Studying Energy Expenditure for Equine Nutrition Precision

Studying Energy Expenditure for Equine Nutrition Precision

In the second phase of the study, the team estimated horses' energy expenditure for each type of exercise using an EquiMask, which measures gas exchange (oxygen and carbon dioxide).

Photo: Alltech

Whether a horse races, jumps, trots, or trail rides, the amount of energy he expends through exercise varies due to his training program. By exploring the physiology of energy exertion through exercise, researchers are making progress toward formulating more precise nutritional recommendations for specific types of equine activity.

During Alltech’s 29th International Symposium, held May 19-22 in Lexington, Ky., Veronique Julliand, PhD, DVM, a veterinarian and professor at Agrosup Dijon in France, presented findings from studies that characterized the type of exercises harnessed trotters and endurance horses perform during training and examined the energy expenditure for each exercise. This research explored how understanding a horse’s energetic expenditure during a specific type of exercise could help horse owners, nutritionists, and trainers make better nutritional decisions for their equine athletes.

“The final aim of what we do is to feed the horse for better health and performance,” Julliand said. “Gallopers will not have the same demand as trotters or endurance horses. This probably seems obvious, but until today this has not been explored.”

Julliand and her team conducted two field surveys of endurance horses and harnessed trotters. First, the team defined the training management of the horses in each sport and the different types of exercise performed. Training management of endurance horses involved outdoor rides at 13 kilometers per hour (about 8 miles per hour) with 70% of the ride at a trot and outdoor rides at 8 kilometers per hour (about 5 miles per hour) with 80% of the ride at a walk. In addition, the endurance horses trained on a racetrack at a canter and in a walker. The group of trotters performed five types of exercise, including "promenade," jogging, courses, interval training, and walking.

In the second phase of the study, the team estimated horses' energy expenditure for each type of exercise using an EquiMask, which measures gas exchange (oxygen and CO2). The researchers converted the amount of oxygen consumed by each horse during different levels of exercise to kilocalories, a measure for the amount of oxygen consumed per minute per kilogram of the horse’s body weight. The team found that in various types of exercise, energy consumption correlated with the intensity of work.

Julliand said the next step will be transferring the data to formulate applications, working with a data collection program, and developing a software program to assist with nutrient rationing horses.

Julliand noted that the research remains in experimental phases, but she hopes to conduct further trials to examine the relationship between energy expenditure and nutrition for every type of equestrian activity.

“To better feed a horse, you need to know how the horse will digest the feed, but you have to explain also its requirements,” Julliand said. “If you feed too much or not enough, you will get into problems.”

Agrosup Dijon has partnered with Alltech in a research alliance to investigate equine gastrointestinal health.

About the Author


Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners