Tips for that last push in the competition season

11th August 2019

No matter the level or discipline you are competing in, reassessing your horse’s diet regularly is good practice. The aim throughout the season is to make small dietary adjustments when required. This can be managed by evaluating your horse’s current body fat and weight, in relation to their daily exercise on a regular basis. In order to do monitor this easily, use a body condition score system and weigh tape fortnightly; this will allow you to monitor even small fluctuations in weight and body fat.

For tips on body condition scoring, see our recent article found on https://www.dodsonandhorrell.com/news/fat-scoring

Which feeds should I consider for my performance horse?

The Dodson & Horrell Performance range of feeds are suitable for a wide variety of horses, whether they be competing in Eventing, Showjumping, Showing or Dressage. The choice of feed is entirely individual and is predominantly based on workload and work-type, the temperament of the horse, specific dietary requirements and current body condition. This range of feeds provides essential nutrients for the medium to hard-working horse; including elevated levels of vitamin E. Vitamin E is often limited in the horse’s natural diet and is useful to support immunity and recovery in performance horses and those travelling regularly. Within the Dodson & Horrell Performance range there are diets based around oil and fibre sources; for horses requiring steady-release energy to support stamina. For those that require more quick-release energy, choosing feeds that contain a higher cereal and starch content would be more suitable. For sharp, nervous horses or those that require a lower starch diet, consider the Dodson & Horrell Elite Sport Muesli or ERS Cubes.

My horse is starting to look lean and still has a few competitions to go.

For most horses, weight loss can be easily rectified by increasing total calorie intake by simply upping the feed and forage provided; making large dietary changes isn’t always ideal when you are mid-season. For those that are struggling to maintain their body weight towards the end of the season, providing an additional feed in the day can easily boost calorie intake without making their meals too large; meal sizes should not exceed 2kg for a 500kg horse. If you are already feeding 3 to 4 times per day and it is not possible to increase feed quantities further, a change in feed may be the best option. However, another alternative would be to utilise oils to top up calories without increasing feed volume significantly. An excellent option would be Dodson & Horrell’s Build & Glow. This is a high oil, pelleted supplement fed at just 100g per 100kg bodyweight per day and includes additional Vitamin E; an important consideration when increasing the fat content of a horses’ diet. The most important rule of feeding is to ensure a horse’s forage requirement is met to maintain healthy digestive function. Recommended intake is a minimum of 2% of body weight in dry matter per day. Sometimes horses in heavier work can go off their forage; consider using chaffs and soluble fibre sources such as sugar beet pulp to help meet your horses’ daily fibre intake.

My horse is maintaining weight well but is lacking in energy, and needs some extra sparkle in the ring.

Although it is tempting to increase the amount of feed when your horse is feeling flat, you could be encouraging unnecessary weight gain which can equally have negative effects on your horse’s energy levels. Firstly, ensure that your horse is at a healthy bodyweight, aiming for a body condition score of 3 out of 5. Secondly, make sure that your horse is receiving a fully balanced diet on a daily basis. Check that your feeds are providing vitamins as well as micro and macro minerals in the correct amounts to meet the requirements of your horse. B vitamins are often included in performance feeds to support energy utilisation. When your horse has been working hard or travelling longer distances, replacing electrolytes using a supplement is essential to support your horses’ recovery. Salt is good for replacing Sodium and Chloride but bear in mind that the electrolytes are Sodium, Chloride, Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium so a supplement that includes all five of these would be best. Dodson & Horrell’s Performance Concentrate Muesli is a good option for competition horses that maintain weight easily and need a lower intake performance feed. Performance Concentrate Muesli keeps calories controlled, whilst ensuring your horse still receives a fully balanced diet with several support supplements. If you are finding feeding tricky towards the end of your competition schedule, then please contact our friendly Nutritional Advisors at Dodson & Horrell.

Article written by Pauline Smith, Dodson & Horrell Nutritional Advisor 

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