Horse Nutrition Protein: My irritation becomes your knowledge benefit

January 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

OK this is very irritating – one of my clients used my name to try and get the barn owner convinced that they need change the way they are feeding her horse. Now I would not have minded if the horse owner was telling the barn owner something that I believe to be true, but it is not something that I think is right for her horse.

We discussed that her horse was still a little thin but was improved from the last time I saw the horse. We also discussed that the horse could use some fat supplement to help with weight gain without making the horse excitable especially since the horse is a Thoroughbred and might be a little tough to handle if she was loaded up on a lot of grain. That was all that was said.

The owner told the barn owner that I insisted the horse be fed a specific product! To make matters worse that product is not a fat supplement but rather a protein supplement – 32% protein to be exact. Now it may be that I misheard the horse owner when she mentioned fat supplements or she thought that this particular product was a fat supplement, but in any case I would not recommend feeding a protein supplement for weight gain in horses.

A horse requires 10 to 12% protein in its diet and that is all! It does not add any benefit to add more protein as the horse does not use it to build anymore muscle but rather turns it into energy. When the body turns the extra protein into energy it produces more urea nitrogen which then passes through the kidneys and creates that horrible ammonia urine smell. Two things that make this scenario bad. One is that the ammonia produced in the urine can cause irritation to the respiratory tract which can then make the horse more susceptible to respiratory tract infections, especially in the winter time in an enclosed barn. The other is a financial issue – protein is an expensive resource to be used for weight gain – carbohydrates and fat are both cheaper and fat is the preferred for horses.

So in case that client is reading this I hope it was just a misunderstanding. I do not want you to feed that 32% protein supplement to your horse, but rather I would like to see your horse fed a fat supplement with Probiotics – something like Advanced Biological Concept’s Energy (

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About Dr Daniel Beatty
An Infopreneur with a Veterinary Medicine degree.