Selecting the right type of feed and hay for you horse is important. Your horse not only needs the nutrients for it's daily activities or function but for replacing all the cells that it's system routinely replaces everyday. The National Research Council has developed recommendations for every type of horse and activity levels.
When one talks about a specific horse feed or a feeding program, some horse owners routinely ask, "What is the protein content?" It is the opinion of some horse owners, breeders, and trainers that protein is a magical feed ingredient. Protein is often the only nutrient that some horse owners consider, which may explain why some feeding programs work better than others. Without a doubt, protein is normally misunderstood. The profile of the protein (Amino Acid Balance) matching the needs of your horse is the most important factor.
Energy for horses is required for practically all life processes - for the action of the heart- maintenance of blood pressure - muscle repair - growth - normal body maintenance- transmission of nerve impulses - ion transport across membranes - protein and fat synthesis - the production of power.
A deficiency in energy is normally seen as stunted growth, body fat reserve losses and a lower production of power and speed. Sometimes energy deficiencies in horses go undetected and not corrected for extended periods of time and, not until loss of condition, making visual identification easier, does correction take place.
It is common knowledge that horse diets must contain protein, fat and carbohydrates. Although each of them have specific functions in maintaining a normal body, all of them can be used as energy
Horses that need energy for slower or hard work can use fat as a energy source Horses that need energy for speed or fast work need carbohydrates as a energy source. Horses will actively seek out sufficient feedstuffs to meet their energy needs. The main sources of energy are fats and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates in the ration are the sugars and starches of the grains and the cellulose (fiber) of the roughage and grain. Fats are the oils and related compounds in the grain and roughage and naturally make up about 2 to 4% of the ration. A horse can handle a ration higher in fat (as high as 15%) without digestive problems. Rations with more than 15% fat may result in loose stools and have not been shown to improve performance over rations of 12% fat. Fats are necessary in all rations, as they participate in metabolic functions and produce healthy sleek haircoats. Many people add one to two ounces of vegetable oil (such as corn oil) to the daily ration for the purpose of improving the horse haircoat. When adding oils yourself it is normally wise to give your horse a little additional vitamin E to keep the unsaturated portion of fatty acid profile stable. Fats produce 2.25 times more energy per pound than carbohydrates, and when used to produce energy, they produce the least amount of internal body heat. As a result, some endurance horses are being fed as much as a pint of vegetable oil each day when they are working.
Minerals are necessary for most of the chemical reactions occurring in the body and also for the development and maintenance of the skeleton. Macro-minerals include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and chlorine and are needed in the greatest quantity by the body. Trace minerals or (Micro minerals) are no less important but are needed in smaller amounts.