Amino acids are critical to a horse’s health because they are the building blocks of protein. Amino acids are most well-known for their role in building muscle, but the body needs amino acids to make hormones, enzymes, and anti-bodies as well. There are 22 amino acids, and the horse is capable of producing some amino acids on their own. However, there are some amino acids a horse cannot make on their own, and these are called ‘essential amino acids’. Essential amino acids must be consumed through the diet.
Amino acids are required in a very unique order and quantity. In order for proper growth and generation of muscle, all amino acids must be present in a very specific combination. It’s a lot like building a house where the house is a metaphor for building strong muscle. Imagine every component of the house as a different amino acid. The foundation, flooring, walls, siding and finally the roof are all essential parts of building a house in exactly the same way that each amino acid is an essential part of building strong muscle.
If a contractor runs out of concrete while pouring the foundation, the building process stops until more concrete arrives. If the contractor runs out of drywall, the building process stops until more dry wall arrives. Amino acids are very similar; if one amino acid is in short supply, muscle building cannot continue until that specific amino acid has been added back into the diet.
Amino acids at risk of being shorted in the diet are called “limiting amino acids”, and in horses, the “first limiting” amino acid is generally lysine. After lysine, methionine and threonine are thought to be the next two limiting amino acids in horses. Horse owners should make a habit of looking for lysine, methionine, and threonine on their feed tags. Typically these are listed right under crude protein in the guaranteed analysis section of the feed tag. Certain feedstuffs are naturally high in amino acids such as soybean meal, alfalfa, and fresh pasture growth.
Many performance horses may not have an adequate amino acid profile in their diet, so feeding an amino acid supplement such as Bluebonnet® Competitive Edge® ensures all amino acids are available for use in the body. These amino acids will help build muscle, improve top line, and reduce recovery time after intense training, long hauls, and big shows. Bluebonnet® Competitive Edge® can be purchased online or through your local Bluebonnet Feeds dealer.
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