Feeding for Fitness: Bringing your horse back into work

Horse Nutrition BR Farm

WITH the longer evenings approaching, some horses are starting back to work after their winter break. As their fitness programme develops, their diet also needs some alterations to meet increased energy and nutrient requirements. Some things to consider when choosing a feed or altering their diet include their condition score, fitness level, type of exercise and feeding levels.

Condition Score

Before making any changes to your horse’s diet, take 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.

Fitness Level

Consider their 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 (Kentucky Equine Research) recommended daily allowance.

Building muscle and developing topline requires high quality protein, including essential amino acids, such as Lysine. These are balanced with key vitamins and minerals to support health and wellbeing and support recovery from training.

Harder work leads to higher demands for energy and other nutrients and so performance feed products are often higher in digestible energy and protein.

Examples:

Bluegrass Re-Lite Cubes: 12 (MJ/kg) Digestible Energy and 10% Protein

Bluegrass Hi-Performance Mix: 13.4 (MJ/kg) Digestible Energy and 14% Protein

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 short release energy is found in higher cereal diets including oats and maize.

Feeding Levels

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 horse’s 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.

Example of feeding levels for Bluegrass Re-Lite Cubes:

Pony (Light Work) – 1-1.5kg

Pony (Moderate Work) – 1.5-2kg

Horse (Light work) – 1.5-2kg

Horse (Moderate work) – 2.5-3kg

All changes to your horse’s diet should be done gradually over seven to 10 days to avoid gastrointestinal disturbances. Diets should be based on high quality forage, fed at a minimum of 2% of body weight per day (dry matter). 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 Bluegrass Horse Feed website and complete the free diet request form for a recommended diet plan from our nutritional advisors, www.bluegrasshorsefeed.com

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