I recently purchased an almost two year old Thoroughbred gelding that had 60 days training to race at 18 months before his owners decided he wasn’t fast enough. He is growing quickly and I am in no hurry to start riding him again as I feel he needs time to develop physically. Nutritionally, what should his diet consist of for optimum growth and health?
Congratulations on your new horse! And cheers for giving him the time, space and nutrition to mature properly. According to my favorite book, the NRC Nutrient Requirements of Horses, horses 24 months of age and younger are considered “growing animals” and have additional daily nutrient requirements than adult horses in maintenance.
Specifically, they need more energy (calories), protein (especially the limiting amino acid lysine), and certain vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D and iron. Since the amount and ratio of all these nutrients is important—as well as knowing the body condition score and approximate weight of your growing horse—I recommend you speak with your veterinarian or a local equine nutritionist to develop the most appropriate feeding regimen for him during these formative years.
They’ll likely recommend a combination of high quality mixed grass and alfalfa hay along with a fortified grain that is designed to be fed to young horses because of the concentration of nutrients it supplies. Don’t forget to topdress with salt; provide clean, fresh water; and allow plenty of turnout. Access to fresh grass is a plus!