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Nutrition Glossary



Acid (Vit.B5)

Vitamin B5 supports various activities within the equine body such as carbohydrate, fat and lipid metabolism, skin and coat condition and neurotransmitters whilst releasing energy from foods.

ADF (Acid Detergent Fibre)

This fraction will include cellulose and lignin, which are the less digestible carbohydrate fractions in the plant cell wall. A high ADF will equate to lower digestibility of the feedstuff.



Barley is about 11—13% protein and should be fed in a rolled or crushed form. Barley is not as palatable as oats or maize. Barley has a similar protein value to oats and is intermediate in energy between oats and maize. It is relatively low in fibre and can cause digestive upsets if not mixed with sufficient roughage. It is a hard grain and should be rolled and heated before feeding to increase palatability and energy availability. Heating can be provided by steam flaking, micronizing, expanding, extruding or boiling.

Big head

Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism (NSH) or more commonly referred to as “Big Head” is a metabolic bone disease in horses. It is associated with the feeding of rations with a deficiency of available calcium or excess of phosphorus.

Inadequate dietary calcium is the primary cause of calcium deficiency. Excessive dietary phosphorus can induce secondary calcium deficiency and availability of calcium can also be affected by the presence of dietary oxalates. A number of tropical warm season grasses contain potentially harmful amounts of oxalates that can prevent the uptake of dietary calcium and cause a secondary calcium deficiency.

In response to falling blood calcium levels, the parathyroid gland releases parathyroid hormone (PTH). The primary function of PTH is to prevent blood calcium from reaching dangerously low levels. It does this firstly by increasing phosphorus excretion and resorbing calcium from the urine. Second, it acts on the digestive system to increase the uptake of calcium from the feed – in a primary or secondary calcium deficient ration; there is no available calcium in the diet. Third, to increase blood levels back to the normal healthy range, PTH stimulates the release of small amounts of calcium from the bones. As the low calcium intake continues, the demand for calcium removal from the skeleton becomes greater and greater and release of calcium from the bones increases to maintain blood levels. As calcium is progressively removed from the bones, they weaken, are replaced by fibrous tissue – and clinical signs appear.

Early signs of the disease include shifting lameness, joint tenderness, reluctance to move and a stiff gait. These symptoms are caused by the bone losing its mineral content, and as a result, tiny fractures occurring in the bone. This eventually leads to a loss of bone integrity, and a cartilage disruption, which eventually leads to tearing and/or detachment of tendons and ligaments. As the minerals in the bone are replaced with fibrous tissue, the bones thicken, and a physical distortion occurs. Because the facial bones are most often affected with this disease, it has been termed “big head” in the past.

In the early 1900’s when it was most prevalent, Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism was often called “bran disease” or “miller’s disease” because horses that consumed large amounts of bran by-products, particularly that of wheat bran, were most often afflicted.

<h4=”bio-available-chromium”>Bio-Available Chromium

The addition of chromium to performance horse diets has been shown to reduce the build up of lactic acid at the end of strenuous exercise or the closing stages of a race and to increase the horse’s ability to store glucose.

Bio-Available Selenium

Selenium acts as an antioxidant to prevent fatty acid oxidation which can cause tissue damage. Research has shown that an organic form of selenium, is more readily absorbed and retained than selenium in inorganic forms.

Bio-Available Silicon

Research has shown that Bio-Available Silicon a digestible form of monosilic acid has a role in bone physiology and metabolism by increasing osteoblastic (bone building) activity and decreasing osteoclastic (bone demineralization) activity, promoting optimal skeletal growth, integrity and durability.

Beet Pulp

Beet pulp is a byproduct from the processing of sugar beet which is used as fodder for horses and other livestock. It is supplied either as dried flakes or as compressed pellets, but when fed to horses it is usually soaked in water first. Despite being a byproduct of sugar beet processing, beet pulp itself is low in sugar and other non-structural carbohydrates, but high in energy and fiber. Beet pulp has a relatively low protein content and good palatability. It provides a reasonable source of calcium, intermediate between the high calcium in lucerne and the lower calcium content of grass hays, but higher than grains.


Biotin, a water soluble vitamin is required by the enzymes responsible for protein synthesis and as a result is an essential vitamin for the healthy growth of hair and hooves. Research has shown that biotin improves skin and coat condition, increases hoof integrity and is widely recommended by farriers, veterinarians and scientists.


Bran, a by-product of flour production, is mainly made up of the outer covering of the wheat grain. It does not contain as much energy as pollard or some grains, has a poor amino acid balance and is low in calcium. Bran has a very low calcium/phosphorus ratio, which can lead to weak bones if fed in large quantities without extra calcium to balance the phosphorus. It is not an essential horse feed, but is useful for mixing supplements and powders into a feed with molasses as it is so palatable. It often gives the horse a tasty meal and the owner a warm and fuzzy feeling. As with all processed feeds, bran should not have a musty odour, as this indicates the presence of moisture. Bran shouldn’t make up more than 10% of the feed and contrary to popular opinion, it is not especially high in fibre and is not a good laxative.


C3 Plants

A C3 plant is one that produces phosphoglyceric acid (a molecule that has three carbon atoms) as a stable intermediary in the first step in photosynthesis. Over 95% of the plants on earth are C3, including cool-season grasses and legumes. C3 plants may lose energy to photorespiration in hot weather. C3 grasses thrive in cool climates and are dormant in hot climates.

C4 Plants

A C4 plant is one that produces oxaloacetic acid (a molecule that has four carbon atoms) as a stable intermediary in the first step in photosynthesis. Photosynthesis in C4 plants is more efficient in strong light, plus photorespiration is inhibited in C4 plants. C4 plants include warm season grasses such as grown in tropic and sub-tropic regions.


Since 35% of the horse’s bones contain Calcium it is an essential mineral for bone and teeth formation, but also acts as an aid for muscle contraction, cell membrane function, enzyme regulation and blood clotting. Deficiency of Calcium in horses is associated with weak bones, lameness and osteopenia.


Chlorine regulates the acid-base balance and osmotic pressure and aids with fat metabolism in the equine. A deficiency can cause a decrease in feed intake and milk production (lactating mare), muscle weakness, weight loss and dehydration.


Cobalt facilitates the production of Vitamin B 12 during the digestion process in the cecum and larger intestine and enhances the red blood cell configuration.

Cold Weather

During cold weather, the horse requires additional energy to maintain its internal body temperature and keep warm. The exact amount of energy depends on the severity and extent of the cold period. When environmental temperatures (including wind chill) drop below 7°C (referred to as the critical temperature), significant amounts of energy are used by the horse to maintain its internal body heat. For each 1°C decrease below the critical temperature, the horse requires a 1% increase in digestible energy to maintain a consistent body temperature. Wind chill, moisture, and coat thickness will affect the critical temperature. The horse’s thick winter coat has an insulating effect against cold and wind. If the coat becomes wet, the critical temperature will increase by 10 to 15°C. Increase the dry-matter content of the diet 24 hours prior to forecast cold conditions. Strive to keep your horse in a good body condition prior to winter months as the extra body fat provides an additional insulating effect against wind and also serves as an energy reserve. The digestion of forage produces high amounts of heat, therefore increasing hay consumption in horses in good body condition will help them stay warm and maintain weight. Increasing forage and concentrate will be necessary in horses of poor condition. Supplementing fat is beneficial to increasing the energy density of concentrates. Offer at least 35-40 liters of warmed water daily. Keeping the water in the 10-to-20 degree celsius range will make sure that it is not too cold to drink. Older horses and those in poor condition have additional needs during the winter. Starting them on a high caloric diet in the fall, such as a high-fat, beet-pulp based feed can help them maintain weight during frigid weather. Look for one with a fat level of 7% or more, as it will provide the extra calories needed to keep these horses from losing weight during the winter.


Colic is a general term given for any abdominal pain. There are many types and causes of colic, as well as predisposing factors. Digestive colic, the true form of colic, can be caused by feeding and management practices. The intestine may become blocked and twisted, or gas may develop. A horse’s digestive system is highly sensitive; therefore, colic is a major cause of death in horses. There are five types of digestive colic: spasmodic, impaction, incarceration, displacement, and excessive fermentation. It is important that any person who owns or works with horses be able to recognize the symptoms of colic and determine whether or not a veterinarian should be called. Symptoms of horse colic include refusal to eat, nipping at their own sides, kicking at their abdomen, stretching or straining during defecation, violent rolling or shaking, excessive perspiration, lip curling, cool extremities, fewer bowel movements or a high pulse rate. Colic can possibly be prevented by restricting access to carbohydrates, providing clean feed and drinking water, preventing the ingestion of dirt or sand by using an elevated feeding surface, a regular feeding schedule, regular de-worming, and a regular diet that does not change substantially in content or proportion and prevention of heatstroke. Avoid keeping horses stalled more than 50% of the time. Keep horses active other than just by turning them out in the pasture. Avoid accidental overfeeding. Steer clear of feeding moldy feed and try to slow the rate of feed consumption by placing a salt block or other object in the feed tub. The implementation of these management practices can help prevent the occurrence of colic.


The equine body relies on the supply of Copper to create and maintain certain body functions such as: creation of melanin and red blood cells, development of connective tissue and assists in the absorption of iron. Copper acts as a manufacturer of blood hemoglobin and bone development.


Corn has an average protein content of about 10%, but as with all grains, the protein quality is relatively poor. Corn contains slightly more energy than an equal volume of oats. The non-structural carbohydrate and starch content of corn are 78% and 72% respectively which is much higher than both barley and oats. Corn must be processed in order to be absorbed and digested effectively. Corn breaks down enzymatically to glucose very rapidly in the small intestine, quickly elevating the blood glucose levels.

Crude Fibre (CF)

Historical method of fibere analysis used to divide carbohydrates into digestible and indigestible fractions. Crude fibre accounts for most of the cellulose and only a portion of the lignin. It is not the most accurate method for quantifying fibre, particularly for forages. However, given that grains are low in lignin, it is a reasonable estimate of fibre in grains and is still used today as the legal measurement of fibre in grains and finished feeds.

Cushings Disease

Cushing’s disease, also known as PPID (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction) is caused by a hormone-secreting tumor of the pituitary gland at the base of the horse’s brain. In affected horses, the pituitary gland produces excessive amounts of pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC). This hormone is usually released at low levels, helps the body respond to short periods of physical, emotional or environmental stress. Sustained secretion of excessive POMC seemingly leads to the development of disease. The most common symptom is a long, curly hair coat that fails to shed during the change from winter to summer. Other symptoms include: excessive sweating, lethargy, poor athletic performance, infertility, muscle wasting (especially along the top line), abnormal fat distribution (accumulations in the crest of the neck, along the tail head, sheath, and above the eyes), delayed wound healing, increased susceptibility to infections, and increased water consumption with passage of large amounts of urine. Cushing’s tends to occur in middle-aged and older horses, around age twenty. Without treatment, symptoms tend to worsen over time and can be fatal. Symptoms are easily observed in advanced cases. Diagnosis of early cases or those characterized by few obvious clinical signs can be more difficult. There are two clinical tests available: 1) dexamethasone suppression test, and 2) plasma ACTH measurement test. Consult your veterinarian for the appropriate tests if you suspect your horse has Cushing’s disease. These horses are often insulin resistant and have high blood sugar levels so non-structural carbohydrates (NSC, sugar and starch) need to be avoided. Feeds low in soluble carbohydrates (sugar and starch) are recommended. Feeding recommendations are to provide a total diet with less than 20% sugar and starch for most horses with Cushing’s disease. Pasture grasses can have high carbohydrate content, especially during the spring and fall seasons, and the risk of colic and laminitis is greater when horses are on pasture. Since laminitis and founder are more common in horses with Cushing’s disease, pasture grazing should be severely limited or totally avoided. Regular exercise reduces blood glucose levels in insulin-resistant people, so it should also help horses.


Development Orthopedic Disease

The term “DOD” describes a variety of orthopedic disorders in growing horses. Contracted tendons, wobbles, phystis, osteochondritis, osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) and angular limb deformities are all considered Development Orthopedic Disease. Genetics, nutrition, hormonal imbalances, disease and basic management practices may all contribute to DOD. Feeding excessive amounts of grain to young horses causes an unnatural fluctuation in levels of hormones such as insulin, growth hormone and thyroid hormones. This can result is the development of the over-conditioned horse with an increased risk of DOD. Mineral imbalances may also influence the incidence and severity of DOD. It is critical that the brood mare is fed a diet with the right mineral balance and energy requirement to provide the foal adequate nutrients for the initial development of their limbs. Proper calcium and phosphorus intake is crucial to healthy growth and development of bones. Copper, zinc and selenium are other critical minerals that must be fed in adequate amounts to ensure optimal bone growth. Lack of free exercise, sudden changes in nutrition levels, and exposure to stress can contribute to DOD in young horses. Free exercise increases bone strength. Thus it’s best not to confine growing horses to stalls for more than 10 hours a day. Abrupt changes in energy, protein or mineral intake level of growing horses can sometimes trigger abnormal growth rates and orthopedic disorders. Likewise, increased stress, such as poor weaning programs, can adversely affect growth weights and increase the weanling’s susceptibility to DOD.

Dry Cob

C.O.B. is an acronym that stands simply for corn, oats and barley. Dry C.O.B. means it does not have molasses added to stick all the grains together. Wet C.O.B. has molasses added and might also be termed a sweet feed.


Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrate (ESC)

Carbohydrates solubilised and extracted in 80% ethanol. Includes primarily monosaccharides and disaccharides (simple sugars, glucose, sucrose and fructose). ESC also includes the shortest chain fructans (FOS). These simple sugars are hydrolysed in the small intestine and absorbed and metabolised to form energy. In horses that display “sugar sensitivities” such as in the case of Insulin Resistance, Cushing’s, Tying-Up and Obesity we are concerned with the ESC plus starch value. The sum of these values in the total diet of horses that have not shown any clinical signs but we are apprehensive about should be less than 12%, for horses that have in the past shown signs or been afflicted by one of these diseases the sum of ESC plus starch should be less than 10% dm. For such cases where the animal is suffering from one of these diseases the recommendations are to keep the combination of ESC plus starch in the total diet less than 8%. ESC is a subset of WSC.


Extrusion is another processing method whereby the feed ingredients are ground and cooked under high pressure with heat and moisture and pressed through a die. They are generally less dense (lighter) than other pelleted feeds and have the same look and consistency as dry dog food.


Folic Acid (Vit. B9)

As the synthetic version of Folate, Folic Acid is involved in DNA production, fetal growth, red blood cell formation, tissue repair and regeneration of digestive tract lining.


Flax (also known as common flax or linseed) (binomial name: Linum usitatissimum) is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. Flax seed is the highest botanical form of omega-3 fatty acids and enhances overall health in horses. As a result of the high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids flax seed can help reduce inflammation, which can relieve symptoms associated with skin conditions. It can also alleviate symptoms of allergies. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it also helps in cases of arthritis or joint stiffness. Flax seed meal should be ground as the outer seed coat is very hard and not digestible by the horse.


is a collective term used to describe carbohydrates containing multiple fructose units. Fructo-oligogoasaccharides and inulin are types of short chain fructan. Fructan is a major storage carbohydrate in cool season grasses and is predominantly stored in the stems of the plants and less in the leaves. Fructan production is not self limiting, which allows high levels of fructan to accumulate. Therefore the average concentration of NSC in warm season grasses tends to be substantially lower than in cool season grasses when grown under the same conditions. Fructan cannot be digested in the small intestine and is fermented in the large intestine and in some cases has been implicated in the onset of pasture associated laminitis. The chain length in fructan determines the fermentation rate and there is a wide variation of fructan chain length in various types of fructan. Grass fructan may have considerably longer chain lengths than FOS or insulin.


Gastric Ulcers

Equine gastric ulcers are caused because gastric acid (hydrochloric acid secreted by parts of the stomach lining), and, to a lesser degree, the digestive enzyme pepsin, irritating the lining of the stomach, causing ulceration. Ulcers are caused by a variety of factors including: diet and feeding management – feeding high levels of concentrates, feed deprivation and types of feeds (timothy vs lucerne, lucerne is known to have acid buffering abilities), stress of training or disease, mechanics of training (splashing of acid in stomach while exercising) as well as medications such as corticosteroids. The clinical signs of ulcers are not noticeable in most horses. Of those horses clinically affected, the signs may include poor athletic performance, change in attitude, dull coat, altered eating behavior, weight loss, diarrhea and colic. In foals, teeth grinding (a sign of pain) and excessive salivation are common. Ulcers also occur in the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) and in the esophagus. The treatment of stomach ulcers involves a combination of changes to feeding management, medical therapy, as well as reducing stress on the horse. Turnout onto green grass pasture along with altering the feeding regimen is likely the fastest method to allow the ulcers to heal. If concentrates are to be fed, they should be fed in small amounts at frequent intervals. By nature, horses are grazing animals, spending much of their day feeding. The grazing horse has a constant flow of saliva and passage of grass into the stomach, buffering stomach acid. If the horse must be stalled, arrange for the horse to see the horses he socializes with. Consider offering a ball or other object that the horse can enjoy in his stall. Feed the horse more frequently to help buffer the acid in the stomach. Decrease grains in your horse’s diets that are prone to promote the formation of volatile fatty acids (These are the high carbohydrate grains such as corn). Incorporate fat supplements to increase calories without excess grain. Medications that decrease stomach acid production are available, but are only necessary in horses showing signs of clinical diseases or when the predisposing factors, such as stress, cannot be removed.

Grass/meadow hay

Grass hay varies considerably in quality, particularly in relation to such factors as the pasture species and the time of cutting. The more clover a pasture contains, the greater the nutritive value of the hay. And the earlier it is cut, the higher its levels of protein, energy and minerals. Good quality clover hay has a similar nutrient value to lucerne hay and is much more palatable, but it is often hard to find.



Much more than just a sweetner, Honey is a rich source of natural vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A, B complex, C, D & E as well as bioflavonoids, antioxidants and propolis enzymes promoting general health and well being.

Hot Weather

The upper critical temperature for horses is about 38°C and about 27°F for foals. Shade should be provided; preferably that allows unrestricted air flow. Coat clipping may help dissipate heat in horses with a long hair coat. In addition to providing adequate shade and ventilation, feeding habits can be changed in hot weather to help keep your horse cool. Provide plenty of water, as their intake can increase by nearly four times the amount they would drink in temperate weather. This high intake of water compensates for the increased sweating rate in hot conditions especially in exercising horses; high amounts of electrolytes are also lost with increased sweating and should be replaced with an added electrolyte supplement. Feed less forage, particularly legumes. The higher protein in legumes creates additional heat as the body digests it. Feed more grains and added fat to meet the energy requirements. Fats in particular result in less body heat when they’re digested, decreasing the heat load on the horse. Always make sure to provide adequate salt. Horses that are overweight will have difficulty keeping their body temperature down in hot weather. The excess weight also has a negative impact on performance, resulting in an increased heart and respiration rate.


Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) is a co-dominant single autosomal gene disorder that primarily affects Quarter horses. In the muscle cells of horses with HYPP, regulation of the movement of sodium and potassium to and from cells is disrupted. This can result in repetitive muscle contractions and in severe cases muscle fasiculations. These are usually first evident over the rib cage and flank areas, but may spread to other muscle groups. The most important management practice for HYPP positive horses is to limit the dietary intake of potassium to less than 1% of the total diet. The largest source of potassium in the diet of a horse is grass and hay. Forages can contain over 3% potassium, factors such as moisture content, stage of maturity and variety (legumes contain more than grasses) all effect forage potassium content. Grains also contain potassium but at a lower rate usually less than 0.5%. When developing a feeding regime for these horses grass hays or pastures such as Bermuda grass, prairie hay, or timothy should be used as a forage source instead of legume hays such as lucerne. The use of cereal grain as a major portion of the diet will reduce the potassium concentration of the diet. Beware of commercial feeds containing high amounts of molasses, soybean meal, or dehydrated lucerne as these all have relatively high potassium concentrations (greater than 2%).



Iodine is an essential mineral supporting the transfer of fat to energy.

Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is when the body’s cells become less and less sensitive to the insulin that is being produced. Insulin is a hormone that is secreted or produced and released from the pancreas. Insulin is released in response to an increase in glucose levels in the blood following a meal containing sugars or starches. Insulin then stimulates cells in the body to take up this circulating glucose from the blood. Once in the cells, glucose is used for energy or it is converted for storage as glycogen or fat. Horses suffering from insulin resistance show a breakdown of this system. The exact cause of insulin resistance is not known. However, several possible causes include: Diet – when fed high sugar/starch feeds horses can become insulin resistant. Obesity – Overweight horses tend to be insulin resistant, as are “easy keepers” even if they are not obese. Age – Old horses (>20 years) seem to be more prone to insulin resistance. Breed – Ponies tend to have higher degrees of insulin resistance than Warmbloods or Standardbreds. Breeds that are prone to developing cresty necks and obesity, such as Morgans and some lines of Arabians, Quarterhorses, may be more likely to develop insulin resistance. Treatment may consist of the following: Weight loss through diet and exercise if the animal is obese. Limiting carbohydrate intake through elimination of grain and high sugar feeds. Test pastures and dry forages for amounts of sugars present. Soaking hay if it is known to contain high amounts of sugars (> 10 to 12% soluble sugars) in hot water for 30 min or cold water for 60 min. Feeding warm season grasses, such as Bermuda grass, or feeding beet pulp that does not have added molasses. Cut down on free intake of grass if the horse has a history of founder and/or is obese. Add fat and fiber to the diet at 6-10% for fat and at least 12% for fibre.


Iron builds the centre of hemoglobin and supports the transport of oxygen through the blood & muscles. The absorption rate in older horses is less than 15%. Manganese .





Laminitis is inflammation of the laminae of the foot. The laminae are tiny finger like structures in the hoof that interlock to join the coffin bone to the hoof wall effectively suspending the bones of the foot inside the hoof wall. Inflammation damages the laminae making them unable to hold the coffin bone in place. With the weight of the horse pushing the coffin bone toward the ground and the pull of the deep digital flexor tendon rotating the coffin bone, the coffin bone will sink and rotate within the hoof. This process is extremely painful to the horse and results in lameness. Laminitis is the result of many disease conditions. Risk factors for developing laminitis include: carbohydrate (sugar, starch, fructan) overload, colic, diarrhea, excessive concussion, retained placenta, drug reactions, systemic infection, injury, obesity, genetics, and insulin resistance. Controlling the risk factors and preventing laminitis is easier than the cure. Nutrition counter measures to avoid laminitis include the following. The base diet should consist of forage and fiber rather than sugar and starch. Low carbohydrate feeds are available commercially and should be fed to these horses. If horses need to gain condition, consider adding dietary fat (RBO Oil) as an energy source. Only feed grain that has been physically processed (ground, rolled, crimped, pelleted) to prevent undigested grain from reaching the hindgut and causing digestive upset and laminitis. Feed smaller more frequent meals rather than large single meals. Make all dietary changes slowly (7-10 days). Control body weight and body condition with regular exercise to prevent obesity and insulin resistance. Horses should be maintained in a body condition score between 4 and 6. Consider not grazing at risk horses. If grazing is allowed, using a grazing muzzle and grazing early in the morning can help reduce the ingestion of high sugar grasses.


Indigestible plant component. As lignin content increases, digestibility decreases thereby lowering the amount of energy potentially available to the animal.

Linseed meal

Linseed meal was a very popular protein supplement for horses, yet it has the poorest quality protein of the three meals. The main reason for the popularity of linseed meal is its ability to readily produce a shine on a horse’s coat, which is due to the fatty acid content of linseed oil. The other protein meals produce a similar effect to a certain degree. Linseed may also have a laxative effect because it is high in the fibre mucilage.Linseed is traditionally fed boiled in mash form and raw linseeds should not be fed as the horse can be poisoned when the seeds are fed in large amounts without being boiled.

Lupins, Beans and Peas

Other sources of protein are peas, beans, and lupins. These should be crushed, cracked or soaked to increase digestibility. They supply protein of moderate quality, but you need to feed more than the meals to achieve a required protein intake. However you don’t have any problems with ‘fines’ in the feed bin that the horse may leave. Lupins are also a good energy source for performance horses, and they are valuable as they are low in starch, but high in digestible fibre. Lupins can provide up to 25% of the total grain mix in a performance horses and can be used as a protein supplement in young horses and mares.

Lucerne hay or chaff

Lucerne hay or chaff is the most nutritious roughage available. It contains the highest amounts of energy and protein and, in fact, contains more protein than any grain. This protein is of high quality. Lucerne hay or chaff is also particularly high in calcium. All the concentrates contain low amounts of calcium, so lucerne helps to balance the diet if fed with them. Lucerne may cause some horses to have sloppy droppings and will change urine characteristics, but it does not cause most of the problems that are attributed to it.



As supporter for muscle function, enzyme activation, nerve activation and bone and teeth development, Magnesium is essential mineral for the equine body. Nervousness, muscle tremors and ataxia is associated with Magnesium deficiency.
Manganese is an essential enzyme activator with a low absorption rate, which enhances the digestion of carbohydrates and lipids.


Infra Red Micronizing is a patented, dry thermal process. The Micronizing process must not be confused with microwave cookers, which use a higher wavelength. Travelling at the speed of light, infra red energy is extremely efficient at generating heat inside absorbent materials, by causing the constituent molecules to vibrate at a frequency of 80 – 170 million megacycles/second. The result, inter-molecular friction, brings about rapid internal heating and a rise in water vapour pressure. Infra Red Micronizing is a highly reliable and consistent “short time high temperature” process, using humidity, temperature and mechanical pressure to achieve high levels of starch gelatinisation and elimination of anti-nutritional factors, without any significant water loss. Infra red energy makes the starch become soft and turgid, causing it to swell, fracture and gelatinize. Immediate rolling or flaking enhances digestibility and nutritional value. Digestibility is much improved – up to 98% for barley, while starch gelatinization in maize is as high as 90%. Energy is saved because drying is unnecessary. In addition the improvement in palatability, achieved by converting starches to sugars, enhances their flavour compared to other processes.


Natural Vitamin E

This unique and highly stable form of Natural Vitamin E known as RRR-a-tocopherol is up to 5 times more bio available and potent than regular synthetic sources of Vitamin E. Research has shown that this form of Natural Vitamin E provides higher retention levels in plasma further aiding antioxidant, immune, cardiovascular, circulatory, neuromuscular and reproductive functions.

NDF (Neutral Detergent Fibre):

This fraction analyses for total plant cell wall carbohydrates, including ADF and hemicelluloses. The fibre analysis is often considered an indicator of forage quality and intake potential. A low NDF signifies that there and less un-digestible fibres, which equates to higher quality hay with higher intake.

Neglected Horse

Horses that have been the subject of abuse or neglect will be in a starved condition. Remarkably, horses can lose 30% or more of their body weight and still survive. Horses in this condition will have very little muscle mass remaining and will be very weak. They will need much attention and a sound nutrition program to get them back into proper body condition. Get your veterinarian to check the horse for additional health problems such as parasites and advise on a treatment plan. A full dose of de-wormer in an animal loaded with parasites may cause colic. The first thing to do is to start by providing the horse with good quality hay, water and a mineral/vitamin supplement. Feed good-quality grass hay, which is less likely to cause digestive upset than lucerne or clover hay. Try to provide it in plenty-1.5 to 2 % of the horse’s body weight daily (5-7kg for a 360kg horse). Don’t feed any grain for about 2 weeks to allow the horse’s digestive system time to recover. If the horse is an older animal with poor or missing teeth, the ability to chew long-stemmed hay may be pretty compromised. In these cases try feeding a forage extender pellet or hay cube that could be soaked and made into a mash. Start grain feeding slowly after about 2 weeks. Start out by feeding only ½ kg of grain twice daily. Gradually increase the amount of grain by adding ½ kg per day until feeding 1/2% of the horse’s body weight daily. Feeding this amount of grain and plenty of hay will allow for a slow and gradual weight gain. Bringing a starved horse to normal body condition will take three to six months, depending on the level of weight loss. Keep increasing the amount of hay and grain as the horse’s weight increases, feeding 1/2% of body weight in grain and 1 1/2% as good quality grass hay.

Niacin (Vit. B3)

Oxidation-reduction cycles, DNA processing, carbohydrate metabolism, growth, skin condition and nervous system are supported by Niacin.

Non-Fibre Carbohydrate (NFC)

This is a mathematical estimate of non-cell wall (non-fibre) carbohydrates consisting of starch, sugar, pectin and fermentation acids that can serve as energy sources for the animal. NFC is calculated as 100% – (CP% + NDF% + Fat% +Ash %).

Non Structural Carbohydrate (NSC)

This carbohydrate fraction originates from the cell contents and includes the simple sugars, glucose, fructose, sucrose, and storage carbohydrates such as starch and fructan. The NSC levels in plants are in constant change, such factors as light intensity, temperature, soil fertility and water status have profound effects on forage NSC content. There is a diurnal pattern in concentration of NSC in pasture with increasing concentrations throughout the day peaking in late afternoon (4-5pm) and declining throughout the evening (Byrd, et al., 2007). In general, conditions that decrease photosynthesis (cloud cover) and increase plant growth (warm, moist fertile soils) result in lowered accumulation of NSC. Conditions that enhance photosynthesis and decrease plant growth (bright sunshine and cool temperatures or drought) results in high levels of accumulated NSC. Horses suffering from a range of metabolic disorders including, Obesity, Insulin Resistance, PSSM and Laminitis should not be given access to feeds and forages containing high amounts of NSC as this has been shown to exacerbate these conditions.



Oats are about 12—13% protein, the quality of the protein is not excellent, and one should not be feeding oats alone to meet protein needs for growing animals. The non-structural carbohydrate and starch content of oats are 46% and 44% respectively which is much lower than both barley and corn. Oats have an outer seed hull that is made up of non- digestible fiber which is not broken down by the horse. Whole oats has been standard horse feed for decades. Oats can also be bought crimped, crushed, rolled, steamed or triple cleaned. Cleaning removes all dust and weed seeds. Oats are also relatively high in phosphorus. Oats are considered safer grains to feed and are less likely to cause digestive upsets than corn or barley. Like all grains, oats are low in calcium, but they do have a reasonably high level of phosphorus. They are a poor source of vitamins. The quality of the protein they contain is not good because they are deficient in some essential amino acids.


The causes of obesity in horses are simple: too much energy (calories) consumed, too little exercise and certain medical conditions. Management of the obese horse requires changes in the feeding program as well as the exercise program. Excess weight and over-nutrition in equines has a number of potentially negative effects, including: increased stress on the heart and lungs, greater risk of laminitis or founder , increased risk of developmental orthopedic (bone and joint) problems in young, growing horses, more strain on feet, joints, and limbs, worsened symptoms of arthritis, less efficient cooling of body temperatures, fat build-up around key organs which interferes with normal function, reduced reproductive efficiency, greater lethargy and more easily fatigued. Weight reduction will only occur if the horse’s energy expenditure is greater than its energy intake. Weight loss can only be accomplished by reducing the number of calories going in and increasing the number of calories expended. So a combination of diet and exercise is in order to shed extra weight from the easy keeper. Especially if turnout space is limited or unavailable, the horse should be exercised regularly, provided it is sound and healthy. This is one of the best options for weight loss, especially if the horse is usually sedentary. If possible, exercise the horse more often than it had been before dieting, to increase the rate of weight loss. If an exercise or dry lot paddock is available, where there is no pasture available for grazing, regular turnout will allow for increased activity and weight loss. Don’t feed high-fat supplements. Vegetable oil, flaxseed and rice bran are high in fat and so are high in calories. Eliminate these supplements from your horse’s diet and you can cut out a large number of calories and prevent excessive weight gain. Limit access to pasture by using a grazing muzzle and replace legume hay with grass hay. Legume hay, such as lucerne and clover, contain more calories per pound than grass hays. Instead of lucerne, feed a high-fiber, good quality grass hay free of dust, mold and weeds Commercially available “balancer supplements” are ideal for these horses as they provide the animal with its mineral and vitamin requirements without adding excess calories.

Orphan Foal

Several factors cause a foal to be treated as an orphan; unforeseen death or illness of the mare leaves the foal orphaned, or sometimes the mare may just simply reject the foal or may have no milk production. There are two main options from this point on, either a nurse mare or raise the foal by hand using a milk replacer formula and eventually a milk replacer pellet. A nurse mare is the easiest option as the foal will receive the precise nutrition it requires and will be able to maintain a normal feeding behavior. During the 1st week of life a healthy foal nurses from its mother up to seven times an hour for 60 to 90 seconds each time. For foals orphaned on the first day of life it is important that they receive adequate colostrum to build a healthy immune system. Milk replacers designed to mimic the nutrient profile of mares milk should be given to the foal. On a dry matter basis milk replacers should contain 15% fat, 22% crude protein and less than ½% fiber. Young foals should be fed a liquid based milk replacer and as they get older supplemented with high quality forage and milk replacer pellets. Orphan foal can be weaned from milk replacers by 10-12 weeks of age and changed over to a growing horse supplement. Fresh water should be available to foals at all times.


Pantothenic Acid (Vit.B5)

Vitamin B5 supports various activities within the equine body such as carbohydrate, fat and lipid metabolism, skin and coat condition and neurotransmitters whilst releasing energy from foods.


A cell wall polysaccharide that functions as “cellular glue”. It is also known as “soluble fibre”.


Pelleted feeds are simply feeds that have been made into pellets. They vary in quality and nutrition levels based on the ingredients that made up the pellets. This processing method simply consists of grinding the ingredients together and forcing them through a die using heat or steam. The key advantage to pelleted feed is uniformity, so that every bite is the same, thus preventing feed segregation. Horses cannot sift through a select what they do and don’t want to eat. Also pellets are generally fairly digestible as the ingredients have been broken down during the grinding process. REMEMBER, however that pellets are only as good as the ingredients that go into them and in most cases you get what you pay for.


Phosphorus acts as an aid for ADP and ATP production, which means it plays an essential role in the energy metabolism of the horse.


Prebiotics incorporated in HYGAIN® PRODUCT® have a defined mode of action, promoting a healthy gut and supporting natural defences essential for optimum health and performance.


Probiotics are good bacteria that stimulate the activity of other good bacteria in the horse’s digestive tract. The addition of probiotics (live yeast) to equine diets improves fibre, phosphorus and calcium digestibility and increases gross energy, total lipid and amino acid absorption.


Pollard is the remains of the inner kernel of wheat left after Flour milling. It is low in fibre, protein and calcium, high in phosphorus and can cause digestive upsets if it is not fed damp with chaff. Pollard is often used for fattening horses, but rice pollard and grains will do this just as effectively and with less potential problems.


Maintaining acid balance and cell, nerve and muscle function belong to the activities of Potassium.




RBO® Equine Performance Oil® is a blend of rice bran oil, omega essential 3,6 & 9 fatty acids and natural anti-oxidants known to improve the health and structural integrity of cell membranes. RBO® oil plays an important role in maximising energy efficiency due to its energy dense nature and is digested efficiently in the small intestine reducing the ‘sugar high’ associated with high grain diets. RBO® promotes growth and development of the muscular system, top line and a healthy skin and coat.

Rice Pollard

Rice Pollard is high in fat and energy, and is a useful feed for putting on condition and improving coat condition. It is much more valuable than wheat pollard, but care should be taken to ensure the rice pollard isn’t rancid. It can become rancid due to prolonged storage, heat and moisture. It shouldn’t be fed if it has a different smell that may indicate rancidity.


Hay and chaff are roughage. Chaff is chopped hay, so both feeds have a similar nutritional value although there is great variation in the quality and nutritional value of a particular type of roughage. Chaff has an advantage over hay in that it can be readily mixed with other feeds and this prevents a horse from “bolting” its grain. There is also less wastage with chaff, but many people overestimate the amount of chaff they feed as chaff is very light. A big bucket of chaff may contain less than a good biscuit of hay. However, it is more expensive than hay and it is cheaper and easier to feed hay to most horses. The long stem fibre in hay is also useful to maintain proper digestive function.

Hay has a lower nutritive value than the pasture from which it is made. However, a horse has to eat more of pasture than of hay to get the same amount of nutrients because pasture contains so much water. The nutritional value of hay varies greatly so it is important to check the quality of hay. High quality hay is not weathered excessively, is leafy and has minimal stems.

Good quality hay contains vitamins A, D and E, although these are destroyed after prolonged storage. Mouldy hay can cause colic and respiratory problems. Dusty hay can be soaked in water to remove the dust or not fed to horses.
Compared with the concentrates, the roughage’s are low in energy and high in fibre. This fibre is not easily digested and the main purpose is to help the normal function of the digestive tract when the horse is being fed a lot of grain. Remember that the horse evolved as a grazing animal with a high fibre diet and that the high grain/low roughage diets we feed many of our horses are unnatural and can lead to many problems. These can include digestive upsets such as colic, gastric ulcers, and diarrhoea along with metabolic disorders such as laminitis, tying up and behaviour problems.



Sodium supports nervous system and muscle functions and is important for every cell in the body as it is maintains the fluid balance and acid-base balance. Sodium deficient horses may suffer from skin vitality, decreased water intake and loss appetite.

Soybean Meal

Soybean meal is an ideal protein supplement containing increased concentrations of essential amino acids. Raw soybeans must be processed to remove growth inhibitors including trypsin inhibitors. It is an excellent source of the essential amino acids, including lysine that is found in low levels in grains or roughage. It is not particularly palatable and a horse will eat up to 500 grams per day. Soy hulls are a source of very digestible fiber considered as another “super fiber”. Full fat soy still contains 20 % oil so is higher in energy and better for the coat than normal soy meal. It is the preferred form to use in performance horses where energy is important.


Selenium contributes to the expansion of the immune system and is therefore, essential to the equine body. Also it collaborates with Vitamin E.

Senior Horse

The nutritional management of the senior horse is challenging as there are not set criteria that define “old age” or the “senior” horse. The nutrient requirements of senior horses differ from other classes of horses because of the changes in metabolic and digestive efficiency that accompany the aging process. The first step to good nutrition for the senior horse is determining if it is “senior”. Rather than rely strictly on age to determine if a horse is a “senior”, it is more important to determine if the horse is “nutritionally senior.” A horse that is “nutritionally senior” can no longer eat its same diet and maintain proper body condition. The combination of age, physiological status and physical signs of aging will determine if a horse is “nutritionally senior.” Some common physical signs of aging that require nutrition management are loss of weight and decrease in body condition, loss of muscle mass over the top line, sway backed appearance, and dental problems or diseases. Some senior horses also develop diseases such as Metabolic Syndrome, Cushing’s, and Kidney or Liver Dysfunction. When it has been determined that a horse is indeed “nutritionally senior” each horse must be evaluated and fed as an individual. The main goals of feeding programs for senior horses should be to maintain an optimal body condition score of 5 to 6 and minimize the risks of nutritionally related disorders and diseases. Generally senior horses that are in good body condition are less active than their younger counterparts and only have maintenance energy requirements. However, if the horse has difficulty maintaining body weight then a higher caloric diet is needed. Likewise, senior horses in good body condition have protein and other nutrient requirements that are similar to those of the maintenance animal. Horses that are underweight or have lost muscle mass require higher levels of protein and other nutrients. Overall digestibility in the senior is decreased therefore highly digestible and available nutrients are critical. Water intake is especially critical in senior horses in order to reduce constipation and impaction problems that are common in old horses. A large issue with older horses is dental problems. Horses that are missing teeth or have poor dentition must rely on alternative sources of pasture and hay as their ability to chew is limited. Forage extenders such as hay cubes, pelleted forage, and chopped forage can be used as substitute forage sources. Complete feeds that use high fiber by-products such as beet pulp can be used as a quality forage source. These forage sources are often fed wet or in a “mash” or “gruel” form to minimize issues of choke associated with inability to properly chew. Commercial feeds specifically designed for the senior horse are typically easy to chew and highly digestible. These feeds are either micronized, pelleted or extruded and in severe cases can be soaked and made into a mash to facilitate easier consumption by the horse. Senior horses should be offered small meals frequently throughout the day and a single meal should not exceed 2kgs. The main point to remember when developing feeding programs for senior horses is that these animals should be treated as individual cases and optimized for the specific needs of each horse.


A polysaccharide found primarily in the grain or seed and/or root portions of plants, but can accumulate significantly in the leafy tissue of C4 grasses. Starches are not water soluble. Amylase and amylopectin are the two polysaccharide types of starch. Starches are reserve carbohydrates in C4 forages, and the primary carbohydrate in legumes. Starch is digested to glucose by endogenous enzymes in the small intestine where it is also absorbed and metabolised for energy in the horse. If starch molecules pass undigested through the small intestine and into the large intestine, where it will be fermented this will alter the microbial environment. Feeding a high starch diet (30% starch) has been reported to decrease the celluloytic bacteria in the caecum (Medina et al., 2002). Studies have also reported decreased large intestinal pH in horses and ponies fed high starch diets (Medina et al., 2002).This change in hindgut pH due to starch overload has been implicated in the onset of such diseases and laminitis and colic. Therefore high starch feeds should not be offered in amounts that would result in significant starch overflow into the large intestine.

Sweet Feed

Sweet feeds are feeds that have added sugar to make them more palatable to the horse. Usually the sugar is added in the form of molasses. Usually sweet feeds are a mix of grains molasses, sometimes a vitamin and mineral premix is added either in a loose form that would bind to the other grains because of the molasses or as a pellet.

Super Fibres

As the name suggests super fibre is a product that contains highly digestible fibre with very little non-digestible fibre. These highly digestible fibre sources provide horses with a calorie content similar to grain, however since they are fibre they are safer to feed and given that Super Fibres are digested in the hindgut (cecum and colon) they do not produce rapid changes in blood sugar (Fizz) like grain. Super fibres are as safe to feed as chaff or hay and even more digestible.

Sunflower seeds

These are very palatable and are high in fat and energy so they are a good coat conditioner, but are low in several essential amino acids. Sunflowers are more a fat and energy supplement than a protein supplement. They can also be fed as a meal.


Textured Feed

A textured feed looks like muesli and generally includes whole or processed grain, and a pellet containing minerals and vitamins. Other ingredients may be added such as beet pulp, molasses, fat and yeast.

Tying Up

“Tying-up” is the common name used for disorders causing extreme muscle contractions. These include Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (ER), recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER), and polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM). Read more here.



Vitamin A

The carotenoids beta-carotin is metabolized in the large intestine and the liver into Vitamin A. This antioxidant produces Rhodopsin, which is an important component of the visual pigment and essential for vision at night. Besides being a supportive Vitamin for vision it is also active in gene transcription, immune function, embryonic development and reproduction, bone metabolism, hematopoietic skin health and antioxidant activities.

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 aids as an important supporter of carbohydrate digestion, where it metabolizes Glucose into ATP (energy production) and normal nervous system functions. A loss of appetite, anorexia, ataxia and muscle switching are associated with Vitamin B1 deficiency.

Vitamin B2

Due to the fact that Vitamin B2 acts as an aid for nervous system functions, red blood cell formation, skin and hair condition a deficiency of this Vitamin results I rough hair conditions, dermatitis and photophobia (light sensitivity).

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 aids in nervous system functions, energy production process and metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is synthesized through the exposure of sunlight and can be stores in the horse’s body. It helps to maintain calcium levels in the horse’s body and is essential for bone growth and density. Rickets also know as the soft bone disease can occur through Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin E

This antioxidant provides many activities within the horse’s body such as red blood cell maintenance, cell membrane protection, tissue repair, oxygen supply to cells, stabilizes immune system, supports muscles, skin and coat condition. Vitamin E is reduced by moisture therefore, higher Vitamin E contents are found in younger plants. White muscle disease is associated with Vitamin E deficiency.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K aids blood clothing, bone metabolism and heart health.

Vitamin B12

In order to format and maintain blood cells in the equine body Vitamin B 12 is used in conjunction in a specifically formulated balance with Iron and Copper. Vitamin B 12 builds a crucial part in the protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism of the equine.

Vitamin C

Prevention of oxidation or free radicals destroying cells is an aid performed by Vitamin C as an anti oxidant. It also plays an essential role in stabilizing the immune system. Tiredness, leg inflammation and bleeding gums are associated as Vitamin C deficiencies.


Water Soluble Carbohydrate (WSC)

Carbohydrates solubilised and extracted in hot water. Includes monosaccharides, disaccharides (simple sugars) and some polysaccharides (mainly fructan). The determination of non structural carbohydrates is currently accepted as WSC + Starch. When formulating diets for horses at risk or suffering from laminitis, the recommendations are to keep total dietary WSC + Starch to less than 10%.

Wheaten/Oaten hay/chaff

Wheaten and oaten hay and chaff are similar in feed value. They do not contain as much protein or calcium as lucerne, but are higher in fibre and are just as palatable. The energy value of these hays or chaffs depends on the amount of grain they contain. A good sample will have a higher energy value than lucerne. Like lucerne chaff, a major advantage is that you can mix the chaff with grain to slow down the intake of concentrates.





As part of an enzyme, Zinc supplies the insulin production, blood clotting, wound healing and the metabolism of the equine. Zinc deficiency can lead to hair loss, reduction in enzyme production and poor appetite.