Going back as far as to the last glacial period, 10.000 years ago, a group of horses was spared at the warmer lower prairies of the Iberian peninsula. Because of the natural isolation this region provided, it preserved the characteristics of these horses throughout thousands of years: the Iberian horses, the ancestors of the Andalusian and the Lusitano Breed.
The Lusitano has thousands of years with a diet low in protein
On the Iberian peninsula their diet was based on dry forages and some grain as a direct consequence of the climate conditions of this area.This created an extremely efficient adaptation of the Iberian horse from a physiologic point of view, based on thousands of years of natural selection.
The Lusitano breed is now becoming immensely popular throughout the world; as leisure horses they have become popular and hugely sought after during the last twenty years and more recently as sport horses, they have accomplished the higher levels of almost all equitation disciplines. The export of the Lusitano breed to different areas of the Globe from México to New Zealand, China to Angola, Brazil to Russia and northern Europe, etc. it is today a reality.
Most of these regions have a totally different climate and as a direct consequence, the type of feed available for animal nutrition is different. As an example, in central Europe, due to more humid weather conditions the use of haylage is a common practice. Compared to straw this forage can contain 6 to 8% more protein. If we recall that forage constitutes the base for a healthy horse feeding regime, we must keep this in mind while choosing from the dozens of different horse feeds available today in the market.
Equine nutrition research is on the rise and horse feeds have evolved
So a new paradigm arises: how to adapt the new feeding regimes in a safe way to a breed that was naturally selected to survive in rough prairies?
The inability to do this has brought us an increasingly high number of growth pathologies in our foals and obesity related problems in our adults, with devastating consequences…
Research and changes in the use of the horses
Until the beginning of the XX century little research was made in the field of domestic animal nutrition. With the decline of the use of horses for transportation it was only recently that science started to focus on this subject. With the increased use of horses for pleasure and leisure purposes, and more recently, the huge expansion of the number and the popularity of various equine-oriented courses at universities throughout the world, there has been an increase in the amount of equine nutrition research being conducted.
Just thirty years ago the average meal for a Lusitano Horse was based on straw and 4 to 6kg of all grain mixture based mainly on oatmeal, (barley, wheat bran), corn, carob and bean mixtures. With the new feeds available nowadays, the amount of concentrate in horse’s diet has been reduced to as little as 2 to 3 kg per day.