Tag Archives: nutrition

What Nutrients Does Your Horse Need?

With respect to weight management, balancing a horse’s diet while meeting its digestible energy requirements is extremely important. However, a horse requires other nutrients that should be considered when looking at the overall feeding program. Any good feeding program will be based on the following principles: Meets the nutrient needs for the animal, maintains a healthy digestive system, offers feeds of the highest quality.

There are several nutrients a horse requires such as water, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Specific amounts for each of these nutrients will depend largely on your horse’s weight and activity level or physiologic status (such as if an animal is growing or lactating).

Nutrient Requirements of Horses at Maintenance

Water

Water is by far the most important nutrient, and is most often overlooked. All horses should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Without it, colic, dehydration, and even death could result. Horses’ water requirements depend greatly on their physiologic state—as a lactating horse will require significantly more water than a horse at “maintenance.” In general, a 500 kg horse will drink approximately 30–45 liters per day. However, how much horses actually drink will largely depend on diet; for example, a horse at pasture likely won’t drink as much as a horse eating hay because the pastured horse takes in water with each blade of grass.

Protein

Protein’s main function as a nutrient is to provide the building blocks for tissues, muscle, hormones, and enzymes. With respect to equine diets, we often classify protein requirements based on quantity and quality. Quantity refers to grams of protein required in the diet. Most horse owners think in terms of percentage of protein in a given feed, but how much the horse actually gets would depend on how much of that feed it gets. (Example: Feeding 5 kg of a 10% protein diet would give a horse 500 grams of protein [5,000 grams x 0.10]; feeding 2.5 kg of a 20% protein diet would also give a horse 500 grams of protein [2,500 grams x 0.20 = 500 grams].)

Horse owners should consider the total grams of protein intake per day, not the percentage. In addition to being aware of the quantity of protein a horse is getting, being aware of the quality of the protein is equally important. Protein quality refers to the amino acid make up of a feed. Some amino acids can actually be made by the body and are not essential from a dietary standpoint. Amino acids that cannot be produced by the body, such as lysine, are considered essential and must be provided for in the diet.

A high-quality protein should provide these essential amino acids. Good-quality sources of protein include the seed meals (such as linseed or flaxseed meal) and legume (alfalfa) hays. The essential amino acid lysine is of particular importance because of its requirements for growth. Some equine feeds are relatively low in one or more of the key amino acids, with lysine being considered the first limiting amino acid (meaning that if insufficient quantities of lysine are present, the body’s protein synthesis abilities are limited ). Thus, if a horse were easily meeting its protein quantity requirements but wasn’t getting enough lysine, the diet wouldn’t be suitable.

Fats and Carbohydrates

The main nutritional property of fats and carbohydrates is their ability to generate energy through being metabolized. However, specific types of carbohydrates and fats serve additional important functions for the horse. For example, complex carbohydrates such as fiber are extremely important for digestive tract health; the microbial ecosystem is highly sensitive to an insufficiency of fiber.

Furthermore, in humans it is now recognized that some types of fats are essential parts of the diet; namely the omega fatty acid group, including , omega-3 and omega-6. These fats are important for their anti-inflammatory properties and their roles in immune function. Horses also likely benefit from these omega fatty acids and research is ongoing, though these fats are not considered essential nutrients.

Minerals

Equines require several minerals to meet a variety of functional needs, including skeletal integrity and cellular communication. The macro minerals (those needed in relatively high amounts) include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfur.

Trace minerals (those needed in relatively small amounts) include cobalt, copper, zinc, selenium, iron, iodine, etc. Horse feeds tend to be variable in many minerals, and as they are usually low in sodium and chloride (salt), it is recommended all horses be offered some kind of salt source, such as a salt block.

Another important point about minerals is the significance of several ratios among these minerals, as the amount of one mineral in the diet may affect the use of another. For example, there should always be more calcium in the diet than phosphorus, ideally in the ratio of approximately 2:1. If this ratio is imbalanced, the horse may not be able to use the calcium in its diet and may develop bone problems.

The only way to know how many minerals are present in your feeds (particularly hay and/or pasture) is to have them analyzed at a local agriculture lab. Most commercially available feeds will have minerals added in quantities to meet the needs of the type of horse the feed is designed for.

Vitamins

Vitamins are classified as water-soluble or fat-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins (they can dissolve in fat) include A, D, E, and K while the water-soluble vitamins include the B complex (niacin, thiamin, etc.) and vitamin C. The horse is unique with respect to some of its vitamin requirements in that the microbes located within the large intestine have the ability to synthesize the B complex vitamins and vitamin K. The microbes do so in quantities sufficient to meet most horses’ needs such that deficiencies of these vitamins are very rare and even difficult to induce experimentally.

Horses, unlike humans (and fruit bats, primates, or guinea pigs), can synthesize their own vitamin C and therefore generally do not require it in their diet. Vitamin D, synthesized upon the skin’s exposure to sunlight, is found in good amounts in sun-cured forages. Therefore, providing you feed good-quality hay (i.e., not last year’s batch) and your horse gets some outdoor exposure, it should be getting plenty of vitamin D.

Vitamins A and E are found in variable amounts in pasture and hay, with higher amounts found in pasture during the spring months and in hay that hasn’t been stored for too long. Most of the fat-soluble vitamins will degrade over time in stored hay.

http://www.thehorse.com/articles/35663/horse-feeding-basics

No Hoof, No Horse

All horses in all life stages are susceptible to deficiencies and subsequent adverse effects, early and late life stages are particularly important times to monitor your horse’s diet. For example, “The aging digestive system of a senior horse may be less efficient at absorption or production of nutrients in the hindgut, such as B vitamins. Supplementation with (this and other) constituents that target the hoof may benefit senior horses.

The Building Blocks

Protein and energy (including glucose and fatty acids) have important roles in hoof health due to the hooves’ structural makeup of protein and keratin (the main fibrous component of hair and hooves). Adequate energy is required by all equine tissues for optimal growth and development; hooves require relatively large amounts of readily available glucose compared to other tissues. Other nutrients such as fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals are also important.

Proteins These are comprised of amino acids linked together; digestion breaks these chemical bonds to release amino acids for absorption and use by all tissues. As sulfur-containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine are important hoof structure building blocks, particularly of keratin and cell envelope proteins that create cornified hoof wall. Amino acids play major roles as structural components of proteins and enzymes. As an essential amino acid, methionine isn’t synthesized in the body, so must be provided in the diet. Consequently, many hoof supplements are fortified with methionine and other sulfur-containing amino acids to support hoof growth and strength. Nonetheless, high-quality protein sources usually supply sufficient organic sulfur to support hoof health.

Vitamins With the exception of A and E, vitamins are produced within the body–the horse synthesizes vitamins D, C, and niacin, while other B vitamins and vitamin K are produced by large intestinal microbial residents. Green grass/hay contains abundant vitamins A, D, E, K, and some B vitamins

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in cell differentiation and integrity, and there are reports that its deficiency contributes to coronary band inflammation. Vitamin A deficiency might occur alongside zinc deficiency. (Read more about vitamin function in horses in The ABCs of Vitamin Nutrition.)

Biotin This is a key component of hoof supplement products–it is a water-soluble B vitamin normally produced in a horse’s hindgut and used to form a cementing substance for cell adhesion during hoof wall cornification. It is also found naturally in grains, bran, and yeast.

Minerals

Copper A copper-dependent enzyme, thiol oxidase, is required for building disulfide bonds in keratin. Copper, therefore, affects the strength and rigidity of the outer hoof wall’s fully cornified cells and is an important component of antioxidant enzymes that protect cell membranes. All natural feedstuffs contain copper, but sometimes not in concentrations to meet equine nutritional requirements–especially in hay. Most fortified commercial feeds contain copper that meets equine dietary requirements.

Zinc is required for maintenance, repair, and reproduction of epithelial (outer surface tissue) cells, including hoof wall epidermal cells. Zinc is a component of enzymes necessary for synthesis of keratins, keratin-associated proteins, cell envelope proteins, collagen, and lipoproteins, all contributing to hoof strength and function. Zinc also has an antioxidant role. Like copper, zinc is found in all natural feedstuffs, but it might be found in less-than-adequate amounts in hay; it is best supplemented through fortified feeds.

Manganese This mineral is important to chondroitin sulfate synthesis that’s integral to joint cartilage maintenance and bone matrix formation; therefore, it contributes to internal foot structures’ health. Manganese is also an antioxidant. Grass/hay  is a manganese source, along with dietary supplementation when not provided in adequate amounts.

Selenium is an essential mineral, a component of an enzyme (glutathione peroxidase) that aids in cell membrane protection. Selenium works in tandem with vitamin E as an antioxidant. Because selenium deficiency leads to impaired immune responses, it is not uncommon for horse owners to feed selenium-fortified supplements. But excess supplementation can lead to toxicity with severe symptoms.

Calcium This mineral is necessary for cell-to-cell attachment within hoof horn and for metabolism of intercellular lipids. Natural feedstuffs contain calcium, but grains contain higher amounts of phosphorus than calcium–this can inhibit calcium absorption. Forages with acceptable calcium-to-phosphorus ratios (never less than 1:1) might not sufficiently balance inverted ratios created by feeding unfortified grains.

Essential Fatty Acids

Fats create a necessary barrier to prevent permeability in the hoof–intracellular lipids assist in cell-to-cell adhesion to keep bacteria and fungi from penetrating hoof horn. “Diets containing adequate levels of fat are beneficial to the hoof, but specific fatty acid requirements are not yet defined for horses,” said Young.

Take-Home Message

Equine nutritionists advocate adding a concentrated source of all essential nutrients (adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals) to support all body functions. However, consult your veterinarian or nutritionist before making major dietary changes, and be wary of oversupplementation. Horse owners should remember that it will take time following dietary modifications for new, healthy horn to reach the ground surface with appreciable results.

All horses in all life stages are susceptible to deficiencies and subsequent adverse effects, early and late life stages are particularly important times to monitor your horse’s diet. For example, “The aging digestive system of a senior horse may be less efficient at absorption or production of nutrients in the hindgut, such as B vitamins. Supplementation with (this and other) constituents that target the hoof may benefit senior horses.

The Building Blocks

Protein and energy (including glucose and fatty acids) have important roles in hoof health due to the hooves’ structural makeup of protein and keratin (the main fibrous component of hair and hooves). Adequate energy is required by all equine tissues for optimal growth and development; hooves require relatively large amounts of readily available glucose compared to other tissues. Other nutrients such as fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals are also important.

Proteins These are comprised of amino acids linked together; digestion breaks these chemical bonds to release amino acids for absorption and use by all tissues. As sulfur-containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine are important hoof structure building blocks, particularly of keratin and cell envelope proteins that create cornified hoof wall. Amino acids play major roles as structural components of proteins and enzymes. As an essential amino acid, methionine isn’t synthesized in the body, so must be provided in the diet. Consequently, many hoof supplements are fortified with methionine and other sulfur-containing amino acids to support hoof growth and strength. Nonetheless, high-quality protein sources usually supply sufficient organic sulfur to support hoof health.

All horses in all life stages are susceptible to deficiencies and subsequent adverse effects, early and late life stages are particularly important times to monitor your horse’s diet. For example, “The aging digestive system of a senior horse may be less efficient at absorption or production of nutrients in the hindgut, such as B vitamins. Supplementation with (this and other) constituents that target the hoof may benefit senior horses.

The Building Blocks

Protein and energy (including glucose and fatty acids) have important roles in hoof health due to the hooves’ structural makeup of protein and keratin (the main fibrous component of hair and hooves). Adequate energy is required by all equine tissues for optimal growth and development; hooves require relatively large amounts of readily available glucose compared to other tissues. Other nutrients such as fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals are also important.

Proteins These are comprised of amino acids linked together; digestion breaks these chemical bonds to release amino acids for absorption and use by all tissues. As sulfur-containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine are important hoof structure building blocks, particularly of keratin and cell envelope proteins that create cornified hoof wall. Amino acids play major roles as structural components of proteins and enzymes. As an essential amino acid, methionine isn’t synthesized in the body, so must be provided in the diet. Consequently, many hoof supplements are fortified with methionine and other sulfur-containing amino acids to support hoof growth and strength. Nonetheless, high-quality protein sources usually supply sufficient organic sulfur to support hoof health.

Vitamins With the exception of A and E, vitamins are produced within the body–the horse synthesizes vitamins D, C, and niacin, while other B vitamins and vitamin K are produced by large intestinal microbial residents. Green grass/hay contains abundant vitamins A, D, E, K, and some B vitamins

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in cell differentiation and integrity, and there are reports that its deficiency contributes to coronary band inflammation. Vitamin A deficiency might occur alongside zinc deficiency. (Read more about vitamin function in horses in The ABCs of Vitamin Nutrition.)

Biotin This is a key component of hoof supplement products–it is a water-soluble B vitamin normally produced in a horse’s hindgut and used to form a cementing substance for cell adhesion during hoof wall cornification. It is also found naturally in grains, bran, and yeast.

Minerals

Copper A copper-dependent enzyme, thiol oxidase, is required for building disulfide bonds in keratin. Copper, therefore, affects the strength and rigidity of the outer hoof wall’s fully cornified cells and is an important component of antioxidant enzymes that protect cell membranes. All natural feedstuffs contain copper, but sometimes not in concentrations to meet equine nutritional requirements–especially in hay. Most fortified commercial feeds contain copper that meets equine dietary requirements.

Zinc is required for maintenance, repair, and reproduction of epithelial (outer surface tissue) cells, including hoof wall epidermal cells. Zinc is a component of enzymes necessary for synthesis of keratins, keratin-associated proteins, cell envelope proteins, collagen, and lipoproteins, all contributing to hoof strength and function. Zinc also has an antioxidant role.” Like copper, zinc is found in all natural feedstuffs, but it might be found in less-than-adequate amounts in hay; it is best supplemented through fortified feeds.

Manganese This mineral is important to chondroitin sulfate synthesis that’s integral to joint cartilage maintenance and bone matrix formation; therefore, it contributes to internal foot structures’ health. Manganese is also an antioxidant. Grass/hay  is a manganese source, along with dietary supplementation when not provided in adequate amounts.

Selenium is an essential mineral, a component of an enzyme (glutathione peroxidase) that aids in cell membrane protection. Selenium works in tandem with vitamin E as an antioxidant. Because selenium deficiency leads to impaired immune responses, it is not uncommon for horse owners to feed selenium-fortified supplements. But excess supplementation can lead to toxicity with severe symptoms.

Calcium This mineral is necessary for cell-to-cell attachment within hoof horn and for metabolism of intercellular lipids. Natural feedstuffs contain calcium, but grains contain higher amounts of phosphorus than calcium–this can inhibit calcium absorption. Forages with acceptable calcium-to-phosphorus ratios (never less than 1:1) might not sufficiently balance inverted ratios created by feeding unfortified grains.

Essential Fatty Acids

Fats create a necessary barrier to prevent permeability in the hoof–intracellular lipids assist in cell-to-cell adhesion to keep bacteria and fungi from penetrating hoof horn. “Diets containing adequate levels of fat are beneficial to the hoof, but specific fatty acid requirements are not yet defined for horses,” said Young.

Take-Home Message

Equine nutritionists advocate adding a concentrated source of all essential nutrients (adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals) to support all body functions. However, consult your veterinarian or nutritionist before making major dietary changes, and be wary of oversupplementation. Horse owners should remember that it will take time following dietary modifications for new, healthy horn to reach the ground surface with appreciable results.

With the exception of A and E, vitamins are produced within the body–the horse synthesizes vitamins D, C, and niacin, while other B vitamins and vitamin K are produced by large intestinal microbial residents. Green grass/hay contains abundant vitamins A, D, E, K, and some B vitamins

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in cell differentiation and integrity, and there are reports that its deficiency contributes to coronary band inflammation. Vitamin A deficiency might occur alongside zinc deficiency. (Read more about vitamin function in horses in The ABCs of Vitamin Nutrition.)

Biotin This is a key component of hoof supplement products–it is a water-soluble B vitamin normally produced in a horse’s hindgut and used to form a cementing substance for cell adhesion during hoof wall cornification. It is also found naturally in grains, bran, and yeast.

Minerals

Copper A copper-dependent enzyme, thiol oxidase, is required for building disulfide bonds in keratin. Copper, therefore, affects the strength and rigidity of the outer hoof wall’s fully cornified cells and is an important component of antioxidant enzymes that protect cell membranes. All natural feedstuffs contain copper, but sometimes not in concentrations to meet equine nutritional requirements–especially in hay. Most fortified commercial feeds contain copper that meets equine dietary requirements.

Zinc is required for maintenance, repair, and reproduction of epithelial (outer surface tissue) cells, including hoof wall epidermal cells. Zinc is a component of enzymes necessary for synthesis of keratins, keratin-associated proteins, cell envelope proteins, collagen, and lipoproteins, all contributing to hoof strength and function. Zinc also has an antioxidant role.Like copper, zinc is found in all natural feedstuffs, but it might be found in less-than-adequate amounts in hay; it is best supplemented through fortified feeds.

Manganese This mineral is important to chondroitin sulfate synthesis that’s integral to joint cartilage maintenance and bone matrix formation; therefore, it contributes to internal foot structures’ health. Manganese is also an antioxidant. Grass/hay  is a manganese source, along with dietary supplementation when not provided in adequate amounts.

Selenium is an essential mineral, a component of an enzyme (glutathione peroxidase) that aids in cell membrane protection. Selenium works in tandem with vitamin E as an antioxidant. Because selenium deficiency leads to impaired immune responses, it is not uncommon for horse owners to feed selenium-fortified supplements. But excess supplementation can lead to toxicity with severe symptoms.

Calcium This mineral is necessary for cell-to-cell attachment within hoof horn and for metabolism of intercellular lipids. Natural feedstuffs contain calcium, but grains contain higher amounts of phosphorus than calcium–this can inhibit calcium absorption. Forages with acceptable calcium-to-phosphorus ratios (never less than 1:1) might not sufficiently balance inverted ratios created by feeding unfortified grains.

Essential Fatty Acids

Fats create a necessary barrier to prevent permeability in the hoof–intracellular lipids assist in cell-to-cell adhesion to keep bacteria and fungi from penetrating hoof horn. “Diets containing adequate levels of fat are beneficial to the hoof, but specific fatty acid requirements are not yet defined for horses,” said Young.

And Finally;

Equine nutritionists advocate adding a concentrated source of all essential nutrients (adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals) to support all body functions. However, consult your veterinarian or nutritionist before making major dietary changes, and be wary of oversupplementation. Horse owners should remember that it will take time following dietary modifications for new, healthy horn to reach the ground surface with appreciable results.