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Equine Nutrition

Jo-Anne Murray

This course will cover many aspects of equine nutrition ranging from anatomy and physiology of the gastrointestinal tract to dietary management of horses/ponies affected with nutrition-related disorders.
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Next Session:
Jan 28th 2013 (5 weeks long)You are enrolled!
Workload: 3-4 hours/week 

About the Course

This course is designed to provide knowledge of equine digestion and nutrition for those with an interest in this area. The anatomy and physiology of the equine alimentary canal will be studied to provide students with a detailed understanding of the equine digestive system.  Nutrient sources for horses will be discussed, with emphasis placed on the health and welfare issues surrounding the inclusion of various types of feedstuffs in equine diets.  Students will also discuss recommendations on rations for horses and ponies performing various activities and should feel equipped to make recommendations on rations for horses and ponies, in health and disease.

About the Instructor(s)

Dr Jo-Anne Murray is a senior lecturer in Animal Nutrition and Husbandry at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, which involves directing the Veterinary School's on-line MSc/Dip/Cert programme in Equine Science and managing the School’s e-learning activities.  Dr Murray has a degree in equine science, a postgraduate diploma in animal nutrition and a PhD in equine nutrition. She is also a British Horse Society Intermediate Instructor, a registered nutritionist with the British Nutrition Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  Dr Murray’s main research has been focussed on improving the nutritive value of fibre-based feedstuffs for horses and investigating the effect of high-starch and high-fructan diets on the large intestinal environment of the horse.  More recently, Dr Murray has investigated the use of supplements in horse diets and the effect of these on horse behaviour.

Course Syllabus

Week 1: Anatomy and physiology of the equine gastrointestinal tract
The expectation is that the course participants will come from varied backgrounds in relation to their previous experience of gastrointestinal tract anatomy and physiology.  Consequently, this course begins with consideration of digestive anatomy and physiology in equids.  The learning materials provided are directed towards ensuring a good understanding of equine digestive anatomy and physiology.

Week 2: Nutrient digestion in the equine gastrointestinal tract
The learning materials during this period will focus on nutrient digestion in equids and will consider nutrient digestion in the various segments of the gastrointesintal tract.  Discussion should focus on considering the limitations of the equid gastrointestinal tract in relation to nutrient digestion.

Week 3: Equine nutrient sources and feeding management
This part of the course will consider various nutrient sources for equids.  Learning materials will be provided on various feedstuffs utilised in equine diets.  These various nutrient sources for horses will be discussed, with emphasis placed on the health and welfare issues surrounding the inclusion of various types of feedstuffs in horse diets. Discussions should involve considering how nutrients are digested within the gastrointestinal tract and how knowledge of this can enhance the dietary management of equids to ensure good health, maximise performance and prevent nutrition-related diseases/disorders.

Week 4: Equine dietary management
This week of the course will explore the nutrient requirements of equids and the dietary management of these animals. Discussions should focus around considering how modern feeding practices do not always consider the anatomy and physiology of the equid digestive tract.

Week 5: Equine clinical nutrition
This part of the course will focus on evaluating feeding strategies for the management and prevention of several diseases/disorders in equids; for example, obesity, laminitis, older horses with dental issues etc. Discussions should focus on the dietary management of individuals affected with nutrition-related problems.

Recommended Background

No background is required.

Suggested Readings

Although the course is designed to be self-contained, students who are looking to expand their knowledge beyond what is covered in the course will find further information in the following texts:
• FRAPE D. 2010. Equine Nutrition and Feeding Longman Scientific, UK.
• HILL, J. AND ELLIS, A. 2005. Nutritional Physiology of the Horse Nottingham University Press, Nottingham, UK. 
• LEWIS, L.D. 1995. Equine Clinical Nutrition: Feedings and Care  Williams and Wilkins, USA
• NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL 2007. Nutrient Requirements of Horses: Sixth Revised Edition (Animal Nutrition Series) The National Academies Press, Washington, USA.

Course Format

The course will consist of 5 lectures of one hour each (broken down into videos of between 10 and 15 minutes in length).  There will also be supporting notes and additional readings provided.   There will be quiz questions throughout the course to test your knowledge and understanding of the learning materials along with optional assignments, should you wish to complete these.


  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?
    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a certificate signed by the instructor.
  • Do I earn University of Edinburgh credits upon completion of this class?
    No. The certificate of completion is not part of a formal qualification from the University of Edinburgh. However, it may be useful to demonstrate prior learning and interest in your subject to a higher education institution or potential employer.
  • What resources will I need for this class?
    No resources needed.
  • What are the learning outcomes of this course and why should I take it?
    You will learn about feeding horses and ponies appropriately.


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