It is understandable that as a horse owner there are several aspects regarding your horse that you worry about. Between grooming, exercising, feeding and caring for your horse, it can be a little stressful at times. One basic aspect of caring for your horse’s needs is that you need to be extra mindful of their diet. You need to ensure your horse is gaining ample nutrients through their diet to prevent a plethora of health issues. Here are the 6 main types of nutrients your horse needs!
Of all the nutrients your horse needs, water is the overall most important. An average horse's water consumption can range anywhere between 6 to 12 gallons depending on weight, diet, activity level, temperature, and other environmental factors. If your horse does not consume enough water, they might become dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to lethargy, depression, dry skin and mouth, and dull eyes and coat. A few tips to encourage drinking would be to sprinkle salt into their food, as well as soaking their hay in water.
Carbohydrates are your horses' main source of energy. Types of carbohydrates include sugars, starches, and fibers which are all important energy sources essential to fueling active horses. The main dietary goal is to provide digestive energy and adequate calories. Sources of carbohydrates include corn, barley, and oats. The suggested amount of carbohydrates varies from horse to horse and several other factors. The best way to know the exact amount your horse needs is to consult your vet.
Protein is necessary for healthy muscle development in horses during growth and exercise. The essential building block for protein is amino acids. For a source of protein to be considered nutrient-rich, it must contain at least 3 amino acids. Much like carbohydrates, protein requirements may vary from horse to horse. Generally speaking, an average mature horse needs about 1.4 pounds of protein a day for maintenance, early pregnancy or light work. They are usually able to attain this amount through grazing and eating grass and hay. A mature, average horse that does moderate to heavy amounts of work needs about 2 to 2.15 pounds of protein a day. These horses can be fed around 22 pounds of grass/hay with an additional 2 to 4 pounds of feed to meet that protein requirement. If you are not sure where your horse lies, your best bet is to consult your veterinarian. Deficiency in protein can cause horses to depress metabolic activity, which can lead to lethargic and mentally dull behaviors. It will also cause their coats to become rougher, performance to decrease, anemia, exercise intolerance and suppressed appetite.
Fat is essential for a horse's body to be able to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K and dietary fats such as omega-3 and -6. These vitamins cannot be produced by a horse's body, but they help horses gain weight, and provide a slower, steadier release of energy over time. Due to the lack of a gallbladder, high-fat diets are hard for horses to digest. Most horse feeds contain less than 6% fat which meets the horse's nutritional needs. In cases where you might want your horse's coat to shine a little more, an additional 1 to 2 ounces of polyunsaturated plant or vegetable oil can be added to their diet.
Horses require 21 minerals in their diets. They are often able to get these minerals through a mixture of quality feed and trace-mineralized salt. Horses naturally crave salt, and adult horses at pasture will often consume about one-half pound per week. Lack of salt and minerals causes decreased appetite, weight loss, and behaviors including licking urine and eating manure or dirt. If you’re not sure whether your horse is deficient in certain minerals or not, you will need to consult your vet.
Vitamins will help normalize your horse’s metabolism and maintain a healthy digestive tract. These organic substances are required in small amounts to help regulate your horse's metabolic system. Healthy digestive vitamins that will manufacture water-soluble vitamins including B and C. Fat-soluble vitamins are supplied by the feed except for vitamin D, which can be achieved through sun exposure. The only vitamin that may be inadequate in feeding routines is vitamin A. Deficiency in vitamin A makes a horse more susceptible to respiratory/reproductive tract infections as well as infertility. It can also affect your horse's eye functions leading to blindness. Sources of vitamin A include supplements, injections as well as grass in the spring and summer.
Vitamin E helps enhance a horse’s immune systems. Usually, only horses who are deprived of access to a fresh green field experience deficiency. Deficiency symptoms include muscle disease, neurological conditions, and reproduction problems. Good sources of vitamin E include wheat germ oil, alfalfa meal and our Health-E! Health-E has the highest potency Vitamin E supplements for horses in the country at 16,000 IU/oz. This supplement contains all 8 forms of alpha-tocopherol which is doctor recommended. To find out all about our Health-E supplement and where to purchase, click HERE now!