29 Jun What I’ve Learnt about Feeding the Performance Horse
“If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt over the past few years of feeding a team of show jumping performance horses, it’s this: keep it simple, stupid (KISS)! Don’t get me wrong – equine nutrition is an extremely broad topic that involves complex bodily processes… However, as we all know, horses have evolved to survive and thrive on a natural diet; the more that we can adhere to this, the better.”
In particular, the horse’s digestive system is designed to have roughage (in the form of grass/hay) passing through almost constantly. This fibre is critical to the health of your equine athlete, and should make up the majority of their diet. At the moment, all my horses are out 24/7. We are lucky enough here in Australia to have mild weather conditions that allow this – and I’m personally lucky to have access to a large paddock with excellent feed!
On top of this diet of regular forage, it’s important to ensure that their daily protein, fats, vitamin + mineral needs are met. The good thing is, there are feed companies out there that have produced feeds that are developed by experts and backed by research, taking the confusion out for the end user. As long as you’re feeding the right quantities, it’s extremely unlikely that your horse will be lacking in anything on the nutrient side of things if you’re feeding a ‘complete’ feed.
I choose to feed Thompson & Redwood Claytons Pellets (low grain, high fibre pellet) to my show jumpers, and Thompson & Redwood Grower Weaner Pellets to my foal (high protein and nutritionally balanced for growing young horses). These are both complete pelleted feeds, meaning that no other supplements are required. Not only that, but they are made fresh from local ingredients here in Western Australia – unlike many of the other commercial feeds on the market! My mum’s older horse is also fed Thompson & Redwood Horse Cubes, which are high fibre and high calorie (perfect for senior horses).
On top of these basic equine nutrition principles, the two key things I’ve learnt to keep in mind for performance horses is to provide the right amount of energy for the work they’re doing, and to supplement their feed with electrolytes (especially when undergoing hard work). You can assess how much energy they require by monitoring condition as workload is increased or contacting someone from your feed company for advice. Make sure they also have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
In saying that, I’ve also learnt that there’s not ‘one’ right way of feeding. Just like humans, every horse is different, with different metabolisms and feeding preferences. Stick to the basic feeding principles though, and you will be on the right track! Feeding really shouldn’t be rocket science (again, KISS), especially with the wealth of information and expertly manufactured complete feeds out there.