Performance horses are defined as any horses that work five or more days out of the week. And they need plenty of energy, along with all the fiber, vitamins, and minerals that horses need to look and function at their best. You can help your horse work at its best and recover well by making sure their electrolytes, food, and supplements are optimal. This guide will cover what you need to know.
All horses need water and electrolytes, particularly after sweating through a training session or a competition. Your horse should always have access to plenty of clean, fresh water, but that alone is not enough. To replace electrolytes, make sure the horse has food like grasses, clover, and alfalfa. These are all high in most of the necessary electrolytes.
Grain, on the other hand, does not have much in the way of electrolytes and is never the optimal feed for a performance horse. Your horse has everything it needs to properly digest grasses and legumes; it did not evolve to eat grain, after all. It is important to note that neither grain nor grass has much sodium, which is an essential electrolyte. Your horse needs access to plain salt as well.
Horses need both carbohydrates and fat to function at optimum levels. A horse does not have a gallbladder and can therefore only handle a diet of around 10 percent fat. Fat and carbohydrates should come packed with fiber for optimal digestion and energy storage, and because fiber itself provides energy that a horse can readily use.
An excellent way to get carbohydrates (and fiber in particular) is through green grasses and legumes. Whenever possible, use fresh hay. The fresher the hay, the better the quality of the fiber and carbohydrates.
Neither grain nor hay has much in the way of fat, so it’s important to make sure the horse has access to legumes, which are better sources. It is also possible to supplement with vegetable oils, but again, this should not be more than 10 percent of your horse’s diet.
A note on protein
All horses need protein, but not at same dietary level as humans or carnivores (such as dogs or cats). A horse generally only uses protein for energy if there aren’t enough carbohydrates, fats, or fibers in their system to use instead.
Burning protein as an energy source makes more heat than sugar or fat, and also releases ammonia. This means a horse using protein for energy is more likely to suffer dehydration and rhabdomyolysis, or tying up.
Protein needs to be approximately eight to 12 percent of your horse’s diet, though working horses can tolerate more. The total amount of protein in the diet should not go above 14 percent, and there is typically enough protein in soybean meal, clover, and similar types of feed to meet the horse’s general needs.
Supplementing for recovery
All animals who work are under stress. Stress in itself is not a bad thing, and horses, like humans, live and thrive longer when under optimal amounts of stress. The key is managing stress and recovery and supplementing them with quality formulas like Equinety.
Horses graze, but they are also highly active animals unless compelled to remain still. In the wild, a feral horse will naturally move 30 to 80 kilometers over the course of just one day. Hard working horses benefit from supplemented amino acids that enhance muscle recovery.
A good supplement supplies amino acids such as glycine, which is necessary for converting glucose to energy, and L-isoleucine, which improves the oxygen-carrying ability of hemoglobin to enhance muscle recovery after exercise.
A diet and supplement that provides optimum nutrition will not only enhance performance, but also minimize the chances of your horse developing a health issue or sustaining an injury.