Calories are often discussed among riders who need to watch out for their diet to stay in shape. However, our horse partner's calorie income is an important subject too. The knowledge of how much energy your horse burns and needs to supplement is the foundation of a proper feeding dose that affects your horse's overall health.
In this article, you will see the word "calorie" also written with capital C. It is not a typo – there is a difference between "calories" and "Calories." A Calorie with capital C is the equivalent of 1 kilocalorie, which is a 1000-calorie unit. When we talk about calories in food, we actually mean kilocalories (or Calories).
The number of calories needed to cover the vital functions, sufficient for a horse without any work, is called the maintenance requirement. The maintenance requirement is approximately 16 000 Calories per day, but it varies as it depends on several facts. Firstly, the personality of your horse – a nervous thoroughbred or a young horse in pastures will need more calories to cover the maintenance requirement than a laid-back, calm draft horse. The thoroughbred may need 3 000 Calories per day more! The second fact to affect the maintenance requirements is the weather. The horse does well in colder temperatures, but they must be accustomed to cold weather, have grown a proper hair coat, and be protected from rain and wind. If the temperature drops below -15 °C, your horse will need 20 % more energy to cover an additional drop of 10 °C.
While evaluating your horse's feed dose, you need to be realistic about their workload. If you are not sure about the amount of your horse's work, look into your EQUIMO app – it will show you the information you need, including burned calories per session. When your horse is in light work, which means 1-3 hours of training per week, you have to increase the feeding dose by 20 % over the "at rest" dose. A moderate workload, which is 3 – 5 hours of work per week, requires to increase the calorie income by 40 %. Horses in harder work (reining, eventing, or jumping horses) typically have more anaerobic activity (their heart rate increases over 150 beats per minute). They will generally need more than 60 % over their maintenance requirements.
It means that an average 550 kg horse with a moderate workload needs approximately 26 000 Calories per day. The same horse in light work needs approx. 22 000 Calories daily, and if their workload is heavy, they need around 30 000 Calories per day.
Now you know which factors affect your horse's energy requirements, but it is important to remember that every horse is different. For example, the metabolisms of two horses work differently, and their body conditions may differ, which results in different needs. While the numbers provided in this article can help you to feed your horse better, never forget that your own observation is priceless.
You can use the EQUIMO app to keep track of everything:
Be aware of more details and plan your feeding doses according to your horse's needs.
If you wish to learn more about feeding, head to our article called Feeding Essentials You Need to Know!