There is no doubt that training and competing place stress on the horse’s digestive system and the aim of those feeding and managing working horses is therefore to find a balance between health and performance.
Feeding sympathetically is key and using as much fibre as possible and keeping cereals to a minimum will help to promote a healthy digestive system and reduce the risk of issues such as ulcers and laminitis. Nutritionists are one element of the team of people that can help you to maximise your horse’s potential so make use of the advice and information that is available to you.
Yes – but you need to choose the right type of fibre! More digestible sources of fibre include high temperature dried alfalfa, high temperature dried grasses and sugar beet and so it is these types of fibre that should be used for horses in harder work. Straw is a less digestible fibre source, very low energy and compared to a high temperature dried fibre not as clean which is significant for respiratory health. Straw is therefore less appropriate as a fibre source for a horse in hard work.
Dengie Alfa-A Oil at 12.5MJ/kg digestible energy provides as much energy as a competition mix or cube, but without the starch. Dengie Alfa-Beet can be added alongside to provide an additional source of highly digestible fibre and the ration balanced by the addition of Performance Vits & Mins or Performance+ Balancer to complete the ration. Dengie’s supported riders are proof that a horse in harder work can indeed work on a fibre only ration!
The first step is to help her break down the fibrous part of her diet as efficiently as possible. Using a digestive supplement that contains ingredients such as yeast and prebiotics will help to establish a healthy population of microbes in the gut that the horse relies on to digest fibre. The more energy the horse can obtain from the fibre, the less need there is likely to be to use more concentrated sources of energy such as cereals.
The next step is to feed ad lib forage. Ad lib means that your horse always has forage available – so if you turned up at 3am would there still be some hay or haylage in their stable for them to eat? With regard to the bucket feed, select a feed high in fibre and oil as the main source of energy in the ration. Adding highly digestible fibre sources such as sugar beet (Dengie Alfa-Beet) is also beneficial and studies have shown also helps to improve the digestibility of other fibre sources in the diet. Additional high oil feeds such as micronized linseed can be added to provide more energy and should be used in preference to cereal based feeds.
Yes – providing it is fibre based. The advice is to give a scoop of chopped fibre within 30 minutes prior to exercise. This recommendation is given to make sure that the fibrous mat within the horse’s stomach is maintained to reduce acid splashing about in the stomach. Acid splash in the squamous or non-glandular lining of the horse’s stomach is linked to gastric ulceration. Ideally this chopped fibre should include alfalfa as research has shown that alfalfa particularly is a superior buffer to acidity within the digestive tract.
Hi-Fi Senior combines chopped high temperature dried grasses and alfalfa with a light molasses and oil coating. Hi-Fi Senior was formulated to be soft and easy to chew for the veteran horse with dental problems, but is in fact suitable for horses of any age. Hi-Fi Senior can be particularly useful for the fussy performance horse as it is softer and naturally sweeter than a pure alfalfa product due to the inclusion of grass. Hi-Fi Senior can also be used to partially or totally replace forage and so is a useful alternative when a horse is fussy with forage or only poor quality forage is available. In addition to this both the alfalfa and grasses in Hi-Fi Senior are high temperature dried producing a very clean source of forage for respiratory health. An alternative to Hi-Fi Senior is Performance Fibre which also combines high temperature dried grasses and alfalfa with a molasses and oil coating as well as added spearmint. Due to a higher oil level Performance Fibre can only be used as a partial hay replacer.
The performance horse relies on their lungs to provide the oxygen that enables muscles to function and energy metabolism to occur. If the lungs aren’t healthy, the supply of oxygen may simply not be as good as it could be and performance could be compromised.
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