Horse & Rider - - Conformation Clinic -

the DE, the less your horse will need to eat to keep him fit—not fat. The most prac­ti­cal way to eval­u­ate your horse’s di­gestible-en­ergy re­quire­ment is sim­ply to watch his weight. Is he fat? He needs less. Is he thin? Feed him more. Ex­er­cis­ing horses, preg­nant and lac­tat­ing mares, and grow­ing young­sters will have higher en­ergy needs than seden­tary horses.

Pro­tein: Pro­tein re­quire­ments also vary among dif­fer­ent types of horses. A seden­tary horse or a horse in light work re­quires 10 to 11 per­cent pro­tein daily, while a high-per­for­mance horse, brood­mare, or grow­ing young­ster needs closer to 12 to 14 per­cent. How can you tell if your horse is pro­tein-de­prived? Vis­ual clues in­clude a no­tice­able lack of muscling along his back and topline along with a pot­bel­lied look.

But how much is too much? Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, too much pro­tein re­ally won’t cause a prob­lem for your horse. A high-pro­tein diet may re­sult in greater urine pro­duc­tion and higher am­mo­nia lev­els in the urine, but that’s more of a stall-clean­ing nui­sance than a health risk. And most higher-pro­tein feeds also have higher di­gestible en­ergy, mean­ing they pro­vide a lot of calo­ries.

Car­bo­hy­drates: Fi­nally, car­bo­hy­drate con­tent has gained quite a bit of at­ten­tion in re­cent years, pri­mar­ily be­cause we’ve learned to rec­og­nize horses with health is­sues—such as in­sulin re­sis­tance and polysac­cha­ride stor­age my­opa­thy (PSSM)—can ex­pe­ri­ence se­vere con­se­quences when fed high-car­bo­hy­drate di­ets. Hay’s car­bo­hy­drate con­tent can be ex­pressed in three ways: (1) non-struc­tural car­bo­hy­drates; (2) wa­ter-solu­able car­bo­hy­drates; and (3) ethanol-solu­able car­bo­hy­drates.

The term “non-struc­tural car­bo­hy­drates” (NSC) refers to starch and sug­ars bro­ken down in the small intes- tine and ab­sorbed as glu­cose into the blood­stream, which is risky for a horse with a sugar-sen­si­tive con­di­tion.

Nu­tri­tion “purists” pre­fer to look at wa­ter-solu­able car­bo­hy­drates (WSC), which in­clude sim­ple sug­ars without starch, as well as ethanol-solu­able car­bo­hy­drates (ESC), which help to sep­a­rate out a spe­cific type of sugar mol­e­cule called fruc­tan (risky for a lamini­tis horse).

For prac­ti­cal pur­poses, if your horse is sugar-sen­si­tive, your vet will rec­om­mend look­ing for an NSC value that’s less than 10 per­cent, although in many cases this is dif­fi­cult to find. A WSC less than 10 per­cent is of­ten a more rea­son­able goal.

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