Feeding Paso Fino Horses

Feeding Paso Fino horses

By Nelson Lopez, Equine Nutrition Consultant


Is my horse getting everything he needs to be healthy? Can he perform at the level I ask of him? Is he getting too much energy, or maybe not enough? As horse owners we can get confused by all the questions and information we read and by all the choices we have when it comes to care for our horses. There are many products and each claim to be the best for your horse. Let’s try to make a little sense of it all and understand how our choices affect our Paso Fino horse.

First things first!

The most important nutrient in our horse’s diet is WATER. Fresh abundant water always available to our horse is the most important feeding health factor. Non-working Paso Finos drink from 2-6 gallons of water per day. This amount is significantly affected by environmental temperature, feed consumption, activity, and function.  Lactating mares may increase their water intake by 50-70% when compared to non-pregnant mares. Exercise may increase the need for water from 20-300% depending on the intensity and duration. It has been shown that an increase in environmental temperature from 55 to 70 degrees  will increase the horse water intake by 15-20% Water quality is also important when feeding horses. It has been shown that hi salt content in the water is detrimental to horses. The National Research Council published the safe upper levels of some minerals tolerable in drinking water for horses (mg/l water): Arsenic – 0.2, Cadmium – 0.05, Chromium – 1.0, Cobalt – 1.0, Copper – 0.5, Fluoride – 2.0, Lead – 0.1, Mercury – .01, Nickel 1.0, Nitrate Nitrogen – 100, Nitrite Nitrogen – 10, Vanadium – 0.1, Zinc – 25 .

Energy to spare

Horses on their wild stage are herbivores that maintain a high fiber diet. They eat many small meals of grass and legumes throughout the day. Because of our convenience and cost we have decreased the number of meals and offer the horse a more concentrated diet. These changes have brought about a number of metabolic, growth, and performance issues. When feeding our horses we must always base their diet on:

1: Forages – Horses will consume up to 3% of their body weight on high quality forages: pasture, hay, or a combination of both. Non working horses needs very little supplementation of their diet. As the amount and intensity of activity is increased for conditioning and exercise, these forages are no longer able to sustain the horse’s energy and protein needs alone.

2: Grains – Hi fiber grains such as Oats are the preferred energy supplementation for horses. Currently most feed stores will have Oat based feeds which include sources of high quality proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals in the required quantities to supply the horse’s needs. These complete mixed rations should not be combined with other supplements without previous consultation with a nutritionist or consulting veterinarian to avoid nutrient imbalances on the horse’s feed. The Paso Fino, because of its relatively small weight and size has a high metabolic rate and tends to by very susceptible to these metabolic nutrient imbalances.


Special feeding care is required for mares during the last 3 months of gestations, during lactation and during periods of exercise and conditioning. These circumstances increase the energy needs of the horse as well as the needs for high quality protein in the gestating and lactating mare. Excess energy and abrupt increases of energy in the diet can cause abnormal bone growth on weanling and yearlings as well as metabolic diseases such as laminitis, colic, and obesity.

Protein is for Growth

The needs for protein in the horse increase during the last trimester of gestation, and during lactation on the mare. Horses during the first 2 years of age also require higher amounts of protein. The need for high quality protein is also apparent during these times. These horses should be feed a concentrated feed mix with no less than 16% crude protein content. The feed mixture should also contain at least 1.5% Lysine, a critical amino acid for the efficient utilization of protein during growth. Better mixes also contain sources of Methionine, an amino acid essential for growth, and the healthy development of skin, hair, and hoof. Biotin has also been marketed to improve the healthy growth of horse’s skin and hoof.


Micronutrients – Make the difference

Just like certain amino acids have a special function during the growth and production stages of the horse, vitamins and minerals are also required in higher amounts during these times. Minerals and water soluble vitamins are lost during sweating in exercise and although the bacteria of the horse’s hind gut produces a certain amount of water soluble vitamins, the capacity of this bacterial production to supply the requirements of a horse during intense and moderate periods of exercise has not been completed elucidated. Vitamins and minerals are supplied in most completed horse mixed feeds. When purchasing a new feed always inquired into the vitamin and mineral content of the feed. If necessary request a laboratory analysis of your feed. I may just save you lots of money and headaches.

At Laota Spring Farm we use a complete feed mix, with vitamin & minerals, high quality Alfalfa and Timothy hay cultivated in Pennsylvania fields. Our horses get all the fresh clean water they desired in our stalls and fields. Our pregnant and lactating mares get a special mixed feed with 16% protein and all necessary supplementation. Our staff is always looking at possible improvements to our feeding program. Come see the difference we make in our horses life. Because a healthy horse is a happy horse and we care!


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