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Nutrient Requirements in Horses

How can I determine if my horses are getting the proper daily nutrients? Where can I find the nutrients they should get along with the minimum and maximum? I can calculate what they get, I just don’t know if it is enough, too much, etc.
– Thank you, Marianna

Dear Marianna,

The National Research Council (NRC) published the sixth revised edition of Nutrient Requirements of Horses in 2007. It’s considered the “bible” of horse nutrition and I recommend consulting this book to help you figure out how much of which nutrients your horses require. Some versions of the book include software to help you calculate your horse’s needs, which you may find helpful.

As much as I love math and nutrition though, I’m perfectly happy letting the experts in this field tell me what to feed my horses because it’s easy to make a mistake and cause serious consequences. My job as a horse owner is just to provide 2% of their body weight per day in high quality forage (which I have analyzed so I know its nutrient composition), then bridge any gaps with a ration balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. In addition, I add salt to my horse’s diet (since forages and grains are both low in sodium), provide plenty of fresh water and that’s it! Follow these guidelines and your horses will have everything they need.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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