The intense work associated with training and racing mean a racehorse requires a specialist diet that balances health and performance. It’s important that when identifying and choosing horse feed, a suitable diet is put together to help to reduce the risk of digestive problems, including gastric ulcers and colic. These digestive disturbances can reduce training time and compromise performance. So, what are the top tips for feeding racehorses?
For A Healthy Gut
With racehorses regularly travelling across the country and even abroad, they come into contact with a lot of other horses. This means that they are at a higher risk of being exposed to harmful bugs which can compromise their health. Prebiotics and yeast are digestive aids that can be used to promote a healthy digestive system as well as aid the horse’s overall immunity – the good bacteria in the gut help to keep harmful species at bay.
Historically, trainers tend to feed low levels of fibre as they perceive that it results in bulk or deadweight sitting in the digestive tract. However, not all fibres are the same and those that are more digestible, such as alfalfa and sugar beet are broken down much more quickly and so don’t create ‘deadweight’. High quality sources of fibre add valuable nutrients to a racehorses’ diet, such as protein for muscle development and calcium for bone formation.
A lack of fibre restricts the amount of time a horse spends chewing and to compensate, horses can develop behavioural problems such as cribbing and weaving. Using a high-quality fibre source such as alfalfa increases chew time, so racehorses can spend longer chewing, as opposed to damaging their stables and themselves.
More chew time also increases the amount of saliva produced. Saliva helps to regulate acidity in the horses’ stomach, which should help to reduce the risk of gastric ulcers; a common problem in racehorses.
Feeding To Reduce The Risk Of Muscle Problems
ERS is an umbrella term for a collection of muscle issues that have trigger factors including high starch diets, viral infections, hormonal influences and not reducing the feed intake during rest periods. It’s imperative to manage muscle problems to optimise the performance of racehorses.
Some feeding advice to help manage this includes:
- Ensuring that feed is reduced when workload is decreased.
- Making sure that horses are warmed-up and cooled-down thoroughly.
- If there is evidence of a viral infection, reduce workload.
- Feed low starch feeds. Use fibre and oil as sources of energy.
- Seek veterinary advice if there are recurrent or severe attacks.
- If feeding fibre-based rations, make sure that the diet is balanced.
- Try to keep stress to a minimum.
For more information regarding what to feed racehorses, speak to an equine nutritionist, who can advise you on the best feed for each horse individually. Whether they are in training and you want to promote a healthy digestive system, or you’re looking to manage muscle problems for racehorses, equine nutritionists can provide you with all the information you need.