Knowledge of horse nutrition has grown by leaps and bounds during the last 15 years. Research has become
more precise and critically evaluated. But more important, this research has given horse owners greater understanding of nutrition. They are more aware of the basic nutrients required by all classes of horses, than in past years.
When you feed horses, you need to have good understanding of their digestive system, including its physical
limitations, and important areas of digestion and absorption. Shows the important parts of the horse's gastrointestinal tract. Most digestion and absorption take place forward of the cecum and are similar to other simple-stomach animals like pigs. Digestion begins when the horse eats and its mouth releases enzymes. Then, as food enters the stomach and small intestines, the major digestive enzymes are released and digestion occurs. Major absorption occurs in the small intestines, with less nutrient absorption in the cecum and
Of course, the horse's hindgut is also functionally important, since microbial digestion takes place in it. A functional cecum is beneficial because it produces significant amounts of the B Vitamin complex and volatile fatty acids to help meet vitamin and energy requirements. Also note the size of the horse's stomach. Because it is small compared to the horse's size, many classes of horses are not able to consume enough forage to meet their nutrient requirements. Therefore, you need to provide concentrates and increase feeding frequency to support proper growth, development and performance.
|Horses Best Strongly|
All classes of horses (young, growing horses; horses at work; mature, idle horses; pregnant mares and lactating mares) must get enough essential nutrients: water, energy, protein, minerals and vitamins. All horses require a good, clean source of fresh water daily for normal physiological function. Clean the water buckets and tanks frequently, removing algae and other foreign material. Water deprivation is more common in winter than summer because of freezing temperatures.
Make every effort to ensure that water sources do not freeze, because with most species of animals water deprivation causes death quicker than starvation. Therefore, it is extremely important that a clean fresh source of water be supplied to horses at all times.
Horses Energy Supplement
Energy is what horses use to do work. Their energy requirements are influenced by age and by the work's
degree and duration. Young, growing horses, horses at high work intensities and lactating mares have the greatest requirement for energy. ATP is the basic unit of energy substance utilized at the cellular level. Energy is provided by the breakdown of starch and other soluble carbohydrates and from volatile fatty acids arising in the cecum as a result of microbial digestion of fibrous dietary components.
Cereal grains like corn, oats, barley, wheat, wheat byproducts, etc. are the primary energy sources found in
concentrate mixes. In most cases the greater the energy requirement, the greater the energy density (units of energy of the concentrate. For example, the horse in hard race training needs a more concentrated, energydense feed than the pregnant mare. Mature, idle horses and mares in the first 2 trimesters of pregnancy require less energy and therefore can meet their energy requirement on good quality hay or pasture alone.
In young, rapidly growing horses, horses at work and lactating mares the hay fed should be supplemented with concentrated energy sources to meet their energy requirements.
Horses Protein Supplement
Horses use protein to synthesize various body tissues, such as muscle. Proteins are composed of amino acids and will vary in amino acid composition. Currently, the exact amino acid requirements of horses are not known. But feeding an adequate source of protein should ensure that horses get the composition of amino acids they need. Protein requirements vary for different classes of horses. Young, growing horses have a higher requirement for protein because they are growing body tissues like muscle and bone.
Mature horses have a much lower requirement for protein than do young horses since mature horses need protein for maintenance of body tissue rather than growing new tissue. Note that horses with increased exercise do not need more protein than do horses not in training. They lose a small amount of nitrogen in the sweat, but the additional grain fed to meet the performance horse's energy needs will more than adequately provide for the increased nitrogen requirement without increasing the percent protein in the diet.
When protein is fed beyond what the horse requires, the body uses it as an energy source and excretes the unused nitrogen in the urine. Although doing so does not harm the horse, protein is a very expensive energy source. Both the forage and concentrate portions of the horse's diet supply protein. The quality of hay or forage fed will greatly influence how much protein is required in the concentrate. A good quality legume hay will contain from 14-18% crude protein and a high quality grass hay will contain 7.0-12% crude protein. Cereal grains will also supply protein in the diet. But depending on the class of horses being fed, the forage component of the diet may not be able to meet their protein requirement. Cereal grains will range in protein content from 8.0-12.0%. To meet the protein requirement of the young, growing horses you will need to
use a protein supplement.
Soybean meal is the most common protein supplement used in horse rations. Other protein supplement sources are available such as linseed meal, cottonseed meal, dried skim milk or commercially prepared protein supplements which may contain a combination of the above ingredients.