Nutrient needs of performance horses

Laurie Lawrence About the author

In 1989, the National Research Council (NRC) Subcommittee on Horse Nutrition defined three categories of exercise: light, moderate or intense. In the 6th revised edition of "The Nutrient Requirements of Horses" (NRC, 2007), there are four categories for exercising horses: light exercise, moderate exercise, heavy exercise and very heavy exercise. Light exercise is described as 1 to 3 hours/week of mostly walking and trotting. Many horses kept for recreational riding would be included in the light exercise category. Moderate exercise consists of 3 to 5 hours/week of mostly trotting with some walking, some cantering and possibly some jumping or other type of more difficult activity. Horses used for horse shows, ranch work and frequent recreational riding would fit into the moderate exercise category. Heavy exercise is described as 4 to 5 hours/week of trotting, cantering, galloping and some jumping, cattle work, etc. Horses engaged in three day eventing, polo, endurance racing or other competitive events would be in this category. The very heavy exercise category includes racehorses and a few other horses that compete at the elite level of endurance or three day eventing. The NRC (2007) provides recommendations for nutrient intakes by mature exercising horses and for yearlings and two year olds that are receiving regular exercise. Many of the recommendations are similar to those in the 1989 publication, but others have been increased or decreased. For example, crude protein recommendations for exercising horses are generally lower than in the last edition. However, lysine requirements are relatively similar and the publication suggests that protein quality should be emphasized more than in the past. The 2007 NRC contains more information about the factors that influence the requirements for each nutrient, making it easier for users to develop diets for individual horses.


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