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The Crucial Role That Proteins Play in Fueling Performance Horses
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The Crucial Role That Proteins Play in Fueling Performance Horses

Quite undoubtedly, out of all the essential nutrients that constitute the typical diet of a horse, protein may actually be the most misunderstood. Amino acids make up the core chemical composition in proteins, with their major functions in equine bodies being in the development and repair of muscles, ligaments and tendons.

So, what differences does the sport horse have from other equines when it comes to its protein requirements? What crucial role do proteins play in fueling the athlete horse? Check out our 3 main points below:

1) Energy

For a sport horse, its energy needs will be proportional to its level of activity. Most of this energy comes from fats and carbohydrates in the equine diet, mostly provided through grains, concentrates or forage. This energy is easily digestible thus requires low amounts of extra energy from other sources in the horse's body for digestion.

Proteins are another source of energy for horses. However, compared to fats and carbohydrates, they are much less efficient due to the higher amounts of additional energy needed to break them down. This breakdown process also yields higher amounts of heat. You are therefore advised to avoid high-protein diets for your performance horse, more so during warm weather.

2) Sweat

Thermoregulation is a crucial body mechanism for performance equines, making sweating very important for reducing a horse’s body temperature. While this sweat is mostly comprised of water, sodium, chloride, potassium and calcium, there are also some small amounts of protein that serve to enhance the movement of the water component of sweat from the horse’s skin, via the dense pelt to its surface for faster dissipation of excess heat from the body. Most researchers today agree that the amounts of protein lost through sweating are very little and therefore no extra proteins in the horse’s diet are really necessary unless the equine shows signs of severe dehydration.

3) Muscle Repair

Proteins are as necessary and important for muscle repair as they are for building them. When equine athletes are undergoing heavy exercise or other muscle-tasking performance, muscle tissue will be broken down to generate energy while at the same time a reduction in the synthesis of muscle proteins also occurs. Following the exercise, the protein synthesis process will increase in muscles in a bid to repair the muscle mass that was damaged during the performance. If such proteins are inadequate in the equine diet, then the horse’s damaged tissues will not be fully repaired as is necessary.

According to scientific research, albeit limited in scope, this importance lies in ensuring that your horse is fed a high quality, balanced source of proteins before the commencement of an exercise session since most of the muscle tissue recovery that happens after the exercise depends on the protein status before the exercise begins.

In Conclusion

Proteins are very essential in the performance equine for its muscle and tissue synthesis. Make sure that your equine athlete's protein needs are met by providing your horse with a properly balanced equine diet that incorporates a high-quality source of proteins.


Image source: flickr.com

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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