Nutrition Basics and Key Supplements for Your Horse
When caring for our horses we must consider all the different facets of their care. Nutrition is one of the most important components of a horse’s overall health.
We may have the greatest boarding and training facilities available, but if we don’t provide our equine with proper nutrition, his health will begin to suffer. Poor health is not only detrimental to the horse, it can cause his performance to suffer.
With that in mind, we’d like to offer up some basic information on equine nutrition. Then we’ll discuss some key nutritional supplements to help keep him healthy.
The basics of equine nutrition
Proper nutrition for your horse begins with an adequate supply of clean water for his consumption.
After water, there are five basic types of nutrients your horse requires in proper amounts. These are carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Carbohydrates are the main energy source for your horse and will make up the bulk of his diet. Structural carbohydrates are plentiful in roughage, while nonstructural carbohydrates (think sugar and starch) can be supplemented through grain.
Proteins are not particularly useful as energy sources, but are incredibly important in building and maintaining muscles, hair, and hooves.
When protein is broken down in your horse’s body, amino acids are formed. Lysine is the most important one of these amino acids, and can be found in good quality feed. You can order from Winchester Feed Company’s selection of high quality feed online.
Fats are a great energy source and per unit weight have twice the number of calories as carbohydrates. Fats may be supplemented when your horse requires extra energy without increasing his starch and sugar intake from giving him extra grains.
Vitamins and minerals are needed in proper amounts for your horse to maintain optimal health. He will most likely receive adequate vitamin intake from his forage, but supplementation may be required to deliver proper levels of some minerals, especially trace minerals.
Bear in mind that your individual horse’s nutritional needs will depend on several factors, including his age, overall health, and primary use. You may need to experiment to find the correct formula for your horse.
Important nutritional supplements
Many horses require nutritional supplements for optimum health. Just as with human health, trends in equine nutrition come in and out of favor due to advances in science and research.
A recent survey by American Horse Publications revealed that more that 75% of horse owners give their equines nutritional supplements. The most popular reason for administering supplements is to help with joint function, followed by supplements to aid with digestion.
Other reasons for giving supplements include strengthening hooves and supplying trace minerals not found in forage.
Glucosamine and chondroitin
The cornerstone of your horse’s joint supplement program should start with glucosamine and chondroitin.
Glucosamine is the foundation for connective tissue and cartilage. According to research it is also effective in slowing the breakdown of cartilage. For your horse to benefit from glucosamine, administer between 6000 and 10000 mg per day.
Chondroitin is also an important component of connective tissue and cartilage. Research indicates it helps prevent further breakdown of cartilage. Chondroitin dosing should be between 1250 and 5000 mg per day.
Studies have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin work best when used together. If buying a single supplement containing both chemicals, be sure that each dose contains an ample amount of both. Check out Winchester Feed’s PureFlex Joint Complex for a great joint supplement.
Prebiotics and probiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics are often given to horses to aid with problems in their gastrointestinal tract. Even though the names of the two are similar, they function in quite different ways.
Probiotics are “good” microorganisms living in your horse’s gut—as well as yours.
The proper balance of microbes in your horse’s digestive tract aids in the fermentation of grass and hay, which is critical in producing fatty acids that will give him strength. Having the right microbes also helps cut down on gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, function as food for probiotic microorganisms.
Prebiotics are administered to help stimulate the growth of beneficial probiotics. A nutritional supplement containing both pre- and probiotic microorganisms is known as a synbiotic.
Don’t neglect your horse’s nutritional needs. Put a little thought into what you’re feeding him. Consult with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist if you have any questions. Your horse will thank you for it.