The Bare Necessities of Equine Nutrition
By Mad Barn
Nutrition is a complicated subject involving the many functional characteristics of the food being consumed and the intimate interactions the constituent components of any food will have within the body. To further complicate the subject, we are becoming evermore aware of the delicate relationship between ethology and nutrition. For the horse owner, the subject need not be this complicated though.
Strictly speaking, from the view of chemistry, the horse requires energy, protein (specifically, amino acids), fat, minerals and vitamins, and let us not forget water and air. The horse also has further requirements in terms of physical characteristics of the dietary components and ethological needs. The horse, being an herbivore, has evolved to spend a good majority of its time browsing for food. Therefore, when planning our domesticated equine companion’s nutrition program, we must consider not only the nutrients consumed, but how they will be consumed.
The first goal of the nutrition program is for the horse to actually be eating for 10 to 12 hours per day, minimum. The horse’s digestive system has evolved as a continuous grazer and to maintain it optimally, it is important to have a continuous flow of forage passing through the digestive tract. When it comes to forage, it is often stated that the horse should consume a minimum one percent of its bodyweight as forage. This equates to approximately 5 kg of forage (on a dry matter basis) for a 500 kg horse. Ideally, forage will make up a larger portion of the diet, as 5 kg of most forage can be consumed in less than 10 to 12 hours of prescribed eating time.
Once the forage program has been established, it becomes a matter of balancing the horse’s energy, protein, mineral and vitamin needs. This requires some knowledge of the actual nutritional composition of the forage the horse is consuming. Ideally, whether dry forage or pasture, a forage sample will be obtained and analyzed at an accredited laboratory to accurately assess the actual nutrient content.
Many horse owners may be surprised at how little extra feed or supplements are required to properly balance the diet when a proper forage program is implemented, even for a horse in moderate to heavy work. For example, a 500 kg horse undergoing moderate work (three to five hours/week of work) requires 23 Mcal (megacalories) of digestible energy, 768 grams of protein, and 18 grams of sodium or 45 grams of salt. There are many other nutrients required, but for the sake of brevity the focus will be on these three. If feeding free choice hay, the energy content of the hay needs to be only 2.0 Mcal/kg, and protein seven percent. Most moderate-quality hays will meet this requirement. Therefore, the only additional supplements needed would be a complete mineral and vitamin mix, and free choice loose salt to balance the diet.
Why does my horse need a mineral and vitamin supplement?
Minerals and vitamins are crucial to your horse’s health; they are involved in virtually every metabolic process. They are critically important to the ultimate health and performance of your horse. The hay you feed does contain many of the minerals required by the horse, but certainly not all of them and often not in the correct balance or at sufficient quantity. The process of curing and storing hay destroys most the vitamins that were present in the fresh standing forage; therefore, it is necessary to supplement these.
At Mad Barn we specialize in nutrition, and meeting your horse’s mineral and vitamin needs in particular. Based on an extensive forage library, a mineral and vitamin product was developed to balance most feeding situations. Omneity – Equine Mineral and Vitamin Premix, available in granular or pellet, contains all the minerals and vitamins required to balance most feeding situations. It contains:
- An array of antioxidants to neutralize free radicals caused by stress, pain and inflammation
- Biotin levels that have been clinically proven to improve hoof quality
- 100 percent organic trace minerals for superior bioavailability, less interference with other dietary components, and improved enzyme function
- A complex of digestive enzymes that improve pre-cecal digestion of starch, protein, and minerals
- A specific strain of live yeast that has been shown to improve hindgut pH, reduce the incidence of digestive upset, and increase nutrient absorption.
All this without added sugars or fillers!
If the Omneity formulation does not adequately balance your equine companion’s needs, we are here to help. Mad Barn offers complete custom formulation of mineral and vitamin solutions for your individual feeding situation. Whether you have one horse or one hundred, we can accommodate your individual needs.
Contact us at www.madbarn.com.
This information was contributed by Mad Barn.