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Equine Nutrition and Genetics - Part One

EQ Life Random Horse


By Antoinette Foster

Nutrition is the key to unlocking your horse’s genetic potential and Nutrigenomics is beginning to become a topic of great interest. Since 2010, I have been working with a genetic scientist, and am now beginning to apply the knowledge from over a decade of clinical studies in nutrigenomics and using this within my practice for equine nutrition.  

Nutigenomics identifies individuals who are at risk for single-gene and complex disorders that have nutritional implications and determines how genetic variants interact with nutritional factors to affect disease risk and progression.

Nutrition has an enormous effect on disease prevention and health promotion. Determining the relationships between food, nutrition science, and health outcomes have been intensively analysed over the past century. Genomic variation among individuals and populations is a new factor that enriches and challenges our understanding of these complex relationships. 

Nutrition impacts us and our horses on a daily basis in both health and disease, as well as in prevention and treatment of certain multifactorial diseases. Nutrigenomics offers a significant promise for health genomics and development of customized nutritional interventions guided by human genomic variation. 

There are currently approximately 1000 published papers, Nutrigenomics is 100% science backed. Nutrition dictates our horse’s health, maintains immune function, assists in fighting disease and many other advantages, nutrigenomics provides the opportunity to put preventative measures in place. I highly recommend the use of powerful antioxidants and various other supporting nutrients to assist in the prevention of Oxidative Stress, Phase 1 and Phase 2 Detox and a number other disease states. More research is being conducted and in the future there will be similar Nutrigenomic testing for horses, this testing is not very far away.

Supplements...  Feed Nutrient Dosage vs. Therapeutic Dosage

There has been much argument among doctors, vets, dietitians, nutritionists, trainers, etc. regarding the need for vitamin and mineral supplementation. Some argue that a nutrient dosage as found in a ‘good’ diet or in a standard ‘racing feed regime’ is enough because it meets the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA’s) of vitamins and minerals needed for optimal nutrition and health. At the same time it is generally accepted for example, that mineral electrolyte supplementation is necessary for horses during and after heavy exercise stress and sweating.

Often horse owners and professionals are using supplements in an unsystematic way, without a clear understanding of their therapeutic uses. Knowing each individuals genetic makeup will enable horse owners to use the correct feeding and supplement regime.


 Equine Nutrition and Genetics 2 Seeds


Oxidation and Oxidative Stress 

There are some areas of health that we already know about that can have a considerable impact the horse’s overall health and wellbeing. Oxidative stress is one that is of enormous importance and is a common contributor to reduced performance in horses.

Oxidation is defined as one of the processes by which energy is obtained from the diet. During this process, nutrients are broken down and converted into energy for normal metabolic function. The browning of an apple or rusting of metal is a common example of oxidation in our everyday life. The rate of oxidation depends on the amount of activity that is occurring. At rest, the rate of oxidation is at its lowest level. However, during stress, exercise, growth, pregnancy, or lactation, the rate of oxidation is elevated because the body is rapidly breaking down nutrients (like protein, carbohydrates, and fat) to produce energy needed during these times. During these metabolic processes if the regulatory systems in the body are overwhelmed, oxidative stress can occur. Oxidative stress causes an overabundance of circulating molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS), sometimes commonly referred to as “free radicals.” It is important to note that all free radicals are ROS, but not all ROS are free radicals.

Antioxidants are essential in the case of Oxidative stress, I recommend using a combination such as Vitamin C, Selenium, Glutathione etc.



Equine Nutrition and Genetics 1

An oxidated apple


Individual Specific Requirement and Genetic Status/Stress/Injury/Disease

Recommended Daily Allowances for horses do not take into account the individual specific needs and circumstance or the individual stress, disease, injury or genetic status. This is known as biochemical individuality and there is a huge number of instances and individuals where an increased dosage, ie. a therapeutic dosage, of a vitamin, mineral or amino acid is efficacious.

Please join us tomorrow as Antoinette continues the discussion of Equine Nutriton and Genetics.

If you would like any assistance with feeding your horse, understanding genetics either for your self or your horse, or if you are experiencing any difficulties, such as balancing you feed ration, nervousness, weight loss, arthritis etc please contact Nutritional Therapist Antoinette Foster for free advice email enq@hiform.com.au or phone 03 97981000.




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