horseMs diet ,ased on age and activit! level1 #a5e sure the horseMs vita$in2
$ineral and protein re/uire$ents continue to ,e $et1
Once !our horse has reached its ideal ,od! condition2 $aintaining the proper weight is a gentle
,alancing act1 "ou will pro,a,l! need to read3ust !our horseMs ration to sta,ili;e its weight1
.4ercise will continue to ,e a 5e! co$ponent in 5eeping the horse fit1 Because o,esit! can affect
a horseMs health2 co$$unicate regularl! with !our veterinarian1 'chedule regular chec57ups2
especiall! during the weight reduction process1
For $ore infor$ation a,out caring for the o,ese horse2 as5 !our e/uine veterinarian for the
OOverweight HorseP ,rochure2 provided ,! the A$erican Association of ./uine %ractitioners in
partnership with Ba!er Corporation2 Ani$al Health2 and %urina #ills2 Inc1
1: title Ten Tips for +eight Reduction in the O,ese Horse
H: author AA.%
I: title@,io none
A: source AA.%
>: date #arch H<2 H1
?: $enu categor! nutrition
B: content

posted( ?@1C@HH1 &ast updated( 1@I@HH1

"ita5in E and E@uine .otor Neuron Disease
8+ Harold HintE: )hD: .S

Tho$as T1 Divers2 D-#2 Dipl1 AC-I#2 AC-.CC2 reported at the Cornell at 'aratoga '!$posiu$
on ./uine Health Care that $an! of the /uestions a,out e/uine $otor neuron disease 9.#ND:
have ,een answered1 .#ND was first reported in 1<< ,! the late Tohn Cu$$ings2 D-#2 %hD1 It
is an ac/uired neurodegenerative disease of adult horses that is si$ilar to a$!otrophic lateral
sclerosis 9&ou 8ehrig)s disease: in hu$ans1 Divers said the clinical signs in horses var!
according to the for$ of the disease1
Su8acute For5
Horses develop acute onset of tre$,ling2 fasciculations 9,rief2 spontaneous $uscle contractions:2
l!ing down $ore than nor$al2 fre/uent shifting of weight in the rear legs2 and a,nor$al sweating1
Head carriage $ight ,e a,nor$all! low1 Appetite and gait usuall! are not noticea,l! affected1 The
owner $ight $ention that the horseshad ,een losing weight 9loss of $uscle $ass: for one $onth
prior to the tre$,ling1
Chronic For5
The tre$,ling and fasciculations su,side and the horse sta,ili;es2 ,ut with var!ing degrees of
$uscle atroph!1 In so$e cases2 the atroph! is so severe that the horse loo5s e$aciated1 In other
cases2 there is noticea,le i$prove$ent in $uscle $ass and@or fat deposition1 The tail head
fre/uentl! is in an a,nor$all! high resting position1
Su8clinical For5
Research has proven that horses $aintained on prolonged low vita$in . diets $ight have
su,clinical 9underl!ing: disease1 This could have significant i$plications since affected horses
would2 un5nowingl! to the rider or owner2 have decreased strength1 Divers and his colleagues
have de$onstrated that the da$age to the neurons is caused ,! an o4idative disorder1 The! also
have shown that all horses with .#ND have a low plas$a concentration of vita$in .1
'ince the relationship of vita$in . to .#ND has ,een discovered2 the incidence of .#ND has
greatl! decreased1
Cause And reat5ent
-ita$in . can ,e a ver! effective antio4idant1 That is2 it is well 5nown to protect against o4idative
da$age1 All affected horses had a histor! of ,eing off pasture for an e4tended period of ti$e1
%asture is an e4cellent source of vita$in .2 ,ut the vita$in . content of ha! can ,e deficient
,ecause of losses of vita$in . during harvest and storage1
The disease was produced e4peri$entall! at Cornell in 1 horses which for $ore than a !ear
were fed a diet containing a low concentration of vita$in .1 The research clearl! showed that the
lac5 of dietar! vita$in . is a pri$ar! factor in the develop$ent of .#ND1 The studies were
supported ,! the #orris Ani$al Foundation and the A$!otrophic &ateral 'clerosis Association1
Treat$ent of affected ani$als with vita$in . can lead to so$e i$prove$ent2 ,ut co$plete
recover! is unli5el!1 'tudies supported ,! the #orris Ani$al Foundation are underwa! at Cornell
to further define the role of vita$in . as a treat$ent1
)revention Is Ce+
The disease can ,e prevented ,! access to pasture1 Divers reco$$ended that all horses without
access to green forage for $ore than a !ear ,e routinel! tested for plas$a vita$in .2 then
supple$ented with vita$in . if needed1
6If this were a standard polic!2 $ost2 if not all cases of .#ND could ,e prevented26 Divers stated1
6If onl! the hu$an disease were this si$ple16
4arold 4int8( 9h"( !S( is deli)ering the Fran/ :$ !ilne State of the 2rt ;ecture on 7utrition at this
year<s con)ention of the 2merican 2ssociation of #quine 9ractitioners$ 4e<s a professor of 2nimal
7utrition at 3ornell and a ne1 member of The Horse #ditorial 2d)isory %oard$
0he horse has long been considered li)estoc/ in the =nited States and throughout the 1orld$
0his does not pre)ent indi)iduals from en>oying their horses as companion animals$ 0hat is their
pri)ilege( >ust as it is the right of others to continue to care for them as li)estoc/$ 3hanging the
legal definition of horses to companion animals under state la1( ho1e)er( could ad)ersely affect
horse o1ners and breeders and not necessarily better protect horses$ 4orse o1ners and others
should be mindful of this 1hen considering )arious state initiati)es$
A5erican Association o& E@uine )ractitioners
->1/ Iron 6orBs )iBe
#e4ington: C! ->/''
=0>0? *,,(>'-1
posted( ?@1C@HH1 &ast updated( ?@1C@HH1

6ar5 6ater
8+ Anton =on+? Anderson: D".

I7ve heard it7s necessar+ to give horses war5 drinBing water in the winter< Is this trueF And
i& so: how war5 should it 8eF Do +ou have an+ suggestions on how I can Beep 5+ horse7s
drinBing water war5 when it7s &reeEing outsideF
In the winter2 when the water can ,e ver! cold2 so$e horses drin5 less1 This is a pro,le$
,ecause water is one of the $ost i$portant ite$s a horse needs to ,e health!1 Horses need /uite
a ,it of water to wash all the food the! ingest through the intestinal tract1 If horses don)t drin5
enough2 the! can ,e su,3ect to a reall! ,ad colic or intestinal i$paction1
However2 ever! horse is an individual1 "oung horses2 ,efore the! have their full set of teeth2 are
ver! tender in the $outh1 'o are $an! older horses and horses with an! 5ind of dental pro,le$2
such as a sore tooth1 A horse with sensitive teeth2 $outh2 or gu$s $ight refuse to drin5 cold
water ,ecause it)s painful1 But for $an! nor$al2 adult horses2 cold water tends to ,e less of a
pro,le$1 +hile so$e older horses are ver! reluctant to drin5 cold water at the ,eginning of ever!
winter2 as the! get a little farther into the winter2 the! ad3ust to colder water1
+hat)s i$portant is that owners watch their horses2 no $atter how !oung or old the ani$als are2
to $a5e sure all are drin5ing enough1 The usual wa! is to chec5 for deh!dration1 +atch the
$anure for a covering of $ucus= this covering indicates an inade/uate water inta5e1 Also2 pinch
the s5in on the shoulder into a little tent ,etween !our fingers1 The tent should ,ounce ,ac5
i$$ediatel!1 A tent that lasts a couple of seconds lasts too long2 indicating deh!dration1 %eople
should do this with their horses during nor$al ti$es so the! have a ,aseline to 5now that horse)s
nor$al reaction1
There are several wa!s of encouraging a horse to drin51 +e found one wa! to get these !ounger
or older horses through that transition when the weather starts to get cold is to $a5e the$ thirst!
,! feeding salt1 9"ou can top7dress salt on so$e feed right ,efore offering water1:
It)s alwa!s good to at least ta5e the chill off the water !ou offer1 How war$ the water needs to ,e
depends on the individual1 'o$e horses will drin5 water that)s IH1>[ Farenheit*
Horses are ver! suspicious a,out an! change2 so if the!)re used to the water getting cool as the
weather cools off and !ou war$ the water up2 it)s going to ,e different1 That $ight $a5e the$
suspicious1 'o don)t war$ it up too $uch1
An! livestoc5 suppl! house has a variet! of devices !ou can put in the water trough or in
individual drin5ing ,uc5ets to war$ the water or ta5e the chill off1 These devices can include an
electric ,uc5et or tan5 heaters2 propane heaters2 and so on1
For pastured horses2 or for troughs where there)s no electrical service2 the $ost i$portant thing in
5eeping water fro$ free;ing is to insulate !our water tan51 "ou can get a lot of heat fro$ the
ground if the ground is not co$pletel! fro;en or if the tan5 is set into the ground1 If the tan5 is
suspended in the air2 it will free;e /uic5er2 3ust li5e a highwa! free;es faster on a ,ridge than on
the roadwa!1 .ven in snowpac5 countr!2 at the interface of the snowdrift with the ground2 the
te$perature is right at IH[ F1 A,ove the snow2 te$peratures are going to ,e e/ual to the a$,ient
air te$perature1 'o2 to help 5eep water war$er and prevent free;ing2 set the trough or tan5 low
into the ground1
In situations where !ou have no $eans $echanicall! to ta5e the chill off the water or 5eep it fro$
free;ing2 !ou $ight onl! ,e a,le to offer war$ water during certain ti$es of the da!1 This pro,a,l!
$eans carr!ing a ,uc5et of war$ water out to !our horse1 How often !ou $a5e the trip depends
how $uch water the horse will ta5e in ,efore the water chills or free;es1
'tudies show that an idle horse re/uires a $ini$u$ of 1 to 1H gallons of water a da!1 But each
horse is an individual77so$e horses $ight need $ore= others2 less1 'o2 again2 !ou have to watch
for signs of deh!dration1 Ksuall! !ou should offer !our horses water at least twice a da!2 ,ut if a
horse doesn)t drin5 enough ,efore the water free;es2 then twice a da! won)t ,e enough1 'till2
horses see$ to figure it all out prett! /uic5l!1 The!)re creatures of ha,it and will get into the
routine of twice dail! watering1 If !ou give the$ a little ,it of grain with salt on it ,efore watering2
then the!)re $ore li5el! to ta5e on water right after that1
One thing that !ou need to 5eep in $ind77as I)ve alread! $entioned77is that horses are ver!
suspicious of change1 If !ou use the sa$e ,uc5et2 so$eti$es the water will assu$e a taste or
taint1 If the!)re used to it2 the!)ll do fine1 But if !ou switch ,uc5ets and the water tastes strange or
different2 the! $ight not want to drin5 as $uch1 Geep !our ,uc5ets and watering e/uip$ent
fa$iliar to !our horses2 especiall! as !ou head into and through the winter $onths1
22#9 member 2nton (0ony) 2nderson( "?!( is a )eterinarian 1ith an equine and small animal
practice in #)ergreen( 3olo$
posted( ?@1C@HH1 &ast updated( ?@1C@HH1

Feeding Beet )ulp
8+ Caren Briggs

IGve 8een told I should &eed 8eet pulp to help put weight on 5+ sBinn+
horough8red< But IG5 worried a8out the stories IGve heard a8out 8eet pulp
e4panding in the horseGs sto5ach and causing colic (( or worseD Is 8eet
pulp a good addition to 5+ horseGs diet: and i& so: how can I &eed it sa&el+F
0eet 'ul' is t#e fibrous material left o(er after t#e su-ar is extracted from su-ar beets. <tFs
an excellent source of di-estible fiber& /it# a relati(ely lo/ crude 'rotein content
)a(era-in- ! to 106,& com'arable to -ood3?uality -rass #ay. <ts di-estible ener-y is
some/#ere bet/een t#at of #ay and -rain. <n terms of ot#er nutrients& itFs not a stand3out
Git #as a relati(ely #i-# calcium content and (ery little '#os'#orus& is lo/ in 0 (itamins&
and #as (irtually no beta3carotene )t#e 'recursor of (itamin A, or (itamin *. <ts c#ief
(alue is as a soft& easily di-estible su''lement to your #orseFs rou-#a-e )fiber, inta1e&
and as suc# itFs a useful addition to t#e diet of many ty'es of #orses.
Consider feedin- beet 'ul' if your #orse is a =#ard 1ee'er= )itFs (ery -ood for
encoura-in- /ei-#t -ain,& if #e #as dental 'roblems t#at ma1e c#e/in- #ay difficult& if
t#e ?uality of your #ay is 'oor& or if you #a(e a -eriatric #orse /#o #as trouble c#e/in-
or di-estin- ot#er ty'es of fora-e. <t can be fed in addition to& or instead of& #ay. 0eet
'ul'Fs excellent di-estibility also ma1es it a -reat c#oice for a con(alescin- #orseGone
reco(erin- from illness or sur-ery& for exam'le. <t e(en can be fed /arm in t#e /inter
mont#s& Hust li1e a bran mas# )and nutritionally& itFs a better c#oice t#an bran,. $ost
#orses find it ?uite 'alatable& alt#ou-# occasionally youFll come across one /#o
considers it an ac?uired taste.
<n its ori-inal format& beet 'ul' is ?uite soft and 'rone to mold& so it must be dried for
stora-e. Cou can buy de#ydrated beet 'ul' in eit#er a s#redded or a 'elleted formatI
eit#er /ay& itFs -rayis#3bro/n in color and #as a sli-#t but distincti(e odor youFll come to
reco-ni:e. Some com'anies add a touc# of dried molasses to im'ro(e its 'alatability and
ener-y content. Contrary to 'o'ular o'inion& you donFt ha$e to soa1 beet 'ul' in /ater to
feed it safely to #orsesGstudies in /#ic# #orses /ere fed de#ydrated beet 'ul'& u' to a
le(el of 456 of t#eir total diet& noted no ill effects /#atsoe(er. 7ot only did t#e #orses
not =ex'lode= )t#us layin- t#at myt# to restD,& but t#ey also suffered no si-ns of colic or
c#o1e& nor did t#e /ater content in t#eir manure c#an-e. 0ut most 'eo'le 'refer to soa1
beet 'ul'I itFs more 'alatable t#at /ay& and less li1ely to cause c#o1e.
.o soa1 beet 'ul'& 'lace t#e s#reds or 'ellets in a buc1et and add t/ice as muc# /ater as
'ellets. Cou can use cool or /arm /aterI some 'eo'le feel it soa1s a little more ?uic1ly
usin- /arm& but be careful not to use /ater so #ot t#at you coo1 t#e beet 'ul'& because
t#at /ill destroy most of t#e nutrients it contains. Jet t#e buc1et sit for at least a cou'le of
#ours before feedin-I /#en ready& t#e beet 'ul' s#ould #a(e soa1ed u' all of t#e /ater&
increased in (olume to fill t#e buc1et& and be li-#t and fluffy in consistency. )<f you use
beet 'ul' 'ellets& itFs easy to tell /#et#er it #as been soa1ed sufficiently& because t#ere
/ill be not#in- left t#at resembles a 'ellet., <tFs not necessary to soa1 it o(erni-#t. <f you
#a(e extra /ater& donFt /orryI you can al/ays drain it off before you feed& or you can
feed t#e beet 'ul' on t#e =slo''y= side.
Alt#ou-# most #orses /ill eat beet 'ul' on its o/n& its a''eal /ill be im'ro(ed if you stir
it into your #orseFs re-ular -rain ration. As /it# any ne/ addition to t#e diet& start /it#
only a small ?uantity and -radually increase t#e amount youFre feedin- o(er a 'eriod of a
/ee1 or so. 0ecause beet 'ul' is really a fiber su''lement& not a -rain& you can safely
feed as muc# as you li1eI if /ei-#t -ain is t#e obHecti(e& you may find yourself -oin-
t#rou-# a -allon or more a day. Fortunately& beet 'ul' is a relati(ely inex'ensi(e feed& so
you donFt #a(e to be s'arin- /it# it.
<tFs best to ma1e u' beet 'ul' in small batc#esGHust enou-# to feed in a sin-le day. <n t#e
#ot summer mont#s& es'ecially& soa1ed beet 'ul' left to sit tends to ferment& si-nificantly
c#an-in- its odor and fla(or. <f t#is #a''ens& itFs best to t#ro/ it out and ma1e a fres#
batc#. %enerally soa1ed beet 'ul' /ill 1ee' for about 24 #oursI in t#e /inter& you may be
able to stretc# t#at to 4! #ours or so.
< use beet 'ul' consistently in my o/n feedin- 'ro-ram& bot# for my =bottomless 'it=
.#orou-#bred and for my 2!3year3old 'ony. <tFs an inex'ensi(e& (ersatile feed /it# a
number of benefits /#ic# easily out/ei-# t#e minor incon(enience of 're'arin- it.
,-ritten (y .aren /ri""s0 re$iewe& (y Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Diplomate ACVN
posted( ?@1C@HH1 &ast updated( ?@1C@HH1

Ha+ Hualit+ and Horse Nutrition9 Evaluating !our
Horse7s Nutritional Needs

Evaluating !our Horse7s Nutritional Needs
Horses are her,ivores ,! design and foragers ,! nature1 The! have evolved to utili;e grasses
and other forage plants as their pri$ar! source of nutrition1 Horses are $ore a,le to convert poor
/ualit! forage than ru$inants such as cows2 goats and sheep1 Horses are $ost content when
the! can ni,,le al$ost constantl!1 As an added ,enefit2 horses that are allowed to gra;e
continuousl! will t!picall! have less dental pro,le$s1 Although it)s not alwa!s possi,le to let our
do$esticated friends gra;e to their hearts) content2 one wa! to satisf! their urge to chew and
provide essential nutrients is to feed high7/ualit! ha!1
3A* 4AS#5S
Ha! generall! falls into one of two categories 77 grasses or legu$es1 Horse ha! is often a $i4ture
of the two1 +hat is readil! availa,le and $ost cost7effective generall! depends on the part of the
countr! in which !ou live1
Ha!)s nutritive value and palata,ilit! 9i1e1 how $uch !our horse en3o!s eating it: will depend on a
nu$,er of factors2 such as(
• • %lant species
• • &evel of plant $aturit! at harvest
• • +eed content
• • 8rowing conditions 9rain2 weather2 insects2 disease:
• • Curing and harvesting conditions
• • 'oil conditions and fertilit!
• • #oisture content
• • &ength and $ethod of storage

&E67ME 3A*

Alfalfa and clover are e4a$ples of legu$es1 Alfalfa is $ore co$$onl! fed as ha! than is clover2
although clover $a! ,e a co$ponent of a $i4ed ha!1

&egu$es tend to ,e higher in protein2 energ!2 calciu$ and vita$in A than grass ha!s1 This
concentrated source of energ! and protein $a! ,e an advantage when fed as part of the ration
for !oung and growing horses2 lactating $ares and perfor$ance athletes1

However2 not all horses need the rich levels of nutrients present in pre$iu$ alfalfa1 B! ,u!ing a
lower7/ualit! ha! 9such as an earl! cutting or one harvested in a late stage of plant $aturit!: or ,!
selecting an alfalfa grass $i4 ha!2 !ou can get alfalfa)s dietar! ,enefits without suppl!ing e4cess
nutrients that $a! predispose !oung horses to pro,le$s such as develop$ental ,one disease
and epiph!sitis1

+hen feeding alfalfa2 there $a! also ,e a need to include a palata,le2 high7phosphorous $ineral
supple$ent as part of the ration1 Doing so will help ,ring the calciu$( phosphorous ratio into a
,etter ,alance for the horse1 This is especiall! i$portant when feeding !oung2 growing horses1
High7phosphorous supple$ents are co$$erciall! availa,le 3ust for this reason1 However2 if the
alfalfa has an e4tre$el! high calciu$(phosphorus ratio 9over ?(1:2 the onl! wa! to significantl!
affect the calciu$(phosphorus ratio in the diet is to replace at least half the alfalfa with grass ha!1
Due to alfalfa)s high protein and $ineral content2 !our horse will li5el! drin5 $ore water when
,eing fed this legu$e1 In turn2 !our horse)s stall will ,e wetter and re/uire $ore care to 5eep it
clean2 dr! and a$$onia7free1


Although grass ha! is generall! lower in protein and energ! and higher in fi,er than legu$e ha!2
this is2 in part2 what $a5es it a good choice for $an! adult horses1 It can satisf! the horse)s
appetite and provide necessar! roughage without e4cess calories and protein1

A good7/ualit! grass ha! $a! $eet $ost of the adult horse)s ,asic nutritional needs1 #ature
horses re/uire 1D 7 1HD C% 9crude protein: in their diets1 #an! native or prairie grass ha!s
contain 3ust ?7CD1 A fortified grain concentrate can ,e used to supple$ent the ration2 increasing
its energ!2 protein2 vita$in and $ineral content1

Co$$on varieties of grass used for horse ha! include(
• • Ti$oth!
• • Orchard
• • Bro$e
• • Fescue
• • %rairie or +ild Native
• • Oat
• • Ber$uda


A horse)s protein and energ! re/uire$ents will depend on age2 stage of develop$ent2
$eta,olis$ and wor5load1 Choosing ha! and incorporating it into the ration should ,e done with
the individual)s needs in $ind1

Ha! alone will not $eet the total dietar! re/uire$ents of !oung2 growing horses or those used for
high levels of perfor$ance1 However2 high7/ualit! ha! $a! suppl! a$ple protein and energ! for
less active adult horses1 In such cases2 these horses should ,e provided a $ineral supple$ent1
A $ature horse will eat H to H1>D of its ,od! weight a da!1 For opti$u$ health2 nutritionists
reco$$end that at least half of this should ,e roughage such as ha!1 For a 127pound horse2
that $eans at least 1 pounds of ha! each da!1

E:A&7A8#N6 3A*

#ost people ,u! ha! ,ased on how it loo5s2 s$ells and feels1 These are 6/ualitative6 factors2 and
the! are i$portant1 +hen appraising ha!2 5eep in $ind the following points(

It)s what)s inside that counts1 As5 that one or several ,ales ,e opened so !ou can evaluate the
ha! inside the ,ales 9do not worr! a,out slight discoloration on the outside2 especiall! in stac5ed
• • Choose ha! that is as fine7ste$$ed2 green and leaf! as possi,le2 and is soft to the
• • Avoid ha! that is overcured2 e4cessivel! sun7,leached or s$ells $old!2 $ust!2 dust!
or fer$ented1
• • .4a$ine the leaves2 ste$s and flowers or seed pods to deter$ine the level of
• • 'elect ha! that has ,een harvested when the plants are in earl! ,loo$ 9for legu$es:
or ,efore seed heads have for$ed in grasses1
• • Avoid ha! that contains significant a$ounts of weeds2 dirt2 trash or de,ris1
• • .4a$ine ha! for signs of insect infestation or disease1 Be especiall! careful to chec5
for ,lister ,eetles in alfalfa1 As5 the grower a,out an! potential pro,le$s in the region1
• • Re3ect ,ales that see$ e4cessivel! heav! for their si;e or feel war$ to the touch
9the! $a! contain e4cess $oisture that could cause $old2 or worse2 spontaneous
• • +hen possi,le2 purchase and feed ha! within a !ear of harvest to preserve its
nutritional value1
• • 'tore ha! in a dr!2 sheltered area out of the rain2 snow and sun2 or cover the stac5 to
protect it fro$ the ele$ents1
• • +hen ,u!ing in /uantit!2 have the ha! anal!;ed ,! a certified forage la,orator! to
deter$ine its actual nutrient content1

;7AN8#8A8#:E &A49RA89R* ANA&*S#S

No $atter how good ha! $ight loo52 onl! through che$ical anal!sis can its actual nutrient value
,e deter$ined1 To test the ha!2 core sa$ples are ta5en fro$ a nu$,er of ,ales within a stac5 and
co$,ined1 The forage la,orator! then deter$ines the following ,! percentage(
• • Dr! #atter 9D#:
• • Crude %rotein 9C%:
• • Crude Fi,er 9CF:
• • #inerals including calciu$2 phosphorous2 potassiu$2 $agnesiu$
Crude protein 9C%: and Crude Fi,er 9CF: are 5e! to assessing the ha!)s nutritional value1 'o$e
la,s will ,rea5 the fi,er down into two co$ponents 77 acid detergent fi,er 9ADF: and neutral
detergent fi,er 9NDF: 77 to ,etter esti$ate its digesti,ilit!1

The forage la, $ight also reco$$end testing for other vita$ins and $inerals1 This is a good
idea2 especiall! if !ou live in an area with 5nown deficiencies or to4icities1

<EED $3A8 *97 NEED

Re$e$,er2 horses at different ages and stages of growth2 develop$ent and activit! have
different dietar! re/uire$ents1 Consult !our veterinarian or a /ualified e/uine nutritionist when
for$ulating !our horse)s ration1 He or she can help !ou put together a ,alanced diet that utili;es
ha!2 grain and supple$ents in a safe2 nutritious and cost7effective wa!1
For $ore infor$ation2 contact !our veterinarian1
A$erican Association of ./uine %ractitioners
AB> Iron +or5s %ar5wa!2 &e4ington2 G" A>11
9C><: HII71AB

posted( ?@1C@HH1 &ast updated( ?@HC@H>1