Energy, Protein, Vitamins, and Minerals
Horses eat to meet their energy requirements. Energy demands increase with workload, production status, and general demands of maintenance (energy needed for eating, digestion, regulating body temperature, etc).
Protein, which is necessary for body growth and maintenance, is a nutrient that is poorly understood by many horse owners. Proteins are broken down in the small intestine into amino acids that are recombined to make proteins in the body that make up muscle, hair and hoof
Horses are non-ruminant herbivores (hind-gut fermentors). Their small stomach only has a capacity of 2 to 4 gallons for an average-sized 1000 lb. horse. This limits the amount of feed a horse can take in at one time. Equids have evolved as grazers that spend about 16 hours a day grazing pasture grasses. The stomach serves to secrete hydrochloric acid (HCl) and pepsin to begin the breakdown of food that enters the stomach. Horses are unable to regurgitate food, so if they overeat or eat something poisonous vomiting is not an option.
Minerals are inorganic nutrients that are needed in relatively small quantities by the horse. The essential major minerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium and sulfur. The essential trace minerals needed are iron, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, iodine, and cobalt.
When a horse begins to show signs of unsteadiness on his feet or other odd postures or behaviors, it is best to call your vet right away. A horse with a neurologic problem can be a serious danger to surrounding people, himself and to other horses. There are some instances where a horse with lameness may appear neurologic, and other cases where a neurologic problem looks like a lameness issue. Your vet will try to determine the source of the problem with a thorough exam.