Nu­tri­ents know-how

Your Horse (UK) - - Horse Care -

The nu­tri­ent ta­ble tells you the ef­fects of a feed on your horse. This part of your horse’s feed bag is also es­sen­tial if he has spe­cial re­quire­ments. For ex­am­ple, keep a look­out for starch if its in­tended re­cip­i­ent is prone to lamini­tis.

Di­gestible en­ergy

Di­gestible en­ergy is the amount of en­ergy that the feed gives when fed at the rec­om­mended ra­tion. “It’s the most lim­it­ing fac­tor as your horse needs the en­ergy from his feed to match his work­load,” says Dr Court­ney Miller, a nu­tri­tion­ist for Dod­son & Hor­rell. Di­gestible en­ergy is ex­pressed as mega­joules of di­gestible en­ergy per kilo­gram (MJ/Kg). En­ergy and calo­ries are of­ten con­fused, but as Sarah Nel­son ex­plains, there’s an easy way to re­mem­ber. “We tend to as­so­ci­ate en­ergy with per­for­mance and calo­ries with weight,” she says. “But they’re ac­tu­ally the same. Body con­di­tion is the best in­di­ca­tor of whether your horse is con­sum­ing the right amount for his work­load. “If he’s los­ing weight, check you’re feed­ing the rec­om­mended ra­tion be­fore mov­ing to a higher en­ergy al­ter­na­tive.” Fi­bre — keeps the gut healthy Horses have evolved to live on fi­bre and it’s an im­por­tant part of your horse’s diet. “Fi­bre is im­por­tant for the func­tion of his di­ges­tive sys­tem,” ex­plains Sarah Parkin­son. “The fer­men­ta­tion process also pro­duces heat, keep­ing him warm when it’s cold.” Due to fi­bre’s gut-friendly ef­fects, look for feeds that are higher in fi­bre if you’re con­cerned about your horse’s gut health.

Pro­tein — builds mus­cle

“Pro­tein pro­vides the build­ing blocks for mus­cle,” ex­plains Sarah Parkin­son. “It works hand-in-hand with ex­er­cise and is needed by horses in reg­u­lar work to main­tain topline.” Pro­tein is made up of chains of smaller mol­e­cules called amino acids. Your horse’s body cre­ates some amino acids but oth­ers — such as ly­sine — can only be ob­tained from his diet. Pro­tein is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with en­ergy, but as Sarah Nel­son ex­plains, this isn’t ac­tu­ally the case. “Pro­tein isn’t a pri­mary en­ergy source for horses and it won’t cause or in­crease the risk of lamini­tis, ty­ing-up [azo­turia] or ex­citabil­ity,” she says. “Gen­er­ally speak­ing, higher-en­ergy feeds will also be higher in pro­tein, which is where the con­fu­sion may have come from.”

Pro­tein is safe for most horses, but seek ad­vice if yours has a liver is­sue. You’ll need to keep pro­tein lev­els as low as pos­si­ble.

Starch — best for en­ergy

Starch is a form of car­bo­hy­drate that’s de­rived from ce­re­als and is a quick-re­lease en­ergy. It’ll be listed in feed as a per­cent­age. “Starch is good for a bit of oomph,” ad­vises Sarah Parkin­son. “It’s eas­ily di­gested in the small in­tes­tine. In gen­eral, horses aren’t used to eat­ing it in huge quan­ti­ties. It can be use­ful in per­for­mance horses or laid-back in­di­vid­u­als.” “Starch is most rel­e­vant for be­hav­iour,” adds Court­ney Miller. “Keep lev­els low in fizzy horses, as well as in those with lamini­tis or gas­tric ul­cers.”

Oil — great for calo­ries

Feed that pro­vides added oil is one to look out for if you’re after some ex­tra calo­ries. “Oil is a non-heat­ing way to give your horse ex­tra calo­ries,” says Court­ney. “It re­leases en­ergy slowly and is good for fizzy horses. It’s also great for im­prov­ing coat con­di­tion and ben­e­fits the di­ges­tive tract.” Oils are a type of fat and are eas­ily ox­i­dised in your horse’s body. Ox­i­di­s­a­tion pro­duces mol­e­cules called free rad­i­cals that dam­age cells. To bal­ance this, en­sure your horse’s diet has plenty of an­tiox­i­dants, such as vi­ta­min E.

Vi­ta­mins & min­er­als

Vi­ta­mins and min­er­als are es­sen­tial for a va­ri­ety of func­tions in your horse’s body, but it’s not al­ways easy to iden­tify a feed bag’s vi­ta­min and min­eral con­tent. “The bag may only list a small se­lec­tion or those that must be de­clared by law,” warns Sarah Nel­son. “Don’t as­sume that the feed doesn’t con­tain a spe­cific vi­ta­min or min­eral be­cause it’s not on the pack­ag­ing — call the com­pany for more ad­vice.”

Horses have evolved to have large amounts of fi­bre in their diet

Starch can give your horse a bit of oomph — ideal for horses com­pet­ing at a high level

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