Determine nutritional needs in provision of horse health care

This Unit of Competency covers the process of establishing the impact of nutrition on horses in relation to the provision of health care. This Unit is not intended to provide the skills and knowledge required to formulate rations for individual horses but rather to identify the impact of diet on heath and welfare of various classes of horses in relation to the provision of allied health care.


The Unit is applicable to the equine industry where it may be necessary to provide dietary advice in conjunction with the provision of health care to horses.In addition to legal and ethical responsibilities, all Units of Competency in the ACM10 Animal Care and Management Training Package have the requirement for animals to be handled gently and calmly. The individual is required to exhibit appropriate care for animals so that stress and discomfort is minimised.


There are no pre-requisite Units for this competency standard.

Elements and Performance Criteria



1 Relate elements of the equine diet to physiological function

1.1 Nutrient elements are classified according to needs of the body

1.2 Structures of the digestive system are located and the nutrient absorption and metabolism process are described

1.3 Features of a well balanced diet are related to horse health condition and workload

1.4 Impact of an unbalanced or deficient diet on horse health is evaluated

2 Evaluate the composition of common horse diets

2.1 Feedstuffs commonly available and fed to horses in Australia are identified

2.2 Methods of feedstuff preparation are evaluated regarding impact on nutrient availability

2.3 Quality of feedstuffs for nutritional and health value is evaluated

3 Identify factors that may affect horse condition relevant to nutritional requirements

3.1 Horses are classified according to condition score

3.2 Horses are classified according to developmental age requirements

3.3 Horses are classified according to breed, activity and housing status

3.4 Options to adjust diet in relation to horse health status are evaluated

3.5 Owner or carer is referred to nutritional or veterinary specialist for specific dietary requirements and ration formulation advice

Required Skills

Required skills include:

Ability to:

analyse and solve problems using available information and resources including recording information and prioritising daily tasks

apply interpersonal skills to work with others and relate to people from a range of cultural, social and religious backgrounds and with a range of physical and mental abilities

communicate effectively with others, including questioning, active listening, asking for clarification and consulting with or seeking advice from other relevant persons

condition score the horse

consult clearly and precisely with other equine health care providers

employ safe and environmentally responsible organisational systems and procedures when working with and handling horses

follow sequenced written instructions; record accurately and legibly information collected; and select and apply procedures to a range of defined tasks

identify elements of a nutritionally balanced diet and relate them to the function of horse body systems, general health and behaviour

maintain the highest standards of hygiene and infection control at all times to reduce the risk of infection and cross-infection; considering zoonotic and exotic disease possibilities (biosecurity)

numeracy skills to estimate, calculate and record routine workplace elements

read and follow required policies and procedures, including OHS, infection control and waste management

solve problems using available information and resources including recording information and prioritising daily tasks

use safe manual handling techniques and equipment

use safe, hygienic and environmentally friendly waste handling and disposal procedures.

Required knowledge includes:

Knowledge of:

anatomical and physiological structures, features and functions related to dietary needs and the absorption and metabolism of nutrients

anatomical directional terminology

consequences of an unbalanced or deficient diet to horse function, health and behaviour

equine allied health practitioners' codes of conduct

factors affecting availability of nutrients to horses

feedstuffs commonly fed to horses and the general principles of a balanced diet for horses

impact of breed, age, workload and housing on diet

methods used to assess horse condition and general health

nutritional needs for different classes of horses

principles of animal welfare

relevant legislation, regulations and codes of practice, including OHS, animal welfare and ethics, veterinary practice and waste disposal

signs and symptoms of an unbalanced or deficient diet in horses

safe work practices

workplace hygiene standards (biosecurity) including: disinfectants, cleaning agents and techniques, cleaning and appropriate disinfection or sterilisation of equipment, materials and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Evidence Required

The evidence guide provides advice on assessment and must be read in conjunction with the performance criteria, required skills and knowledge, range statement and the Assessment Guidelines for the Training Package.

Overview of assessment

Critical aspects for assessment and evidence required to demonstrate competency in this Unit

The evidence required to demonstrate competence in this Unit must be relevant to workplace operations and satisfy all of the requirements of the performance criteria, required skills and knowledge and the range statement of this Unit. Assessors should ensure that candidates can:

locate the anatomical structures and define the process involved in nutrient absorption and metabolism in horses

classify the range of feedstuffs available in Australia for their nutrient value to horses

identify factors that affect nutrient availability in horse diets

evaluate the impact of an unbalanced or nutrient deficient diet on horse health and behaviour

identify the variation in nutritional demands for various classes of horse

classify horses by condition, health, age and housing status

provide advice to owners or carers on managing dietary principles in relation to equine health conditions and age status of the horse.

The skills and knowledge required to determine nutrition needs in provision of horse health care must be transferable to a range of work environments and contexts and include the ability to deal with unplanned events.

Context of and specific resources for assessment

Assessment for this Unit is to be practical in nature and will be most appropriately assessed in an equine allied health workplace or in a situation that reproduces normal work conditions.

There must be access to a range of horses and anatomical models and the relevant equipment and resources to enable one to demonstrate competence

Method of assessment

To ensure consistency in performance, competency should be demonstrated, to industry standards, on more than two occasions over a period of time in order to cover a variety of circumstances, cases and responsibilities and over a number of assessment activities.

The assessment strategy must include assessment of competency in a work environment. Suggested strategies for this Unit are:

written and oral assessment of candidate’s required knowledge

observed, documented and first-hand testimonial evidence of candidate’s application of practical tasks

simulation exercises that reproduce normal work conditions

case studies

third-party evidence

workplace documentation.

This Unit may be assessed in a holistic way with other Units of Competency relevant to the industry sector, workplace and job role.

Guidance information for assessment

Assessment methods should reflect workplace demands (e.g. literacy and numeracy demands) and the needs of particular target groups (e.g. people with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women, people with a language background other than English, youth and people from low socio-economic backgrounds).

Range Statement

The range statement relates to the Unit of Competency as a whole. It allows for different work environments and situations that may affect performance. Bold italicised wording, if used in the performance criteria, is detailed below. Essential operating conditions that may be present with training and assessment (depending on the work situation, needs of the candidate, accessibility of the item, and local industry and regional contexts) may also be included.

Nutrient elements may include:









Structures of thedigestive system will include:

hepatic structures

large intestine

mouth and teeth

salivary ducts and glands


small and large intestine

Impact of an unbalanced or deficient diet may include:

health problems related to feeding:


becoming tucked up


developing a dull or rough coat

developing a nervy disposition


exertional rhabdomyolosis (tying up)

hoof health


leg swelling

manure eating (coprophagy)

muscle wasting/atrophy

parasite burdens

pedal osteitis

poor appetite/eating (anorexia versus dysphagia)

predisposition to inflammatory conditions

vitamin and mineral deficiencies

wood chewing/crib biting

condition of horses:

losing or gaining weight.

Feedstuffs may include:



extruded pellets




processed mixes for specific categories of horse

raw feeds/grains

sweet feeds (processed grain mixes)


Methods of feedstuff preparation may include:

adhering to appropriate feeding time requirements

boiling or soaking grains or pellets

changing rations to suit local conditions:

high energy feeds for working, exercising, competing or racing animals

spelling feeds for horses coming into work or being let down


correct fibre/protein ratio for use

damping feeds as required

ensuring prepared feed is given to correct horse only

following relevant competition rules related to feed additives

maintaining enterprise’s safe feed preparation procedures:

cleaning buckets, feed and water containers

following instructions related to feed mixers and grain crushers

minimising dust

using dust masks

using safe lifting and handling techniques

washing hands

reading and following feed ration lists and directions

recognising spoiled or contaminated feeds

recognising and adding prescribed supplements

using feed weighing scales.

Horse classifications may include:

age requirements:

nursing foals



yearlings to maturity for breed

mature horse/pony

aged horse/pony

breed, activity and housing:






starting/breaking in


various breeds of horses

large pasture

small paddock


condition score system:

very poor





very fat.

Options to adjust diet may include:

alter frequency of feeding

alter type of foodstuffs fed

alterations to preparation techniques

awareness of toxic plants in pastures

environment for example: position of feed bins

expert nutritional advice

natural versus domesticated feeding regimes compared

transition time to alternative diet

vitamin/mineral/electrolyte supplementation.



Employability Skills

This Unit contains employability skills.

Licensing Information

No licensing, legislative, regulatory or certification requirements apply to this Unit at the time of publication.