A Guide to Equine Feeding and Maintenance


A lack of minerals can cause growth deficiency in foals and brittle and broken bones in adult horses

Minerals and trace elements are inorganic elements, which are irreplaceable construction materials for a horse’s bones and connective tissue. They also help the body perform essential functions. A balanced diet of minerals and trace elements is important as they work in tandem. A deficiency or surplus of one mineral harms the absorption and use or another.

The main minerals for horses are Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium chloride, potassium and sulphur. They help maintain bone density and health and the performance of muscles and the nervous system as well as maintain the growth of the hooves and coat.
Necessary trace elements are iron, zinc, copper, selenium, iodine and cobalt. These elements improve the absorption of nutrients, maintain the metabolism and joints tissue of a horse and help the horse’s red blood cells transport oxygen to the muscles.

The amount of trace elements required depends on the horse’s age, breed, weight, climate and laboriousness of its chores. Sufficient trace elements in a diet is especially important for horses that experience high levels of stress, such as show horses, race horses, horses in transit and during illness.
Salt is a necessary supplement and it can be added to the diet through a salt lick on the pasture or by offering salt in a separate container. A horse cannot regulate its own need of salt, so its consumption must be monitored. The amount of salt consumed increases when a horse sweats. Constant drinking and urinating are usually signs of excessive salinity.

The most important ratio in a horse’s diet for strong muscles and bones is the ratio of Calcium to phosphorus (Ca:P). As a general rule the ratio of Ca:P should be between 1,2:1 and 2:1 depending on the age and usage of the horse. Growing foals and feeding mares require more calcium. Diets where the ratio of phosphorus to calcium (P:Ca) exceeds 1:1 parity can lead to issues in the bone structure, especially for growing foals.

Adult horses around 1,4:1

Growing foals 1,8:1

Feeding mares 1,6:1

See Hoofs minerals and trace elements here

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