The horses carry excess energy that they don’t necessarily need to carry. For example, when they gallop, the energy they burn (called metabolism) tends to be about the same as the energy used to push the horse forward. But the energy used to keep up with motion of the horse is much higher. The extra metabolism is needed to keep the rider and the horse moving well.
Some horses may have an extra energy of about 200 to 450 calories which they carry in the form of extra muscle and fat. This extra energy may be expended in moving the body, such as breathing and moving a horse over an uneven surface. The energy may also be used in moving or carrying the animal, as well as in the horse’s own energy demands. The average horse is able to run faster by using muscles than are needed to walk, especially in excess of 80% of its body weight.
Because extra metabolism is the body’s mechanism for managing energy needs and demands through its ability to use extra energy, a horse with extra muscle and energy stores may need to be fed extra to produce excess protein or fat or to prevent muscle wasting.
Some horses, for example, must be fed extra until they can stop galloping. They do not become tired of the extra work required to run but, since they must carry extra body stores, they must consume even more fuel to maintain pace.
Some horses will continue to trot in excess of their body weight. Since body weight is controlled by the muscles and because they carry extra fuel stores, some horses will continually gallop at least as much as they should.
Do horses burn more calories than they expend?
Although horses may be more efficient riders, a horse that is fed more calories may need to expend more in order to perform even better. The total number of calories that a horse burns to ride or to carry, and the type of calories, depends on a number of factors, including:
The weight of the horse: If a horse weighs more or more than it needs to ride and carry, the total number of calories burned in that activity will be much greater than when no extra fuel is used. For example, if a horse weighs 500 lbs, then the total calories burned, at 75% of its body weight, would be 2,225 to 3,350 calories (assuming an average riding speed of 4 miles per hour). The total number of calories burned for a horse weighing 500 lbs in good health, therefore, is 2,225 to 3
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