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Amino acids for horses – are they useful as feed supplements?

Do you take a dietary supplement with amino acids yourself? Do you own a horse? Perhaps you have already asked yourself in this context whether the additional protein intake can also be good for your animal.

Learn more about this topic in the following article. The main question here is whether and when a feed supplement can be beneficial for your pet.

Amino acids and their general functions in the organism of horses

We also refer to amino acids as protein and protein building blocks. They form proteins and peptides in the human and equine organism by forming chains of varying lengths. For the animal, protein is one of the three macro-nutrients along with fats and carbohydrates.

In the mammalian organism, protein building blocks have many different functions:

  • Amino acids are also the building material for all body tissue in animals.
  • From them, other substances such as hormones are formed.
  • Neurotransmitters and enzymes are also often formed from the conversion of protein building blocks.

For your animal, this means that muscle building, in particular, depends on which protein building blocks are present. This is primarily a matter of the so-called proteinogenic amino acids. They are called proteinogenic because the horse’s organism synthesises its own body protein from them.

Essential representatives of the amino acids

The horse’s body cannot produce a certain type of proteinogenic building blocks itself. They must be supplied with the feed. In this context, we speak of essential or non-essential amino acids.

In the horse, this special group of building blocks consists of

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Methionine
  • Lysine
  • Histidine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

together. These eight essential amino acids are part of our amino4u product.

Aminosäure Struktur

Horses and protein requirements – how much protein does your animal need?

The total protein requirement for a horse is estimated at 0.5 g to 1 g/kg bodyweight. If your animal weighs about 600 kg, it needs between 300 and 600 g protein per day.

Stressed animals, pregnant and lactating mares and sport horses can have a higher protein requirement. Adolescent foals also have an increased protein requirement of 600 g in the first three years of their lives.

However, the quality of the protein is not yet taken into account when determining the protein requirement values for horses. Increased protein quality can be achieved, for example, by feeding the essential protein building blocks.

From the scientific research of the US-American Professor Dr. Luca-Moretti the idea arose that the essential building blocks represent a typical amino acid pattern.

The scientist assumes such a typical pattern for every mammal. These are protein building blocks that can be converted into the body’s own protein for the respective organism by more than 99%.

In the horse, the aforementioned essential building blocks reproduce this amino acid pattern.

Luca-Moretti also assumes that the essential protein building blocks must be present in a certain quantity and quantity ratios at the same time. Only then can the body be optimally supplied with protein.

Coverage of demand

The animals absorb protein through their food. The different types of feed contain varying amounts and qualities of protein and protein components. Depending on the time of harvest, hay has a crude protein content of 8-10%.

In the case of pasture grass, this proportion can be up to 15%. These protein contents do not say much about how well the horse can actually utilise the protein contained in the feed. Nor can we derive the exact composition of the protein with regard to the essential amino acids.

The usability of the proteins contained in hay, for example, depends on when it is harvested.

A late harvest, for example, results in the proteins being particularly tightly enclosed in the cell structures of the plant. This makes it difficult for the animals to release it from these solid structures.

Laktierende Stuten brauchen viel Eiweiß

Is a deficiency in protein supply possible?

Some horse experts and veterinarians are of the opinion that a protein deficiency is hardly possible if horses are fed appropriately.

They rather fear a surplus of total protein.

Other experts believe that we must pay particular attention to which protein sources we feed and in what quality. They think that with inferior feed one or the other amino acid cannot be included. This can certainly lead to a lack of high-quality proteins.

How can you evaluate these different points of view for yourself?

The danger of an oversupply of protein

A high protein intake becomes problematic when it is a matter of proteins which the horse cannot digest in the small intestine. Such low-quality protein leads to the formation of toxic urea. This puts a strain on the liver of the animal organism.

High-quality, good protein is here synonymous with easily digestible protein. This is perhaps not sufficiently available to the horse via its typical, normal feed sources such as hay.

If the time of harvesting already has an effect on the protein’s digestibility, other factors also play a role. Here we think, for example, of the composition of the feed and the individual requirements of the respective horse.

So if you are thinking of a feed supplement with protein for your horse, please consider only high-quality amino acids. Your horse can utilise them well and they do not lead to a strain on his organism.

For which animals can feed supplements be useful?

As with human competitive athletes, the maintenance and build-up of muscles is important for sports horses. High-quality essential amino acids play a key role here. These are particularly well utilised by the animal’s organism and are available very quickly during the intake of food.

The essential building blocks, in particular, form the horse’s own body protein and are therefore the basic material for muscle building. With high-quality feed supplements, you can ensure that your horse gets the required amounts of essential protein building blocks.

This means that the supply of protein and protein building blocks can be assessed and converted particularly well, even in the case of increased requirements.

You can also meet the increased demand for high-quality protein in dams and growing foals by means of dietary supplements.

Wieviel Aminosäuren braucht ein Pferd?

What should you consider when choosing a high-quality feed supplement?

High-quality feed supplements usually contain the essential protein building blocks in the quantity and combination that the animal organism requires. They are produced in such a way that the horse is able to absorb them easily and with pleasure.

Premium feed supplements are standardised to certain values and, if necessary, also certified. They are produced without dispensable additives.

Please keep in mind that additives – this also applies to technical additives – can hinder the absorption of protein by the animal organism.

Fillers are often used to facilitate the production of the feed supplement. For the absorption of the corresponding nutrients, they are rather to be considered as negative.

You may also ask yourself whether you should feed a specific amino acid rather than a mixture of different protein building blocks. In general, your animal will be better off with a mixture especially of the essential protein building blocks.

The use of one specific amino acid should be discussed with a veterinarian experienced in this area.

A note: In young horses that are not fed sufficient pasture grass and hay, a protein deficiency can generally lead to growth disorders. Even if horses are fed almost only straw, a sufficient supply of valuable, easily digestible protein is not guaranteed in the long term.

This is especially true if the harvest was late and the feed was stored for a long time.

Need-based nutrition of horses also includes the protein supply

If you want to feed and care for your animal according to its needs, you must not lose sight of the supply of protein building blocks.

As described, protein building blocks fulfil many different functions in the animals’ organism.

The performance as well as the maintenance and building of muscles in sport horses depends on whether the organism can access digestible proteins.

In this case, a feed supplement with essential amino acids is particularly suitable. These are particularly well digestible for the animal organism and are therefore a valuable basis for the body’s own protein production.

When deciding for or against a feed supplement with protein building blocks, please consider the following factors:

  1. Does your horse currently need more protein than usual?
  2. Can you already control the protein intake with the high-quality feed?

Not only sports horses, but also

  • stressed, older and sick horses and
  • foals and dams

need more valuable protein. Otherwise many bodily functions in the animal organism are endangered, not only the muscle building.

Maik Thies (Fitnessfachwirt IHK)

Unser Ernährungsexperte Maik Thies arbeitet seit 2011 erfolgreich als Personalcoach und Manager für Fitness- & Freizeitanlagen im Gesundheitsmarkt.

Als Fitnessfachwirt und Weltmeister im Bodybuilding gibt er sein Wissen an Menschen weiter, die körperliche und mentale Grenzen neu definieren möchten und Wert auf gesunde und ausgewogene Ernährung legen. Zu seinen Kunden zählen u.a. Skeleton Atlethen Janine Becker und Alexander Gassner, Bobpilotin Stephanie Schneider, Rallye Motorsportler Sepp Wiegand etc.

Er unterstützt amino4u dabei, die Prozesse des Körpers für Sie einfach und verständlich zu erklären und Ihnen dadurch die Möglichkeit zu geben, wieder mehr Gesundheit und Lebensfreude zu erlangen.

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