Just to clear this up, this was the article i originally had scheduled for today, but when an issue came up with a big sale on a product I wasn't certain of, I decided to release that post first just in case I didn't have time to get to this one. Now that I do have time, I've been doing some marketing copy for a client about amino acid supplements and I decided to put up some info I learned during research. Enjoy if interested, and I'll try to get to some more fun stories either later tonight or in the next few days.
Nutrition is important for all animals but especially important in working horses. Working horses burn energy in performing their duties, whether they are racehorses, cow horses, or hunter jumpers. Energy requirements in these animals can be two to three times that of a horse at pasture.
Three main nutrient groups provide energy to the body. These groups are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. While it is important to have a balance of all three nutrients in the diet, today we will talk about protein.
Proteins are complex structures made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are twenty-two different amino acids that combine in different chain lengths and orders to create a plethora of proteins. If it helps, just think of each amino acid like a letter of the alphabet. With the 26 letters of the English alphabet, we can create an endless variety of words. These amino acid chains are too large to be absorbed intact by the digestive tract, so enzymes break dietary protein into the amino acids for absorption.
Once they have been absorbed by the body, the amino acids can be combined to make a multitude of proteins to support body functions. Just a few of the uses for protein in the body are cell membranes, muscle fibers and a component of chemical signals throughout the body, such as hormones. Amino acids can be classified as essential or nonessential. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized in sufficient amounts by the body, and therefore must be in the diet in order to prevent deficiencies. If a sufficient amount of an amino acid is not available, another amino acid cannot be substituted to make the proteins the body needs. This is why having a high quality balanced diet is important so that ample amounts of the essential amino acids are available for bodily functions.
Deficiencies of nutrients can appear as many different symptoms. Because hair is composed of protein, often deficient animals will have a rough, dull haircoat. This is completely different than the shaggy winter coat that animals grow during the fall. Another common sign of protein deficiencies is poor hoof quality, with the hoof wall being brittle and prone to cracking.
Working horses often have more muscle definition than nonworking horses, and protein is needed to build those additional muscle cells that allow peak performance. A quality feed will contain not only adequate amounts of protein but also carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Not all feeds are equal, and even the same type of hay that is harvested during a different time in the season will contain different amounts of nutrients. For example, more mature plants harvested later in the season will have a large quantity of fiber, but fewer vitamins and minerals than a younger plant grown in the same conditions. If you have questions about the foodstuffs you are using, you can contact your local agricultural extension agent to have a feed analysis performed. This will help you determine if any supplementation is necessary. Don’t be afraid to consult professionals to make sure that your working horse is getting the most suitable diet possible so that their performance will be the best it can be.
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