The genetic makeup of each horse is unique. For this reason, it is important to create custom feeding plans based on the individual horse and the amount of work it is expected to do. Depending on its performance expectations, its need for energy may differ from others at the stable. If you have cared for your horse long enough to have a familiar relationship, you should recognize indicators of sound health: alertness, brightness, appropriate weight, good appetite, and normal stools. When it comes to energy levels, both healthy horses and horses with an ailment may appear to have low energy. A veterinarian can help you determine whether low energy is a symptom of an underlying disease, injury, or other problem.
Why Low Energy Levels?
There are numerous reasons for why a horse may have or appear to have low energy levels. A handler may notice the horse failing to evenly bear weight on each of its legs when it is moving. This lameness may indicate something as trivial as a stone lodged in its foot; remove the stone, and its energy level may spike drastically. On the contrary, the same observation for lameness could indicate something more serious, like a joint problem or bone disease.
When a horse seems to have low energy, the problem could stem from pain in its mouth. If a horse reacts adversely when it is expected to receive a bit, a tooth infection may be the root of the problem. When it is not suffering the pain, the horse’s energy level may be restored.
Having a veterinarian assist you in evaluating your horse’s health is invaluable when it comes to detecting serious health issues. When examining your horse, a blood test may be recommended. Anemia, for example, can be detected this way. The test may reveal the horse has a low count of red blood cells.
The Role of Diet
Illnesses, disorders, and injuries must be treated appropriately before any horse can be expected to have normal energy levels. Healthy horses displaying low energy levels may benefit from changes to their diets. While non-working horses may maintain their normal weight by eating quality roughage, working horses may benefit a great deal from the addition of concentrates to their diet. Supplements can support the horse’s natural systems and may help a horse produce more energy for activities they routinely do.
Physical performance, be it walking in a field or galloping on a track, requires a horse’s muscles to contract. Small molecules called adenosine triphosphate are required for this, but the body stores few. A horse’s system can produce these through metabolic pathways. Supplements can provide energy sources that are not always found in roughage. Oats, barley, and corn are cereal grains, starches that produce energy when digested. Starches increase the insulin and blood glucose of the horse.
Protein helps build the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of a horse. When a horse’s diet features extra protein, that can be converted to energy. There is more to consider than the amount of protein to add to the horse’s diet, however. As with any supplement, you will want to learn about its benefits and detriments. One problem could be that giving too much may cause other health issues in your animal. Another caution may be that water consumption could increase; this is the case with extra protein. Also know that many supplements must be introduced to the diet slowly.
Supplementing a horse’s diet with fiber is another alternative that may help a horse achieve normal energy levels. It takes fiber a great deal of time to be fermented in its hindgut. This energy source may provide the horse with what it needs to perform throughout the day.
Fat is a dietary supplement that many like to use because of its tendency to increase a horse’s physical energy but not its mental energy. When a fat like vegetable oil is slowly introduced to a horse’s diet, it becomes concentrated calories that can improve a horse’s energy, as well as its skin and coat quality.
Calculated changes to a horse’s diet may help you improve your horse’s health and return its normal energy levels. Research your options carefully before adding any supplements to your horse’s feeding routine. Remember, seek the advice of your veterinarian to ensure you will be doing what is right for your animal.