the act of eating and digesting food uses up energy! We often use the term energy in the context of behaviour

The energy in plants is a valuable resource and is increasingly being used to fuel power stations as it is a sustainable source of energy as well as for feeding people and animals. Energy is made by plants from sunlight and is used by them to grow. Any excess is stored and can be harvested to make horse food when the horse eats the food the energy is released which the horse can then use for basic metabolic functions or to fuel work.

What Is Energy?

Energy is defined as the ability to work and comes in a variety of different forms including light, motion, heat, electrical, chemical and gravitational. This energy can be converted from one form to another which is what happens when a horse eats a plant – the energy trapped in the plant is released for the horse to use.

Main Sources Of Energy For The Horse

The main sources of energy in the horse’s diet are fibre, sugar, starch and oil. Despite many horse owners believing that protein is a primary source of energy, this isn’t true and feeding high levels of it will not result in excitability or increase the chance of tying up or laminitis.

When people refer to slow release energy sources, this relates to fibre and oil, as these are broken down and absorbed slowly. In contrast starch and sugar are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream so they are referred to as quick release energy sources.

the act of eating and digesting food uses up energy!  We often use the term energy in the context of behaviour

Importance Of Energy For All Horses

Energy is required for all horses, even if they don’t compete, as normal body functions require energy – even the act of eating and digesting food uses up energy!  We often use the term energy in the context of behaviour and performance and likewise calories are often linked to weight gain or loss. In fact, energy and calories are the same thing. Essentially calories are a measurement of energy so more calories would be needed to make a horse livelier. The modern measurement system for energy is joules which is a decimal system. In humans energy values are usually given in KiloJoules (KJ) which is a thousand joules and for horses we tend to use Mega Joules (MJ) which is a million joules.

By looking at their body condition, you can assess whether a horse or pony is consuming the right amount of energy for their workload. If the horse/pony is maintaining a healthy body condition and weight, then they are consuming the right amount of energy. However, an underweight horse is not consuming enough energy, likewise an overweight horse is consuming too much energy.

Fibre Is A Valuable Source Of Energy

Fibre is incredibly important for the health of your horse’s digestive system, but it is also a source of energy for them too. When the microorganisms break the fibre down in the gut, they produce volatile fatty acids which the horse then uses as an energy source. This process also produces B vitamins which are important for energy utilisation in the body. Even horses in hard work, such as eventers, can be fed on a fibre-based diet, as it does produce enough energy for the different elements of the event. In fact, the slow release nature of the energy from fibre means it is ideal for keeping a super fit event horse calm enough to do a good dressage test too!

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