A Guide to Equine Feeding and Maintenance

Proteins

Amino acids act as building blocks for proteins in a body of a horse

Proteins are vital organic compounds that are constructed from one or more chains of amino acids. The body of a horse contains 65 percent water and 20 percent proteins. Horses without sufficient amounts of amino acids are likely to suffer from deficiencies that can lead to numerous health problems. A horse needs amino acids for muscle performance and growth, maintaining their vitals, producing milk, pregnancy and to produce anti-bodies.

Pregnant and feeding mares and race horses especially need amino acids in their feed on top of other forage. Amino acids are also important for foals under a year old that have a need to grow their tendons, body mass and connective tissue.

Eating wild forage can provide a sufficient amount of amino acids for some horses but it depends on the purpose of the horse. The levels of raw protein and amino acids of the forage may be too low, and do not fill the daily need. The horse doesn’t store protein sourced nutrients if it has received insufficient amino acids, in these cases the calories contained in the proteins are stored as fat.

A horse needs 20 different kinds of amino acids of which it can produce ten by itself. The rest are known as essential amino acids, of which the main ones are lysine and methionine.

Lysine deficiency is the most common form of deficiency for amino acids and it cannot be formed from other amino acids within a horse, while hay and oats contain relatively little lysine.

Methionine is an amino acid that contains sulphur, which helps maintain connective tissue, skin and tendons. A horse produces methionine cysteine that is used is the building blocks of Keratin. Keratin is the essential protein in the hooves and coat.

Essential amino acids are needed to build tissue and to fix cells, which occurs when muscles recover from stress. The right quantity of acids combined with the right kind of diet helps a horse improve its physique and recover from stress, labour or a race. That is why the right balance of amino acids is essential when a horse needs to be kept in the best possible shape.

Signs that a horse is not receiving enough amino acids include loss of appetite, decrease in performance or the production of milk, stalled growth of the hooves and decrease in the condition of the coat.

See Hoofs amino acids here

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