Role of Carbohydrates in Horses’ Diet

Cereal grains and forage in the horse’s diet provide the carbohydrates and starches which in turn give a horse the energy boost needed to perform whatever tasks necessary.

If your horse is a worker or an athlete, s/he will naturally require higher amounts of carbohydrates. Horses that are retired, idle most of the time, rarely work, will not have high energy requirements. Horses ridden for pleasure, polo ponies, low impact performers and the like are inbetween these two groups.

Your horse’s physical condition, the environment, age, size, breed and temperament must be taken into account when judging the amount of carbohydrates necessary in the diet. Pregnant and lactating mares have higher energy needs for themselves and for their foals to grow into healthy adult horses.

Carbohydrates are made up of simple sugars (monosaccharides) such as fructose, glucose, galactose and more. Monosaccharides are the only carbohydrates absorbed by the body. Bonded together, they are called disaccharides. Nursing foals need lactose, a disaccharide made up of one molecule of glucose and one galactose molecule.

Some bonded glucose molecules form polysaccharides which are non-soluble carbohydrates. The polysaccharides found in plants is called starch and in animals, is called glycogen. Both non-soluble and soluble carbohydrates are necessary to provide energy.

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