Feeding Horses: Feeding the Growing Horse

The nutritional requirements and management of growing horses has probably been subjected to the most scrutiny and research of any class of horse in recent years. In the past, breeders often tried to achieve maximum growth potential in the early years, causing soundness issues due to overfeeding (rapid growth), vitamin and mineral imbalances, along with inadequate exercise, thereby predisposing your horses to developmental orthopedic problems. While discussing proper foal nutrition, we are going to concentrate on the importance of balancing vitamins and minerals and the prevention of overfeeding.

Developmental Orthopedic Disease

Developmental orthopedic disease (DOD) is the general name given to all growth disturbances resulting from any alteration in normal bone-formation or growth. The number one cause of DOD appears to be genetics that is amplified by a rapid growth rate. A rapid growth rate is caused by an animal’s genetic potential, high energy intake, and slow growth early in life followed by a growth spurt due to an increased feed intake. How does this happen? By not providing an adequate amount or feeding a poorly fortified creep feed (one too high in carbs and lacking balanced nutrients) to a nursing foal, then after weaning, overfeeding for rapid growth.

Decreasing the Risk of DOD

So how do we determine if a feed is properly fortified to maximize growth, yet avoid mineral deficiencies and excessive dietary energy intake in order to decrease the risk of DOD? Excessive energy has been linked to diets high in carbohydrates (grain concentrates), which stimulate spikes in metabolic hormones such as insulin, growth hormone, or thyroid hormone, which causes erratic growth patterns increasing the risk of DOD. Research has demonstrated that diets high in fiber and fat, and lower in carbohydrates or starch, will stimulate skeletal growth while simultaneously lower orthopedic disorders. Likewise, without proper mineral fortification, primarily calcium, phosphorus, zinc and copper, to support the rate of growth, DOD’s may occur. This is why proper foal nutrition is so important.

Safely Maximizing Growth Potential

Growth can also be limited by inadequate intake and poor quality protein. Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, which constitute the building blocks for growth and development. Essential amino acids can be insufficient in forages; therefore, they must be provided in a feed. Look for a feed guaranteeing levels of Lysine, Methionine and Threonine, which are required to maximize the growth potential of the foal.

The Triple Crown Solution for Foal Nutrition

Due to the delicate balance of energy and vitamin/mineral fortification needed in order for a foal to reach its maximum growth potential, Triple Crown produced Triple Crown Growth. Triple Crown Growth is a high fat, high protein, beet pulp based complete feed. Contrary to popular belief, Triple Crown Senior, can also be fed to foals as the senior feed has a very similar analysis as the Growth. Easy keeping foals can be fed Triple Crown 30% Ration Balancer, a nutrient dense pelleted vitamin and mineral supplement that will provide the balanced nutrients and amino acids foals need.

Triple Crown uses organic minerals for improved absorption, probiotics to promote good intestinal health of the digestive microflora, and digestive enzymes to enhance the small intestine’s natural ability to break down nutrients. We also add in MOS and mycotoxin binders designed to neutralize challenges to the digestive system from mycotoxins found in hay and pasture, and pathogenic bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella, which is particularly beneficial to foal nutrition.

Triple Crown utilizes the latest research regarding nutritional support for sound growth in horses. Providing a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat and fiber has demonstrated reduced spikes in growth hormone levels providing the horse a more consistent growth pattern, thereby helping to reduce the incidence of DOD’s. Triple Crown feeds support sound growth in a superior manner. Learn more about Equimix here.