Horse Nutrient Requirements

horse diet

How can I determine if my horses are getting the proper daily nutrients? Where can I find the nutrients they should get along with the minimum and maximum? I can calculate what they get, I just don’t know if it is enough, too much, etc.

– Thank you, Marianna

Dear Marianna,

The National Research Council (NRC) published the sixth revised edition of Nutrient Requirements of Horses in 2007. It’s considered the “bible” of horse nutrition and I recommend consulting this book to help you figure out how much of which nutrients your horses require. Some versions of the book include software to help you calculate your horse’s needs, which you may find helpful.

As much as I love math and nutrition though, I’m perfectly happy letting the experts in this field tell me what to feed my horses because it’s easy to make a mistake and cause serious consequences. My job as a horse owner is just to provide 2% of their body weight per day in high quality forage (which I have analyzed so I know its nutrient composition), then bridge any gaps with a ration balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. In addition, I add salt to my horse’s diet (since forages and grains are both low in sodium), provide plenty of fresh water and that’s it! Follow these guidelines and your horses will have everything they need.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM MA, currently serves as the Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other locations. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and enjoys training and showing her trakehner Newman in her spare time.  Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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