Is Your Horse Losing Muscle Mass? Try Amino Acids!

Choosing the right horse feed is something many horse owners wrestle with.  Selecting the right horse feed can be difficult.  Over the next few posts, Tack and Talk will be talking about specifics in horse feed.

In many equine nutrition articles, protein quality and essential amino acids are referred to,  but what does this actually mean?  When the term “crude protein” is used, essentially it is a calculation based on measured nitrogen which is about 16% by weight of protein.  If we measure the amount of nitrogen and multiply it by 6.25, then we get the crude protein value.  However, this really doesn’t tell us anything about the quality of the protein only the nitrogen content.

Digestible protein is the amount of protein that is actually digested by your horse.  In an over simplification example; if you fed 100 grams of protein to your horse and measured 50 grams of protein in the feces, then the digestible protein would be 50%.

However, what is most important is the content of essential Amino Acids in the protein value.  Amino Acids that must be in the diet, as the horse cannot synthesize them, are:

  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine
  • Histidine
  • Arginine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine

To remember these, use the first letters: PVT TIM HALL.

If you have a horse on a diet that is calculated to have adequate crude protein but essential amino acids are not present, the horse simply cannot use the protein to build and maintain muscle, hair, hoof and skin.  You’ll see changes in the appearance of the horse such as loss of muscle mass, rough hair and scaly hoof surface.   Many horse owners supplement Amino Acids when they notice a loss of muscle mass and within a short period of time, positive results occur.

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