Why are Amino Acids for Horses Important?

Horses must receive essential amino acids through their diet in order to achieve protein synthesis so they can grow and repair bone and muscle, and continue other basic bodily functions.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena

The shine of your horse's coat may be effected if he is not receiving the proper amount of essential amino acids. AQHA Daily photo.

In order to fuel, repair, and recover muscle, equine diets must optimally contain a superior amino acid profile, including all 10 of the essential amino acids. Most horse owners can quickly name the crude protein level in the feed they provide their horses. But, what horse owners really need to know about is the amino acid content. Protein is made up of amino acids, similar to how a chain is made up of links. There are two basic categories of amino acids: Essential and nonessential. Essential amino acids must be provided in the diet, as the horse cannot create them on its own in the digestive tract, where the nonessential amino acids can be made. Nutrena® products that include Topline Balance help to provide the right kind and ratio of amino acids in each formula.

Mares and foals have unique nutritional needs that change depending on the stage of development and lactation.  Don't let your mare's or foal's needs surpass the diet you are providing. Learn about nutritional needs that accompany breeding American Quarter Horses and how to raise healthy foals in AQHA's Equine Breeding Techniques and Foal Health Tips e-book.

Another key point is that some amino acids are known as “limiting” amino acids. This means that if a horse runs out of this type of amino acid, it can’t utilize any of the remaining amino acids present in the feed. If the horse has enough of the first most-limiting amino acid, but then runs out of the second most-limiting amino acid, it can’t use the remaining amount of the third most limiting, and so on.

In horses, the first three most-limiting amino acids, in order, are lysine, methionine and threonine. Generally speaking, if these three amino acids are present in sufficient quantities, the ingredients used also provide the remaining amino acids in sufficient quantities. It is increasingly common to see these three amino acids listed on the guaranteed analysis of horse feed tags, as it is an indication of the quality of the protein sources and the balanced nature of the feed.

Nutrition, while important, is only one aspect of raising a healthy and happy American Quarter Horse. Producing a healthy, quality foal is hard work, but definitely worth it. Find tips on how to successfully raise foals in AQHA's Equine Breeding Techniques and Foal Health Tips e-book.

If you are looking for a feed that may help impact topline, be sure to look at the guaranteed analysis on the feed tag. In specific Nutrena® feeds – SafeChoice® products, ProForce® products, and Empower Balance – the amino acid levels are called out and guaranteed on the tag. The amino acids included in Nutrena® Topline Balance products are included in specific amounts and ratios. Research has shown that this specific combination and type of amino acids help to support a healthy topline when fed correctly.

Guaranteed amino acids on the tag is a good starting point. You then need to let the horse tell you if the feed is working by regularly evaluating and noting changes in topline condition.