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When you’re preparing your horse for a competition, there’s a lot to think about and prepare. Aside from the obvious considerations, such as your horse’s level of fitness and whether you’ve remembered to pack all your tack, it’s important to think about their diet and check that they are getting the right nutrition to fuel their work.
You might be tempted to increase hard feed the night before in order to boost your horse’s energy on the big day, but can this really help their performance? The answer is probably not and, warns Allen & Page nutritionist Jo Palmer, it can have serious implications for your horse’s health if you don’t make changes to feed gradually.
Increasing energy levels
Suddenly increasing your horse’s feed is not likely to have any significant effect on energy levels the next day, and could cause problems such as tying up or colic from overfeeding and making abrupt changes to their diet, continues Jo.
Gradually increasing the energy content of your horse’s diet over several weeks as their fitness and energy requirements increase is the best way to ensure they have sufficient energy for both training and competing.
Always feed according to your horse’s individual requirements and choose a feed that matches their energy needs, while also taking into account their temperament and natural energy levels.
Any extra energy in the horse’s diet that isn’t used up through exercise will lead to weight gain, which is an important consideration if they are a good-doer.
Feeding a fizzy guy
If your horse is naturally forward going and can become fizzy and excitable, avoid feeds containing whole cereal grains and added sugars as these are sources of fast-release energy.
Instead, choose a feed that is low in starch and sugar and uses high-quality fiber and oil ingredients to provide plenty of slow-release energy to fuel work and maintain body condition.
If your horse is a more laid-back character, they may benefit from a feed that contains a small amount of fast-release energy. This instant energy can be useful to give the extra ‘oomph’ and ring presence needed for a successful performance.
Meet the expert: Jo Palmer has a BSc (Hons) in agriculture with animal science and is a member of the Allen & Page nutrition team. Her experience as a nutritionist helps guide horse owners on feeds and feeding.
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