Protein Supplements Help Maintain Muscle

Keeping muscle on horses, especially older horses, can be a challenge. Research now confirms that amino acid supplements do help horses maintain their muscling.

The study assessed the muscle mass in light breed horses weighing around 500 kilograms (1100 pounds).

Horses of two ages, 9-year-olds and 22-year-olds, were monitored. After 14 weeks with regular light riding, some notable differences emerged between those fed a protein supplement and those not.

The supplement comprised the amino acid proteins, lysine and threonine. Half the horses studied were given 20 grams (0.7 ounces) daily of lysine and 15 grams (0.5 ounces) a day of threonine mixed in with their feed. All the horses received grass hay and a grain mixture.

Horses on the protein supplement gained an average of seven kilograms (15 pounds) during the study, while the horses without supplement actually lost an average of 12 kg (26 lbs). While the two groups of horses had started out with equal muscle mass, by the end of 14 weeks those on the supplement were noticeably more muscular. Not only had their weight gain gone into muscle, these horses had also lost a little fat.

The results were the same, regardless of whether the horses were 9 or 22-years-old. Both the young and older horses receiving the protein supplement built up muscle during the study.


P.M. Graham-Thiers and D.S. Kronfeld. 2005. Amino acid supplementation improves muscle mass in aged and young horses. Journal of Animal Science. 83: 2783-2788.

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