Amino Acid Requirements for Horses

In order to fuel, repair, and recover muscle, equine diets must optimally contain Horse feed being put in a bucket Amino Acid Requirements for Horsesa superior amino acid profile, including all 10 of the essential amino acids.

Most horse owners can quickly name the crude protein level in the feed they provide their horses. But, what horse owners really need to know about is the amino acid content.

Essential and Nonessential Amino Acids

Amino acids constitute protein, much like how links form a chain. There are two basic categories of amino acids: Essential and nonessential.

The horse cannot produce essential amino acids in its digestive tract, so it needs to obtain them through the diet. Nonessential amino acids, however, can be synthesized internally.

Understanding Limiting Amino Acids:

Some amino acids are known as “limiting” amino acids. If a horse lacks this amino acid type, it cannot utilize the remaining amino acids in the feed.

If the horse has enough of the first most-limiting amino acid, but then runs out of the second most-limiting amino acid, it can’t use the remaining amount of the third most limiting, and so on.

In horses, the first three most-limiting amino acids, in order, are lysine, methionine and threonine. In general, if these three amino acids are adequately present, the ingredients used also supply the remaining amino acids sufficiently.

Guaranteed Amino Acid Analysis and Balanced Feeds

It is increasingly common to see these three amino acids listed on the guaranteed analysis of horse feed tags, as it is an indication of the quality of the protein sources and the balanced nature of the feed.

If you are looking for a feed that may help impact topline, be sure to look at the guaranteed analysis on the feed tag. Specific Nutrena feeds such as SafeChoice products, ProForce products, and Empower Topline Balance guarantee and specify amino acid levels on the tag.

The amino acids included in Nutrena’s Topline Balance products are included in specific amounts and ratios. Research has shown that this specific combination and type of amino acids help to support a healthy topline.

Guaranteed amino acids on the tag is a good starting point. Let the horse tell you if the feed is working by regularly evaluating and noting changes in topline condition.

At Nutrena, we believe proper nutrition plays the biggest role for a lifetime of health and happiness for every horse. That’s why Nutrena horse feeds are specifically formulated for every life stage and activity level. 
Ready to ensure your horse is getting the optimum nutrition at feeding time, every time? Find the perfect feed formulated specifically for horse’s needs with our Feed Selector Tool.
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3 Replies to “Amino Acid Requirements for Horses”

  1. I have a 16-yr old TW who is an easy keeper, 850-900lbs. I just started feeding 1 lb daily of Nutrena Empower Topline Ration Balancer. He is on pasture and supplemental hay only.

    Can/should I also give a scant 2oz scoop of Horsegard? Is it beneficial or in combination are they providing too much vitamins/minerals.

    His topline is pretty good at croup and along spine but could be improved over his withers. He lost a fair bit of weight over the winter on grass hay only (healthy weight now, can feel his ribs but not see them) and just started light conditioning 2-3 times per week. His coat didn’t seem as shiny and he was shedding slowly this spring, which indicated adding a supplement like Horseguard and/or a ration balancer like Empower.

    We are in Idaho and I believe our region is generally low in selenium levels.

    Please advise!

    1. Using Empower Balance alone with hay at the 1lb rate is fine. However, for faster results you could even do 1.5 pounds twice a day.
      Regarding selenium, the Empower Balance contains 2.5ppm Selenium. The differentiator is that Topline Balance includes Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids, PreBiotics and ProBiotics that balance when fed a forage diet. Additional supplementation is not necessary.
      Just be aware that supplementing above 3ppm Selenium is considered high on a total diet basis.
      If you are using HorseGuard for a therapeutic recommendation from your veterinarian to treat a selenium deficiency, just be sure you are aware of the total Selenium in your horse’s diet and manage that carefully with your veterinarian.

  2. Thanks for sharing! So much useful info here. I’ve been running a horse farm for ten years, but I haven’t heard about many details mentioned in this article. I probably need to review the feed content for my horses.

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