With the longer evenings approaching, some horses are starting to get back competing after their winter break. Whether you are aiming to get out competing for the first time or aiming to move up a level, correct nutrition helps to support optimum health and performance. As fitness programmes develop their diet also needs some alterations to meet increased energy and nutrient requirements. Here’s a few tips to help support your horse this spring…
Before making any changes to your horses’ diet, make an initial assessment of their body weight and condition. This will help to identify if the diet needs to be aimed at reducing, increasing, or maintaining weight. Regular condition scoring should then be taken throughout their fitness programme to help monitor if your chosen diet is working.
Don’t underestimate the importance of forage, this may not be new, however, forage should be the foundation of all horse’s diets. Forage is essential for good digestive health, overall health and makes a significant contribution to your horses total daily energy intake. Diets should be based on high quality forage fed at a minimum of 1.5/2% of body weight per day (dry matter).
Instead of changing feed products, increasing the feeding level may be enough to provide adequate energy and nutrients. It is important to check you are feeding at the recommended level for your horses’ size and workload, this is available on the back of the feed bag. Feeding under the recommended level may mean that the nutrient requirements are not being met, and it may be more suitable to change to a lower energy feed or a balancer such as Stamm 30.
Consider workload and fitness level, i.e., light, moderate, or hard work. This will impact the requirements of energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals. For example, vitamin E requirements for a 550kg sport horse will increase from 413 IU/day at maintenance to 770 IU/day for light work based on KER recommended daily allowance.
Building Muscle Requires Exercise
Feed alone does not build muscle, building muscle requires a progressive fitness plan that aims to gradually improve fitness and promote muscle development. Building muscle and developing topline requires high quality protein including essential amino acids such a Lysine. These are balanced with key vitamins and minerals to support health and wellbeing and support recovery from training.
Type of Exercise
The type of exercise planned will impact the sources of energy, for example, stamina or slow release energy will come from feed components like oils and super fibres, whereas quick release energy is found in diets with higher levels of cereals such as oats and maize.
Avoiding Positive Tests
All competition horses can be subject to testing for prohibited substances at any time during competition so to prevent a positive test feed a BETA NOPS approved product. All Bluegrass Horse Feed products are BETA NOPS approved; however, it doesn’t stop there. As many human foods such tea, coffee & sweets etc, contain naturally occurring prohibited substances (NOPS). Therefore, it is advised to avoid eating these within your horse’s stable or feed room. Also, ensure any additional supplements within your horse diet are BETA NOPS approved.
All changes to your horses’ diet should be done gradually over 7-10 days to avoid gastrointestinal disturbances. As workload increases additional sodium chloride may be required to replenish stores lost in sweat, this can be supplied via salt or electrolytes.
For more specific help you can visit the nutritional advice section on our website and complete the free diet request form for a recommended diet plan from our nutritional advisor.