Feeding for a discipline can be a daunting thought but at least there is only one, event horses are hard core and part take in three! Here we take a look at nutrition for event horses.
Balancing enough energy for performance with fibre will be the challenge and key for horses to be able to perform at their best and develop muscle when training.
Energy can be obtained from forage, fibre, starch and oil. As horses get fitter and the demands on their muscles and body as a whole increases, it is important to make sure you manage their feed levels accordingly to meet the demand.
Forage will be the main feedstuff that your horse or pony has access to and will eat quite a lot – at least 1.5% of your horse’s bodyweight to be precise. This will help maintain a healthy gut.
This is also where your horse will obtain most of the “slow-release” energy. This is done through a process where the microbes in the hind gut ferment the fibre creating a gradual release of energy.
Out of the eventing stages, cross-country is tough and takes a lot out of the horse or pony. They will require adequate calories in order to keep up with this part of the demanding phase.
Compared to the fibre, high starch feeds like cereals are digested quicker in the small intestine which gives the “quick-releasing” energy for bursts of power.
Feeding too much cereal based feeds like mixes, can cause digestive upsets such as colic and contribute to other clinical conditions. Another alternative to feed for energy is oil.
Why feed oil?
Oil is starch free and is around two times higher in energy. When digested energy is generated and released slowly into the body, this reduces the risk of excitable behaviour.
Do be careful not to over feed oil as this can have adverse effects on performance. Consult an equine nutritionist or a member of the team who can advise on quantities.
Compound feeds high in fibre, containing oil and low in starch are a great way to reach your equines energy requirements.
What about protein for performance?
For any horse in training their muscles will be worked. For repair and development they require protein.
Protein plays a huge role because they are made up of chains of amino acids which build and repair tissue. Horses continuously use proteins but can only synthesise around half within the body, the rest needs to be supplied nutritionally.
The most important thing to remember is the quality of protein. A feed that contains fewer amounts of protein but has high quality compared to a feed that contains lots of protein but at a lesser quality, will most likely perform better.
If you have a horse that doesn’t maintain condition easily or lacks muscle development may need more high quality protein in their diet.
Again, try not to over feed protein as it can affect your horse’s metabolism and any excess will be broken down and passed through as waste.
And not forgetting essential vitamins and minerals should be supplied for a balanced diet along with electrolytes if your equine is hard at work.
Contact the British Horse Feeds team for feed advice.