Welcome to the October 4th presentation! Our equine series has covered a wide range of topics related to equine pasture management and general equine care. Today, we are fortunate to have Dr. Jenny Ivey, a UT equine specialist, as our speaker. She has been with the group for the past two or three months and her expertise in equine nutrition is highly valued.

Dr. Ivey’s presentation will focus on equine nutrition diet fads and how they compare to fads in human nutrition. She will discuss both the positive and negative aspects of these fads, providing horse owners with valuable information. The wide range of equine nutrition options available to horse owners can be overwhelming, and many owners often mix their knowledge of human nutrition with horse nutrition. However, it is important to understand the differences and make informed decisions about what is best for your horse. Dr. Ivey will cover topics such as low starch feeds, the importance of forage in a horse’s diet, the effectiveness of supplements, and the need for electrolyte supplementation in heavily sweating horses. Tune in to gain valuable insights and equip yourself with the knowledge to make the best choices for your horse’s nutrition.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Needs of Equine Nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential for the overall health and well-being of horses. Just like humans, horses have specific nutritional needs that must be met in order for them to thrive. Understanding these needs is crucial for horse owners and caretakers to ensure that their horses are receiving a balanced and appropriate diet.

Variation in equine nutritional needs

It’s important to recognize that not all horses have the same nutritional requirements. Factors such as age, breed, activity level, and overall health can all impact a horse’s dietary needs. For example, a young foal may require a diet high in protein and nutrients for growth and development, while an older horse may benefit from a diet tailored to support joint health.

Comparison of equine and human nutrition

While there are some similarities between equine and human nutrition, it’s crucial to understand that horses have unique dietary needs. Horses are herbivores and have evolved to eat a diet primarily consisting of forage such as grass and hay. Unlike humans, horses have a specialized digestive system that is designed to break down fibrous plant material.

Significance of carbohydrates in horse diet

Carbohydrates play an important role in a horse’s diet as a source of energy. However, it’s important to note that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Horses require both structural carbohydrates, found in the fibrous content of forage, and nonstructural carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches. The balance of these carbohydrates in a horse’s diet is crucial to maintain optimal health and prevent issues such as insulin resistance or laminitis.

Importance of forage as a primary component of horse’s diet

Forage, such as grass and hay, should be the primary component of a horse’s diet. It provides essential nutrients, fiber, and acts as a natural source of teeth wear. Horses have a natural grazing behavior, and providing them with continuous access to forage helps maintain proper digestive function and mental well-being. Ensuring that horses have access to good quality forage is essential for their overall health and nutrition.

Debunking the Myths about Equine Diet Fads

In recent years, there has been a rise in various equine diet fads and trends. While some of these may have positive aspects, it’s important to approach them with caution and separate fact from fiction.

Positive and negative aspects of equine diet fads

Equine diet fads often emerge as a response to horse owners’ desires for quick fixes or improvements in their horse’s health or performance. While some diet fads may have legitimate benefits and provide targeted support for specific conditions, others may be based on unsubstantiated claims or lack scientific evidence.

Misconceptions about starch feeds

One common misconception is the belief that all starch feeds are harmful to horses. While it’s true that certain horses, such as those with insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, benefit from a low-starch diet, not all horses require the same dietary restrictions. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine the appropriate diet for each individual horse.

The misunderstanding of traditional feeds causing ‘hotheadedness’ in horses

Another common myth is the idea that traditional feeds, particularly those containing grains, can cause horses to become “hotheaded” or have higher energy levels. While there may be some anecdotal evidence to support this claim, it’s important to consider other factors such as training, exercise, and overall health before attributing behavior solely to the horse’s diet.

The Role of Supplements in Horse Nutrition

Supplements are often marketed as “magic pills,” promising to solve a wide range of health issues in horses. While some supplements may have benefits when used correctly and under the guidance of a veterinarian or equine nutritionist, it’s important to understand their necessity and limitations.

Necessity and functionality of supplements

Supplements should only be used when there is a specific nutritional deficiency or health condition that cannot be adequately addressed through a balanced diet. They should not replace or substitute for essential nutrients that should be provided through a horse’s regular feed and forage. It’s important to consult with a professional to determine if supplements are necessary and to select the most appropriate ones for the specific needs of the horse.

Understanding the context of ‘magic pills’

It’s important to approach “magic pill” claims with skepticism. Many supplement companies make bold claims about the effectiveness of their products without scientific evidence to support them. It’s crucial to thoroughly research and verify the claims made by supplement companies before incorporating them into a horse’s diet.

Conditions under which supplements are necessary

There are certain situations and conditions in which supplements may be necessary. Horses with specific health issues, such as joint problems, hoof health issues, or weight management issues, may benefit from targeted supplements. However, it’s important to ensure that the supplements selected are backed by research and scientific data and not solely based on marketing claims.

Effectiveness of joint, hoof, and weight builder supplements

Joint supplements, hoof supplements, and weight builder supplements are commonly used in horse nutrition. While some horses may experience positive effects from these supplements, it’s important to remember that not all horses require them. Joint supplements, for example, may not be effective for all horses, and alternative interventions such as proper exercise and management may be more beneficial. Consulting with a professional is crucial to determine if these supplements are necessary and to ensure they are used appropriately.

Understanding the Role of Electrolytes in Horse Nutrition

Electrolytes play a crucial role in maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte balance in horses. Understanding the importance of electrolyte supplementation and the situations in which it is necessary is essential for proper horse care.

Importance of electrolyte supplementation

Electrolytes are minerals that help regulate key bodily functions and maintain fluid balance. Horses that engage in strenuous exercise, compete in hot weather, or experience excessive sweating may require additional electrolyte supplementation to replenish lost minerals and maintain optimal hydration.

Situations and conditions necessitating electrolyte supplementation

Horses that engage in endurance activities such as long-distance riding or racing, as well as those that participate in high-intensity disciplines such as eventing or show jumping, may benefit from electrolyte supplementation. Additionally, horses that experience conditions such as heat stress or dehydration may require electrolyte supplementation to maintain proper electrolyte balance.

Benefits and drawbacks of electrolyte supplementation

Electrolyte supplementation can help prevent dehydration, muscle cramping, and imbalances in electrolyte levels. However, it’s crucial to use electrolyte supplements correctly and under the guidance of a professional. Improper use of electrolytes, such as over-supplementation or inappropriate administration, can have negative effects on a horse’s health. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine the appropriate dosage and usage guidelines for each individual horse.

The Vitamin E Factor in Equine Nutrition

Vitamin E is an essential nutrient for horses and plays a crucial role as an antioxidant in their bodies. Understanding the benefits of vitamin E supplementation and the differences between synthetic and natural forms is important for maintaining optimal horse health.

Beneficial aspects of Vitamin E supplementation

Vitamin E supplementation can provide numerous benefits for horses. It functions as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin E also plays a role in immune function, muscle health, and neurological function. Horses that are on low-quality forage or have limited access to fresh pasture may benefit from vitamin E supplementation to ensure they receive adequate levels of this essential nutrient.

The effectiveness of synthetic and natural vitamin E as antioxidants

Both synthetic and natural forms of vitamin E can serve as effective antioxidants for horses. Synthetic vitamin E, also known as dl-alpha-tocopherol, is commonly used in commercial supplements due to its stability and affordability. Natural vitamin E, known as d-alpha-tocopherol, is thought to be more bioavailable and may provide additional health benefits. However, the choice between synthetic and natural vitamin E should be based on individual horse needs, availability, and cost considerations.

The Relevance of Supplement Companies in Horse Nutrition

Supplement companies play a significant role in the equine industry by catering to the demands and preferences of horse owners. Understanding the quality and regulatory issues associated with supplement companies is crucial for making informed decisions about the supplements used in horse nutrition.

Role of supplement companies in catering to horse owner demands

Supplement companies respond to the demands and preferences of horse owners by developing and marketing a wide range of products. They aim to provide solutions to common issues and health concerns faced by horse owners, such as joint health, hoof care, weight management, and overall performance enhancement. Supplement companies play a vital role in offering options for horse owners to address specific nutritional needs and support their horses’ well-being.

Quality and regulatory issues with supplement companies

The supplement industry is not tightly regulated, which can lead to inconsistencies in product quality and efficacy. Many supplements on the market are not extensively tested or proven by scientific research. The lack of regulation makes it challenging for horse owners to ascertain the quality and effectiveness of supplements independently. It’s crucial to conduct thorough research, seek recommendations from professionals, and choose supplements from reputable companies that prioritize product integrity and transparency.

The credibility of supplement companies

While some supplement companies are reputable and provide high-quality products, others may make misleading or unsubstantiated claims. It’s essential for horse owners to evaluate the credibility of a supplement company by considering factors such as transparency, production practices, sourcing of ingredients, and scientific research backing their products. Consulting with professionals, such as veterinarians or equine nutritionists, can help horse owners navigate the complex landscape of supplement companies and make informed decisions.

A Closer Look at Specific Supplements

Numerous supplements are available in the market, each claiming to address specific health concerns or provide targeted nutritional support for horses. Understanding the functionality of these supplements and their role in horse feed is crucial for selecting the most appropriate products.

Analysis of Johnny’s You Know supplement

Johnny’s You Know supplement is marketed as a remedy for hotheadedness, insulin resistance, and improved hoof care. While individual testimonials or claims may exist, it’s important to evaluate the scientific evidence and research supporting the claims made by this supplement. Before incorporating such supplements into a horse’s diet, consult with a professional to determine if they are necessary and if there are other proven interventions that may be more effective.

Comprehending the functionality of holistic remedies in horse feed

Holistic remedies, which encompass alternative or natural approaches to horse nutrition, have gained popularity in recent years. It’s important to approach these remedies with caution and consider their potential interactions with other medications or treatments. While some holistic remedies may offer benefits, it’s essential to consult with professionals to ensure their safe use and effectiveness.

Understanding the role of biotin, iodine, and zinc in hoof supplements

Hoof supplements often contain ingredients such as biotin, iodine, and zinc. These nutrients are believed to play a role in hoof health and strength. Biotin, in particular, has been extensively studied for its effects on hoof growth and quality. However, it’s important to ensure that these ingredients are present in effective amounts in hoof supplements and that their inclusion is backed by scientific research.

Omega Fatty Acid Balance in Horse Nutrition

Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential in a horse’s diet and play a crucial role in overall health and well-being. Understanding the relevance of the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and the potential risks of imbalance is important for maintaining optimal horse nutrition.

The relevance of omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in horse nutrition

Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for horses. However, it’s important to maintain a balanced ratio between the two. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in a horse’s diet is still a topic of ongoing research and debate. However, it’s generally recommended to provide a diet that is higher in omega-3 fatty acids to promote overall health and reduce the potential for inflammation.

Effects and risks of imbalance in omega fatty acids

An imbalance in omega-6 to omega-3 ratio can have several implications for horses’ health. A diet that is excessively high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to chronic inflammation, immune system dysregulation, and increased susceptibility to certain health conditions. It’s important to provide a balanced diet that includes sources of both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to ensure optimal health and well-being.

The Importance of Professional Help in Formulating Horse Nutrition

Formulating a proper nutrition plan for horses can be complex and challenging. Seeking professional help from a nutritionist or veterinarian is essential for ensuring that a horse’s dietary needs are met and that potential mistakes or complications are avoided.

Risks of privately formulating nutrition plans for horses

Attempting to formulate a nutrition plan for horses without professional guidance can lead to mistakes and complications. It’s important to consider multiple factors, such as the horse’s age, breed, activity level, and health conditions, when determining their dietary needs. A nutritionist or veterinarian can provide valuable expertise and guidance in formulating a proper nutrition plan that meets the specific needs of each individual horse.

The role of a nutritionist in balancing and formulating homemade horse diets

A nutritionist specializing in equine nutrition can play a crucial role in balancing and formulating homemade horse diets. They have the knowledge and expertise to evaluate the nutritional content of various feed ingredients and recommend appropriate supplementation if necessary. A nutritionist can take into account the specific requirements and health conditions of the horse to create a balanced and effective diet that supports optimal health and well-being.


Understanding the needs of equine nutrition is essential for providing horses with a balanced and appropriate diet. Variations in nutritional needs, the significance of carbohydrates, the importance of forage, and the role of supplements, electrolytes, and specific nutrients all play a crucial role in maintaining optimal horse health. By debunking myths, understanding the role of supplement companies, and seeking professional guidance, horse owners can make informed decisions regarding their horse’s nutrition. With the help of nutritionists and veterinarians, horse owners can ensure that their horses receive the proper nutrition they need to thrive and lead healthy lives.