Essential amino acids for horses are crucial in maintaining horse muscles and health where a horse is in exercise or being fed a horse forage, such as hay, haylage or straw which is low in protein.
Amino acids are complex chemicals that are the building blocks of protein, which in turn are required for the creation of new tissue, and the repair of existing cells. An Essential Amino Acid cannot be synthesised or created by the body, and must come from the diet. Whilst an ad-lib forage diet is enough to supply most horses with all the amino acids that they require, sometimes forage is low in crude protein and certain essential amino acids. A complicated relationship exists between available nitrogen and sulphur levels meaning that sometimes although crude protein might look adequate some amino acids are not formed correctly and are therefore unavailable to the horse.
Essential Amino Acids for horses (EAA’s) are required in order to build new tissue and help with cellular repair which takes place when muscles are recovering. Getting the right amount within a diet helps equine athletes to improve their physique and also recover quicker from exercise. The main essential amino acids required by the body are L Leucine, L Isoleucine, L Valine, L Lysine, L Phenylalanine, L Threonine, L Histidine, L Methionine, L Tryptophan.
Horses require all the different essential amino acids as part of their diet for a number of reasons including cellular repair, but they are also required in order to get the most out of protein rich foods. If a horse does not get enough essential amino acids in the diet, the body will not extract the maximum nutrients from protein sources, and the calories in the protein will be stored as fat. The requirement for a balanced number of amino acids in the diet is known as ‘limiting protein utilisation’.