With temperatures warmer and UK shows and events across all disciplines in full swing again, our horses will be using more energy. Those who tend to run light during their competition season may already be starting to look like they need a little extra support. Keeping track of their body condition and body weight, especially during changes in their routines, can help you detect early fluctuations before they become difficult to manage. Using a weigh tape to measure your horse's bodyweight every fortnight and keeping track of their body condition score at these set intervals is a simple way to start monitoring. If you would like to know more about how to assess your horse’s body condition, we have a post all about it here.
If this is the first summer during which your horse has struggled to hold weight or condition, it might be worth scheduling a health check with your vet to double check there are no underlying concerns, and then reassessing your feeding and routine to look for changes that might have triggered weight loss. If your horse always struggles to hold condition during the competition season due to loss of appetite, there are several things you should cross check to help curb the losses from progressing:
Make sure you are feeding enough energy:
Weight loss, especially during the competition season, can simply be down to an energy deficit which happens when your horse expels more energy than it consumes. All food stuffs have a calorific value – or level of energy that they provide. The more work your horse is in, the more calories it will need to maintain condition. As previously mentioned, warm weather can further increase energy expenditure during work.
Look for feeds that provide more carbohydrates (starch & sugar) if your horse needs quick-release energy for show jumping, polo, and dressage. Higher carbohydrate D&H products can be fed safely at less than 1g per kg of bodyweight per meal if the total feeding rate per day is followed and split into 2-3 meals rather than feeding all concentrate feed at once. Our Competition Cubes and Competition Mix work well to fuel showjumpers and polo ponies, whereas our Performance Concentrate Muesli is a favourite for dressage horses.
If your eventer, hunter, or endurance horse is losing weight and you suspect an energy deficit to be the reason, you should be looking for feeds that provide slow-release energy (brilliant for stamina) with lower carbohydrate content and higher oil and protein inclusions. Staypower Cubes or Muesli are great mainstay products for these types of horses. If you're really trying to keep starch content low In a horse who is prone to gastric ulceration or tying up, consider Elite Sport Muesli or ERS Cubes, and if you're looking for something that will provide more protein throughout the season to prevent condition loss in a horse who commonly trends light, consider Build Up Conditioning Cubes or Build Up Conditioning Mix.
If your diet is just right at the start of the season and you need something to maintain condition as time progresses through the summer, Build & Glow offers a very easy to feed solution. It does not require an underlying diet change, and it can be feed as a complementary product to top-up calories, oil, and protein. It is a non-heating pellet with added vitamin E to help maintain antioxidant balance and often horses find it more palatable than the addition of liquid oil to their diet.
Always offer forage and allow your horse to graze as much as possible:
If grazing is or must be restricted, make sure you're offering forage alternatives by feeding high fibre feeds which are available in a wide variety of formats. In addition to hay or haylage, Kwikbeet, Classic Fibre Cubes, Classic Fibre Mix, Safe & Sound, and our short chop Fibre Range including products with various energy contents and supplements built in can all be sought out to increase the amount of fibre in the diet.
Checking the nutrient content of your hay or grass can help you determine if your horse is receiving adequate calories from their forage, as well as the amount of starch or sugar being consumed per day in cases where this is a concern (i.e. horses prone to laminitis or who are insulin resistant). Forage Is vital for all horses, in order to keep them happy and healthy both at rest and when in hard work or competing.
By ensuring your horse always has access to fresh, clean, water and is kept well hydrated with the addition of high quality and balanced electrolytes daily, and especially after hard exercise, you will help to replace fluids and salts that your horse has lost due to an increase in level of work, especially during the summer months. Our entire Performance Range is formulated with added electrolytes, and our balanced powdered and aromatic Electrolytes can be added in as a supplement on hard work or especially hot days.
Ensure your diet is balanced:
Use a vitamin and mineral supplement to boost micronutrient intake if your product is not fully balanced and consider adding appetite encouraging B vitamins if the increased workload has made your horse lose its appetite. Build Up Conditioning Cubes and Build Up Conditioning Mix are both fully balanced with added B vitamins to help in these cases.
If you would like to discuss your horse's current diet, any of the products mentioned above, or our forage testing services further, please contact our passionate team of nutritional advisors who are fully trained and ready to help, by calling 01832 737300 (option 3) or over live chat on our website, www.dodsonandhorrell.com