Thank you to Nutrena for providing us with some education on how to balance digestible energy in the equine diet. Nutrena will have a hay testing booth at the upcoming 2012 Idaho Horse Expo where you can have your hay tested. There are specific instructions on what to do when prepping your hay for testing. Please click here for instructions on how to bring your hay to the Idaho Horse Expo for testing at the Nutrena booth.

Balancing Digestible Energy (DE) in the Equine Diet

The horse’s Body Condition Score (BCS) always trumps what our daily “Digestible Energy” requirement suggests. Horses are unique individuals that have different calorie requirements & we need to feed as such:

BCS Horse

Example: an “above ideal” BCS horse should not be given added calories, even if their calculation suggests that they require more calories. Conversely, if a performance type horse is considered “below ideal” BCS we need to add additional calories to the diet, regardless of the calculation results.

Daily Digestible Energy (DE) Requirements of the average 1,100 lb horse:

Maintenance Type Horse                    16,500 kcal/day     

Gestation- Final Trimester                 21,000 kcal/day  

Moderate Work                                   23,000 kcal/day     

Lactation- 1st month                32,000 kcal/day

Heavy Work                                          27,000 kcal/day  

Yearling-2 year old                              19,000 kcal/day

Example- Balancing forage DE in the diet:

1,100- Moderate Work level Horse = 23,000 kcal/day

The average “Grass Hay” contains = 909 kcal/lb

1.5-2% of Body Weight in forage =  16.5-22 lbs of hay/day

**This horse will require 25.3 lbs of this hay, per day to meet its caloric requirements without the addition of a grain or supplement. This amount exceeds the horses’ daily recommended amount of forage & no consideration for protein and/or vitamins & minerals has been given. In this example it is necessary to supplement the horse’s diet with a grain/concentrate to meet the daily caloric requirements.

We also must remember that caloric recommendations are just that- recommendations. These give us a baseline to work from, but each horse is an individual & we need to feed them according to what their body condition is suggesting they need. Your local equine veterinarian or equine nutritionist can help you determine your horse’s current Body Condition Score (BCS) and what would be considered ideal for their age, breed & working class.

**Want to learn more about what’s in your hay and how to balance your horse’s diet? Come to the Idaho Horse Expo April 20-22nd at the Idaho Horse Park and visit the Nutrena booth! We’ll have hay testing with instant results and customized recommendations based on those results. For more info, including how to take a hay sample, go to

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