The A-to-Z of Nutrition Terms

Amino Acids

The "building blocks" of protein which is an integral part of all body tissues especially muscle. The horse requires about 22 different amino acids, some of which they can produce themselves and others which must be supplied through the diet and are termed 'essential' eg. lysine and methionine.


Free radicals can be harmful to cells and are produced during normal metabolic function. The body has defence mechanisms against them which are termed anti-oxidants. Certain vitamins and minerals, particularly Vitamin E and Selenium, are antioxidants and are included in all Baileys compound feeds.


A feed which will counteract the nutrient deficiencies of a specified feed to provide a balanced diet ie. forage balancers are fed alongside forage (hay/grass) and oat balancers alongside oats.


Refers to the ease with which nutrients, particularly minerals, can be absorbed from the digestive tract and utilised by the body.


Long chain molecules which provide energy for all basic body functions from breathing to muscle contraction. Soluble carbohydrate includes sugars and starch which are broken down to glucose for basic cell function. Insoluble carbohydrate includes cellulose which is the fibrous part of plants and which is broken down by bacteria in the horse's hind gut into volatile fatty acids, a further energy source.


A term used to describe minerals that are attached to other molecules such as proteins or carbohydrates and used to improve the bio-availability of minerals.  Bioplex® is the brand of chelatedminerals used by Baileys.

Compound feed

A general term used to mean the fully balanced products that are produced as cubes or mixes to feed to horses alongside forage. Also referred to as concentrate or hard feed.

Concentrate feed

See Compound Feed


To improve and maintain body condition and 'top line' for horses prone to weight loss.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

A disease causing obstruction of the airways which may have symptoms including coughing and nasal discharge. Commonly caused by an allergy to dust and spores contained in hay, straw and other bedding. Careful management is necessary to keep symptoms at bay.


Indicates improved ease of absorption and utilisation of the nutrients.

Digestible Energy (DE)

This is the measure of the estimated energy content of horse feeds and is quoted by manufacturers on an "as fed" basis in Mega Joules per kilogramme (MJ/kg).

Digestive Enhancers

These work to help improve and maintain a good bacterial population in the horse's gut for efficient digestion and utilisation of the overall diet. They are not a food source for the horse but are particularly useful for those with compromised gut function such as horses under stress eg. training, travelling, competing, suffering long term worm damage, after a course of antibiotics etc. The term is generally used to refer to probiotics, prebiotics and yeast (see below) which may be included in a compound feed or available as supplements.


Minerals that break up in solutions and develop electrical charges. They are important for neuro-muscular function and are lost in sweat. Significant losses of electrolytes can compromise performance through the early onset of fatigue.

Energy Dense

A concentrated source of energy in a reduced volume of feed. Eg. Baileys Outshine

ERS (Exertional Rhabdomyolysis Syndrome)

Commonly known as tying-up, azoturia or "Monday morning disease". A disease resulting in muscle damage in the back and quarters due to a build up of lactic acid which is produced when glycogen is used by the muscles. Careful management and diet are necessary to help prevent recurrence. 


A form of cooking where the feed materials are made into a slurry and injected with very hot steam. They are then passed through a die (holes) which can be of different shapes. The drop in pressure as the slurry passes through the die causes the material to expand.

Fatty acids

The building blocks of fats and oils. The ratios of different types of fatty acids in the diet have implications for health and well-being, for example the balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6.


Derived from the fibrous parts of plants, fibre provides bulk for the healthy functioning of the horse's gut and is a source of slow release energy.

Fully Balanced

Supplies the correct levels of nutrients, (protein, vitamins, minerals) for the specific intention of individual products when fed at recommended levels.


This occurs when cereals are cooked. The heat ruptures the starch molecules, altering the molecular structure and chain length, which increases the surface area thereby increasing the digestibility of the starch. 

The horse and other animals store surplus glucose as glycogen in muscles and the liver for use as energy when demand increases.
Grain Free
Does not include traditional uncooked cereal grains so is more suitable for horses who have a tendency to become excitable.
Hard Feed
See Compound Feed.
High Energy compound feeds
Have a DE value of 12 MJ/kg and above.
High fibre
A high proportion of fibre (over 14%) in a particular concentrate ration. Common in low energy feeds.

Low calorie
A "low calorie" feed should provide a balance of nutrients (protein, vitamins, minerals) to promote good health with a reduced calorie content. Formulated to be fed in small quantities, the calorie contribution to the overall diet is minimal so these products may help to prevent weight gain or aid weight loss.
Low Energy compound feeds
Have a digestible energy (DE) value of 8 -10MJ/kg.
Low fibre
Higher energy feeds with reduced bulk for fit and hard working horses who have a greater requirement for other nutrients.
Macro minerals
Expressed as a % (or parts per hundred) and needed for body structure, maintaining fluid balance, nerve conduction and muscle contraction. Macro minerals are required in larger amounts in the diet than micro or trace minerals.
Micro (trace) minerals
Expressed as mg/kg (or parts per million) and needed as components of "metalloenzymes" which are involved in controlling a large number of biological reactions. Required in smaller amounts than macro minerals but are no less important.
Components of molecules needed for body structure and function. As with vitamins, the correct balance of minerals is very important as one mineral may interfere with the absorption of another so if fed in excess may cause a deficiency of the other. Classified as either Macro or Micro minerals.
A feed which is less likely to produce excitable behaviour in some horses and ponies when fed at the recommended rate.
Nutrient Dense/Rich
A concentrated source of quality proteins and micro-nutrients. Reduced quantities are fed compared to traditional compound feeds, to provide the recommended levels of nutrients but without the volume and usual associated increase in energy.
Do not contain live organisms. Help to promote healthy gut function either by providing a food source that only beneficial bacteria can utilise or by mopping up pathogenic species of bacteria.
Contain live bacterial populations designed to help restore a healthy population of micro-organisms in the digestive tract.
PSSM (Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy)
A disease common to more heavily muscled breeds, such as quarter horses, warmbloods and draught horses, which prevents the normal metabolism of glycogen. The exact mechanism is, as yet, not fully understood but afflicted horses are not able to tolerate an excess of carbohydrate in their diet.
Required for the growth and repair of body tissues such as muscles, blood, skin, hair and hoof. It is made up of amino acids, some of which must be provided by the diet.
Quality protein
This term indicates that the protein source contains good levels of essential amino acids which must be provided in the horse's diet.  Quality protein provides the vital components of all body tissues, including muscle, so is important for the promotion of muscle tone and top line.
A carbohydrate composed of glucose molecules. It is the main source of energy provided by cereal grains.
A term used to refer to cereals or their components when fed individually and not part of a pre-prepared, nutritionally balanced mix or cube eg. oats, barley, bran etc. Because they are deficient in some nutrients they are best fed alongside a balancer. Adding straights to an already balanced ration will cause an imbalance and should be avoided.
Complex molecules involved in many essential bodily functions. They are classified into fat soluble and water soluble types which affects absorbed, stored and excreted. A correct balance of vitamins is important as they can affect the use of other nutrients.
Enhances fibre digestion by stimulating cellulose-digesting bacteria. Particularly beneficial for older horses who are known to be less efficient at digesting fibre.  Yea-Sacc® is the type of yeast culture used by Baileys.