The Horse

OCT 2017

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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37 October 2017 THE HORSE TheHorse.com NUTRITION NANCY S. LOVING, DVM TheHorse.com/Nutrition W hile perusing shelves of dog food at your local pet store, you'll likely see designations on bags and cans denoting specific formulations: adult, senior, small breed, large breed. This de- gree of nutritional precision also applies to horses. Foals, weanlings, adults, and seniors need different amounts of protein, energy, and minerals. Mare's milk and solid food provide ex- cellent nutrition and make feeding fairly simple before a youngster reaches wean- ing age. Questions arise when he's on the cusp of the next age bracket. How do you select the right diet for a young horse that is maturing into an adult? Growth Rates Karen Davison, PhD, an equine nutri- tionist and director of equine technical solutions for Purina Animal Nutrition, in Gray Summit, Missouri, is well-versed in the complexities of feeding horses of all ages. She shares considerations for tran- sitioning young horses to adult feed: "The level of nutrition, protein, vita- mins, and minerals relative to calorie requirements is much higher for a grow- ing horse than for a mature horse," she says. "As the horse ages, there is a shift from nutrition needed to develop tissue and grow, to more nutrition devoted to maintaining the body." Based on National Research Council estimates, an average 1,000-pound horse is 64% of his mature height at 12 months, 77% at 18 months, and 86% at 24 months. "Skeletal growth occurs only as long as the physes (growth plates) remain open; once they mature and close, long bones cannot increase in length," says Davison. Growth plate closure occurs from the ground up—those in the lower limbs close earliest, around nine to 11 months of age; the knees and hocks around 24 months; and the shoulders and stifles usually in the third year. Variations occur due to genetics and breed, nutrition, and management. "Breed type modifies specifics on how to feed, mostly due to differences in rate of growth and age at maturity," says Da- vison. "All horses continue to mature and get heavier for a couple of years following the end of growth in height." Kathleen Crandell, PhD, is an equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Re- search, in Versailles, with a special inter- est in feeding growing horses for athletic development. "Research demonstrates that we can influence growth rate with the amount of energy supplied in the diet, as long as all other nutrients are supplied in adequate amounts," she says. "What we cannot change is the final mature size of an individual beyond its genetic potential." When Is it Time for a Diet Change? Once a young horse reaches 65-70% of its mature weight—usually around a year of age—growth slows and your nutri- tional strategies need to change. Yearlings Graduating to a Grown-Up Diet Yearlings should generally consume 50% concentrate and 50% forage by weight. SHAWN HAMILTON Consider growth rate and nutrient balance when deciding what to feed young horses

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