Feeding for Performance without Starch
Finally the summer months have arrived and at this time of year many of us get to spend more time in the saddle. With the competition season in full swing many horse owners are contacting the Dengie Feedline to ask for feeding advice and one of the main questions asked is how to provide sufficient energy for competition without the fizz.
One of the first things to understand is that all horses are individuals and some horses even when in regular competition may not need higher energy feeds to support their bodyweight and workload. It is equally important to be honest about how much extra work you are actually doing as supplying more energy than your horse needs is one reason for over-exuberant behaviour.
The type of energy supplied in the ration may also influence your horse's behaviour. Traditionally cereal based feeds that provide a concentrated source of starch have been used to meet the extra energy demands of competition. Starch provides 'quick release' energy as it is rapidly broken down to glucose which then passes into the bloodstream. This resulting peak in blood glucose is anecdotally linked to more over-exuberant or fizzy behaviour. So what’s the alternative?
For naturally fizzy competition horses and ponies it makes sense to keep the amount of starch in the ration to a minimum and instead rely on feeds based on 'slow release' energy sources such as fibre and oil to meet energy demands. This has additional benefits for all competition horses as research suggests that feeding large quantities of starch at the expense of fibre is not the most appropriate way to manage our horses and has been linked to many problems including gastric ulcers, laminitis and muscle problems.
The Dengie Alfa-A range of fibre based feeds are an ideal alternative to traditional concentrate feeds even for horses in hard work. The Alfa-A range of products are all based on pure alfalfa which is a very digestible source of fibre that naturally has an energy or 'calorie' level comparable to a cool or pasture mix/cube, but without the starch. Most cool mixes, even those promoted as 'non-heating', will provide around 18-22% starch compared to on average less than 2% in the Alfa-A range of feeds.
As well as providing 'slow release' energy, using a ration based on Dengie fibre feeds also helps to satisfy the horse's psychological need to chew as it takes much longer to eat a fibre based feed compared to the same weight of a mix or cube. Increased chewing time also promotes saliva production which is important to neutralise gastric acid helping to reduce the risk of gastric ulcers. Recent research supported by Dengie has shown that alfalfa specifically is also an excellent natural buffer to acid produced in the horse's digestive tract.
For competition horses in hard work or that struggle to maintain weight a combination of Dengie Alfa-A Oil and Alfa-Beet can be used. Dengie Alfa-A Oil is pure alfalfa with a soya oil coating and added vitamin E. Alfa-A Oil has a calorie level comparable to a competition mix/cube, but without the starch. As Alfa-A Oil provides fibre and oil it is the ultimate form of 'slow release' energy which is excellent for promoting stamina and condition without the fizz.
Dengie Alfa-Beet combines alfalfa and unmolassed sugar beet to produce a highly digestible source of fibre which also provides 'slow release' energy. With a convenient 15 minute hot soak or 2 hour cold soak time, Alfa-Beet is also an effective way to supply energy for competition or condition without the fizz. As Alfa-Beet is fed soaked it is also useful for helping to aid hydration and is an easy way to mask the taste of electrolytes or to encourage your horse to drink when travelling and competing away from home.
Case Study Goodnight Mr Tom
Mr Tom is a 16.2hh gelding who competes in affiliated dressage. Mr Tom has always struggled to maintain his weight, but when his owner tries to address this by using higher energy feeds Mr Tom becomes much more excitable.
- Alfa-A Oil 2kgs (approx 5 large round scoops)
- Alfa-Beet 0.5kg (approx 1/3 scoop dry weight before soaking)
- Natural Vitality Performance Vits & Mins 1 measure from the tub
If you have a competition horse in medium work or that maintains weight with ease, Dengie Alfa-A Original or Alfa-A Lite may be a more appropriate option. Alfa-A Original is based on pure alfalfa with a light molasses coating and has a calorie level comparable to a cool or pasture mix/cube. Alfa-A Lite offers all the benefits of Alfa-A Original, but with less sugar and is based on pure alfalfa with a low sugar coating and mint flavouring and is suitable for horses and ponies that require a low sugar ration such as those prone to laminitis.
Case Study Blue
Blue is a 10 year old Dutch Warmblood gelding competing at novice and elementary level affiliated dressage. Blue can be prone to being very 'stressy' and excitable and as his workload was going to become vary variable as his owner was expecting a baby she contacted the Feedline for advice.
- Alfa-A Lite 1kg (approx 2-3 large round scoops)
- Alfa-Beet 0.5kg (approx 1/3 scoop dry weight)
- Natural Vitality Performance Vits & Mins 1 ½ measures from the tub
When feeding an entirely fibre based ration or less than recommended of a feed with added vitamins and minerals it is important to top up with an additional vitamin and mineral supplement. The increased workload of horses in medium to hard work means they require a higher specification supplement than leisure horses and ponies. Performance Vits & Mins is a high-specification, broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement with a full range of B vitamins and chelated trace minerals for improved absorption.
To help your horse make the most of a fibre based ration and to help the digestive system cope with some of the challenges that competition and travel bring Natural Vitality Digestive Health Plus can also be added to the ration. Dengie Natural Vitality Digestive Health Plus is a prebiotic, probiotic and yeast all in one supplement that helps to promote efficient digestion and support of hind gut bacteria.
For advice on feeding your competition horse this summer contact the Dengie Feedline on 0845 345 5115 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to see how feeding a fibre based ration worked for Lincolnshire based horse trainers and rehabilitators Fred and Rowena Cook.