Welcome to the Grange co-op and Purina Animal Nutrition live session on equine nutrition and feed tips. Led by Karen Davison, a nutritionist with 26 years of experience, this session will cover topics such as choosing the right feed for your horse based on its specific needs, the importance of feeding the recommended amount of feed, and understanding different energy sources for horses. Davison will also address common myths about soy protein and discuss the significance of providing balanced nutrition. Throughout the session, she encourages participants to ask questions and reach out to Purina’s customer service team for further assistance. So, whether you’re a seasoned horse owner or just starting out, get ready to dive into the world of equine nutrition and feed tips.

In the opening moments of the live session, attendees were prompted to introduce themselves and share information about their horses. Davison, a self-proclaimed nutrition nerd and avid horse person, provided a brief background about her experience and her passion for studying horse nutrition. She emphasized the importance of feeding the right feed designed for the specific needs of each horse and encouraged participants to feed by weight rather than volume. Davison also highlighted the significance of considering the body condition of the horse when making feeding adjustments and directed participants to the Purina website for educational resources and a body condition score chart. Throughout her engaging presentation, Davison urged participants to interact by asking questions and sought to provide valuable insights and guidance for optimal equine nutrition.

Understanding Horse Nutrition

Horse nutrition is a crucial aspect of equine care and plays a significant role in their overall health and well-being. Proper nutrition ensures that horses receive the necessary nutrients to support their growth, development, and performance. A well-balanced diet not only provides energy but also helps maintain healthy metabolic functions, enhances digestion, and supports immune function.

Importance of horse nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential for horses at all stages of life, from foals to senior horses. It helps maintain their health, ensures optimal growth and development, and supports their performance and athletic abilities. A well-balanced diet also contributes to better coat condition, strong hooves, and a healthy immune system.

Key elements of a horse’s diet

A horse’s diet consists of key elements, including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. These nutrients play different roles in maintaining the horse’s overall health and performance. Carbohydrates provide the necessary energy for activities, fats serve as a concentrated energy source, and proteins are essential for muscle development and repair.

Role of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for horses and are crucial for fueling high-intensity activities. They are found in forages, grains, and concentrates. Fats provide a concentrated form of energy and can be beneficial for horses needing additional calories without the increase in bulk feed. Proteins play a crucial role in muscle development, tissue repair, and immune function.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Feed

When selecting the appropriate feed for your horse, several factors need to be considered to ensure optimal nutrition and performance. These factors include the age of the horse, activity level, and specific needs and preferences of the horse.

Age of the horse

The nutritional requirements of horses vary depending on their age. Foals have higher energy demands to support growth, while older horses may have different dietary needs due to aging and potential dental issues. It is essential to choose feeds specifically formulated for each life stage to meet their unique nutritional requirements.

Activity level of the horse

The amount and type of exercise a horse undergoes will impact its nutritional needs. Horses engaged in intense physical activities, such as racing or eventing, require higher energy diets to support muscle function and endurance. Horses in lighter work or maintenance may not require as many calories and may benefit from a lower-energy feed.

Specific needs and preferences of the horse

Horses may have specific dietary needs or preferences that should be taken into consideration when Choosing a feed. Some horses may require additional supplements for joint health or digestive support, while others may have dietary restrictions due to allergies or sensitivities. Determining these specific needs can help tailor the diet to meet the horse’s requirements.

Feeding Based on Weight Not Volume

Understanding a horse’s weight is crucial when determining the appropriate amount of feed to provide. Feeding based on weight rather than volume ensures accurate nutritional intake and prevents underfeeding or overfeeding.

Understanding a horse’s weight

Knowing a horse’s weight is essential for calculating feed quantities accurately. Without an accurate weight measurement, it is challenging to determine the correct amount of feed required to meet their nutritional needs.

Methods of measuring a horse’s weight

Several methods can be used to measure a horse’s weight. These include using a weight tape, weight scales, or body condition scoring systems. Weight tapes are commonly used and provide a reasonably accurate estimation of a horse’s weight based on their girth and length measurements.

Impact of mis-estimation of a horse’s weight on feeding

Mis-estimating a horse’s weight can lead to incorrect feeding practices. Underestimating weight may result in underfeeding, leading to weight loss and nutrient deficiencies. Overestimating weight can lead to overfeeding, which may contribute to obesity, metabolic disorders, and other health issues. It is crucial to regularly measure and monitor a horse’s weight to ensure accurate feeding practices.

Assessing the Body Condition of Your Horse

Body condition scoring is an effective method for evaluating a horse’s overall health and nutrition. It helps determine if a horse is underweight, overweight, or at an ideal body condition. Assessing body condition enables adjustments to be made to the horse’s diet to maintain optimal weight and health.

Body condition scoring system

The body condition scoring system typically ranges from 1 to 9, with 1 being emaciated and 9 being obese. Evaluating a horse’s body condition involves assessing its fat coverage over specific areas of the body, such as the ribs, withers, neck, and tailhead. By assigning a numerical score, horse owners and caretakers can determine if adjustments to the horse’s diet are necessary.

Importance of body condition

Maintaining an appropriate body condition is essential for a horse’s overall health and performance. Underweight horses may lack the necessary energy to support growth, exercise, and immune function. Overweight horses are at risk of developing metabolic disorders, such as insulin resistance and laminitis. Regular monitoring of body condition allows for timely adjustments in feeding to prevent these issues.

Correlation between body condition and feeding adjustments

Body condition scoring provides valuable information to guide feeding adjustments. If a horse is underweight, increasing the amount of feed or the energy density of the diet may be necessary. Similarly, if a horse is overweight, reducing calorie intake through the adjustment of feed quantities or changing to a lower-energy diet can help facilitate weight loss. Regularly reassessing body condition allows for ongoing modifications to ensure the horse remains at an ideal weight.

Key Energy Sources for Horses and their Roles

Energy is vital for a horse’s performance, and different energy sources play specific roles in providing fuel for various types of work or activities.

Role of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for horses. They are broken down into glucose, which is utilized by cells and muscles for fuel during physical activities. Carbohydrates are commonly found in forages, grains, and concentrates, and their availability ensures horses have the energy needed for optimal performance.

Role of fats

Fats serve as a concentrated source of energy for horses. They provide more than twice the amount of energy as carbohydrates and can be beneficial for horses requiring additional calories without the increase in bulk feed. Fats are especially beneficial for endurance horses or those participating in long-distance events.

Role of proteins

Proteins are necessary for muscle development, tissue repair, and immune function. While proteins can provide a small amount of energy, their primary role is to support growth and maintenance of tissues in the body. Ensuring a horse receives an adequate amount of high-quality protein is essential for overall health and performance.

Debunking Myths about Soy Protein and Estrogen in Horses

There has been a prevalent myth surrounding soy protein and its supposed connection to estrogen in horses. It is essential to debunk this myth and provide accurate information about the role of soy protein in a horse’s diet.

Prevalence of the myth

The myth suggesting that soy protein can have negative effects on horses originated from the misconception that soy contains high levels of estrogen. Misinformation and the lack of understanding about the differences between equine nutrition and human nutrition have perpetuated this myth.

Evidence against the myth

Scientific research has proven that the levels of soy protein included in horse diets are significantly lower than those found in human supplements. The equine digestive system efficiently processes and metabolizes soy protein without producing estrogenic effects. Soy protein is a valuable source of high-quality amino acids and does not adversely affect horses when fed in appropriate quantities.

Integration of soy protein in a horse’s diet

Soy protein can be safely and effectively integrated into a horse’s diet. It provides essential amino acids and helps support muscle development, tissue repair, and overall health. When selecting feeds or supplements containing soy protein, it is crucial to consider the horse’s specific nutritional needs and choose products designed for their age, activity level, and dietary requirements.

Emphasizing Balanced Nutrition in Horses

Offering horses a well-balanced diet is essential for their overall health and performance. Balanced nutrition ensures that horses receive the appropriate amount of calories, essential nutrients, and minerals necessary for optimal well-being.

Importance of a balanced diet

A balanced diet is crucial for horses to meet their nutritional requirements and maintain good health. It provides the necessary energy for daily activities, supports growth and muscle development, and helps prevent nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. A balanced diet contributes to healthy coat and hoof condition, strong immune function, and improved overall performance.

Components of a balanced diet

A balanced diet for horses should consist of high-quality forage, whether it be hay or pasture, to provide essential fiber and roughage. Concentrates, such as grains or pelleted feeds, should be selected based on the horse’s age, activity level, and dietary needs. Essential nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals, should be provided in appropriate proportions to meet the horse’s specific requirements.

Consequences of imbalanced diets

An imbalanced diet can lead to various health issues and performance limitations in horses. Insufficient nutrient intake can result in poor growth, muscle wasting, compromised immune function, and decreased athletic performance. Excessive intake of certain nutrients can lead to toxicity, metabolic disorders, imbalances in gut bacteria, and imbalanced growth rates. Providing a well-balanced diet while considering individual horse requirements is vital for preventing these issues.

Significance of Minerals in Horse Feed

Minerals play a vital role in a horse’s overall health, and their inclusion in a horse’s diet is crucial to promote optimal well-being and performance.

Essential minerals for horses

Horses require a range of essential minerals to support various physiological functions. These minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride, iron, copper, zinc, selenium, and iodine. Each mineral plays a specific role in the body, and deficiencies or imbalances can lead to a range of health problems.

Role of mineral blocks and supplements

Mineral blocks and supplements are useful tools for meeting a horse’s mineral requirements. These products provide a concentrated source of essential minerals, ensuring that horses receive the necessary amounts. Mineral blocks and supplements can be particularly beneficial for horses grazing on mineral-deficient pastures or those with limited access to high-quality forage.

Considerations when introducing mineral supplements

When introducing mineral supplements, it is essential to consider the specific needs of the horse. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can help determine the appropriate type and dosage of mineral supplements based on the horse’s age, activity level, and specific mineral deficiencies indicated by blood tests or forage analysis.

Reaching Out to Professionals for Advice

Seeking professional guidance is essential when it comes to horse nutrition. Consulting with experts in equine nutrition can provide valuable insights and ensure that horses receive proper care and feeding.

When and why to seek professional help

Professional help should be sought whenever significant changes in the horse’s diet or nutritional requirements are needed. This can include introducing a new feed, adjusting feeding quantities, managing specific health conditions, or addressing performance issues. Equine nutritionists and veterinarians can evaluate the horse’s specific needs and develop a customized nutrition plan to optimize health and performance.

How to connect with Purina’s customer service

Purina Animal Nutrition offers a customer service team that is dedicated to assisting horse owners with their nutritional needs. They can provide guidance on feed selection, feeding rates, and answer specific questions regarding Purina’s equine products. Horse owners can reach out to Purina’s customer service either through their website or by phone to receive expert advice and recommendations.

Benefits of professional guidance

Consulting with professionals in equine nutrition provides numerous benefits for horse owners. These professionals have extensive knowledge and experience in formulating diets based on individual horse requirements. They can provide up-to-date information on the latest research, address specific concerns, and help develop a feeding plan that optimizes the horse’s overall health and performance.


Understanding and providing proper nutrition for horses is of utmost importance for their health, well-being, and performance. Choosing the right feed based on factors such as age, activity level, and specific needs ensures that horses receive the necessary nutrients for optimal growth and development. Feeding based on weight rather than volume, assessing the horse’s body condition, and maintaining a balanced diet are essential practices for horse owners. Integrating minerals and seeking professional guidance further enhances the horse’s nutrition and promotes their overall health. By prioritizing horse nutrition and utilizing available resources such as Purina’s customer service, horse owners can provide their equine companions with the care and feeding they need to thrive.