Feeding The Race Horse
Dengie for Racehorses
The demands of racing and training mean that racehorses have specialised nutritional requirements. Although nutrition is only one of many factors that influence performance, it is a crucial part as it affects the overall health and well-being of the animal. Introducing a diet that is more sympathetic to the horse's digestive system should help to reduce the risk of digestive disturbances such as colic and gastric ulcers, thereby reducing the amount of lost training time.
The Benefits of Alfalfa
Fibre is often perceived as a necessary evil with most trainers feeding as little as possible to try and avoid filling their horses with bulk. It's important to consider that not all fibres are the same and that some, such as alfalfa, can be of real benefit to the health of your horse's digestive system. The most important factor is that alfalfa is much more digestible than hay and so doesn't create as much 'deadweight'Feeding one of Dengie's ALFA-A RANGE will also provide additional valuable nutrients such as quality protein for muscle development and calcium for bone formation, as alfalfa has a much higher nutritional value than grass hay.
The benefits of alfalfa to digestive system health begin with increased chewing time. Racehorses spend long periods of time in the stable and develop habits such as wood chewing and cribbing that are often caused by a lack of fibre. By feeding ALFA-A ORIGINAL, horses are able to spend longer periods chewing without damaging their stables! More time spent chewing also increases the amount of saliva produced, which is beneficial for regulating the acidity of the horse's stomach which in turn, should help to reduce the risk of gastric ulcers. The addition of alfalfa to the concentrate ration has been shown to slow the rate of passage of the food through the digestive system. This should enable the horse to extract more of the energy and nutrients from the feed helping to keep the total volume of concentrate feed required to a minimum.
Feeds for Horses in TrainingNew Healthy Tummy is the latest addition to the Dengie range that combines key ingredients to help promote a healthy digestive system. Alongside alfalfa which is a natural buffer to acidity, Healthy Tummy also contains Protexin and special calcium and magnesium that also help to regulate acidity. A unique blend of herbs are added to maximise palatability. Healthy Tummy can be used alongside mixes, cubes or balancers for horses in hard levels of work.
The Dengie ALFA-A RANGE can be fed with the concentrate ration to promote enhanced digestion. Dengie ALFA-A OIL contains alfalfa with a soya oil coating and added vitamin E for increased anti-oxidant protection. It is equivalent in energy value to a medium to high energy coarse mix and is particularly useful for promoting improved stamina or helping poor doers to maintain condition. ALFA-A LITE has a low sugar coating which is recommended by Vets for horses with muscle problems such as ERS, previously known as tying-up or azoturia. ALFA-A ORIGINAL is the leading alfalfa feed in the UK and has been popular with trainers for many years. It is useful as a natural balancer to cereals due to its high levels of quality protein and calcium and is often fed to counteract poor quality forages.
Dengie NAKED OATS have a greater energy density than traditional oats due to the absence of the fibrous husk, NAKED OATS provide more energy in a smaller volume of feed. This means that you can feed less, which is better for the health of the digestive tract and particularly useful if you have horses with limited appetites.
All straight cereals are deficient in certain nutrients such as calcium and quality protein, which is why a balancer or supplement needs to be fed alongside. However, incorporating alfalfa into your feeding regime may mean that you can reduce the amount of balancer or supplement that you feed, as it provides many of the nutrients that cereals lack.
A typical diet for a 500kg horse in hard work would be 4kgs of Naked Oats, 2kgs of Dengie Alfa-A Original and 120 grams of Dengie NATURAL VITALITY PERFORMANCE VITS & MINS or 500g Dengie ALFA-A BALANCER plus hay.
Maintaining a Healthy Gut
Racehorses come into contact with lots of other horses which means they are vulnerable to picking up bugs. Combined with the fact that their diets are far removed from what they would consume naturally, the health of the digestive system can be significantly compromised. To promote a healthy digestive system, digestive enhancers that contain yeast, probiotics and prebiotics can be used to promote the good bacteria that are involved in keeping harmful bacteria at bay. Dengie NATURAL VITALITY DIGESTIVE HEALTH PLUS supplement combines all three:
- Yea-Sacc1026 research has shown that adding Yea-Sacc to the diet encourages better fibre digestion which can reduce the amount of indigestible material sitting in the gut. Yea-Sacc is approved by the EU for use in horses
- Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) - a prebiotic which encourages the proliferation of beneficial bacteria that are known to have a fundamental role in gut health
- Brewers yeast provides the key nutrients that the fibre digesting bacteria require to function efficiently
Managing Muscle Problems
Although the cause of muscle problems that have previously been known as Tying-up, Azoturia etc are still not fully understood, research has helped establish trigger factors that are linked to the disease. These include high starch diets, not reducing the feed prior to a rest period, hormonal influences and even viral infections. Equine Rhabdomyolysis Syndrome (ERS) has been identified as a specific disease process that occurs in Thoroughbreds but also Arabs and Standardbreds, and is linked to a calcium irregularity in the muscle cells. There is no evidence to suggest however, that this is related to dietary calcium intake. The following guidelines are therefore suggested for managing racehorses with muscle problems:
- Use as low starch feeds as possible – try to use oil and fibre as energy sources
- Only use cooked cereals
- Warm-up and cool-down horses thoroughly
- Reduce workload if evidence of a viral infection exists
- Reduce feed when workload is decreased
For further advice on feeding horses with muscle problems please click here