There’s no denying that horses are amazing athletes. Whether it’s running a clover-leaf pattern in sixteen seconds flat, jumping five foot fences, or competing in
50-mile endurance races, many of their feats are truly awe inspiring. But behind every successful performance horse is a successful feeding regimen. After all, the requirements of performance horses differ quite a bit from that of a pasture pony.
No matter the horse’s job, roughage should always make up the majority of the diet. The minimum daily forage intake is 1% of their body weight, but feeding 2% or more of their body weight will better support digestive health. When traveling or while at competitions, it’s especially important to feed roughage beforehand to avoid the development of stomach ulcers.
Energy is provided in three main forms for horses: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Though good-quality forage is a great source of energy (and the most natural form), carbohydrates and fats are the most concentrated and efficient energy sources. Carbohydrates are abundant in grains, green grass, and legume hays. Grass and grains also contain some fat, but adding a healthy oil or supplement such as ground flaxseed is also a good idea.
When it comes to protein, many people believe that more is better. However, protein will be the body’s last source of energy, only if carbohydrates, fats, and fiber are deficient or if there is excess protein in the diet. While protein is needed to build muscle and replace damaged tissue in hard-working horses, excess amounts can increase sweating and urinary water losses, causing dehydration or the risk of tying up.
Another factor to consider is the type of work your horse does as that will help you determine the most effective energy source. If your horse participates in anaerobic exercise—short bursts of maximum effort (think racing, barrel racing, etc.)—this is best fueled by glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrates. However, if your horse participates in low to moderate intensity exercise lasting up to several hours (endurance racing, competitive trail, etc.), this is best fueled by fat.
Minerals and Vitamins
All horses need sufficient minerals and vitamins in their diet, many of which are covered in grass and hay, but hard-working horses can often benefit from vitamin B and possibly vitamin C and E supplementation.
To meet most supplemental mineral/vitamin needs, we recommend our Icelandic Organic Kelp which contains 60 trace minerals, micronutrients, and amino acids, as well as many natural vitamins including vitamins B2, B3 and vitamin C. Hard-working horses can also benefit from Immonuboost Powder which offers vitamins, minerals, and helps to keep the immune system strong. We also offer our organic herbal formula Vyrex for total immune system support.
Bee Pollen is a great source of whole food antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and other nutrients which can aid in building muscle, improving condition and maintaining a healthy blood count.