Amino Acid Requirements for Horses

Learn about the 21 different amino acids your horse needs to build proteins in his body.

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Amino acid. Sounds like something leaking from a Spanish battery, rather than a supplement you’d want to give to your horse.

But an acid isn’t always something that burns or is even “acidic.” In this case it describes a specific order of molecular composition. And amino comes from the word “amine,” which refers to a kind of organic compound.

So yes, they’re fine to give to your horse. No, let’s rephrase that: Amino acids are critical to your horse’s health. There are 21 different amino acids used as building blocks to form proteins. Your horse needs all 21 of these building blocks to build those proteins in his body. The power of nature is such that a horse can create 12 of those amino acids himself without a dietary source (other than carbon and nitrogen). For the other nine, however, he’ll need some outside help.

Are Your Horse’s Nutrient Requirements Being Met?

If you want more details as to whether your horse’s diet is meeting all of its nutrient requirements, the National Research Council offers a free online tool at However, you will need to have a basic knowledge of the actual nutrient composition of the diet components to use this tool. You might be able to obtain some of this information from the feed’s guaranteed analysis or possibly from the hay supplier; however, in some cases it might be necessary to send the feed to a laboratory for analysis to know exactly what is in it

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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