Feeding for ex-racehorses
06 August 2012 17:29
Re-schooling is not the only requirement for a thoroughbred fresh out of race training. The ex-racehorse may also have a number of physical and behavioural issues that first need to be addressed and these may well be due to the diet he’s previously been fed. Making gradual yet significant adjustments to his feed is therefore a priority.
For example, a high level of fibre in the diet is key to fulfilling the needs of all horses both physically and mentally. Despite this, the heightened energy requirement of racehorses means that their diets are typically high in fast release energy-giving foods, such as cereals, but low in forage and fibre. Indeed, many racehorses are fed more in volume (weight) of concentrates alone each day than his non-racing counterpart and this high-starch, high-sugar method of feeding goes against the horse’s natural way of feeding and can disrupt the digestive process - resulting in problems such as gastric ulcers and colic.
Fibre is a structural carbohydrate, meaning that, although like other carbohydrates such as starch it’s made up of glucose, the way in which the glucose units are linked together is different. The digestive enzymes produced by the horse cannot break down these links, so the horse relies on micro-organisms in the hind gut to break down fibrous material. This process produces slow-release energy that the horse can then utilise, either straight away or for later by storing it as fat.
As it’s slow release energy being supplied, a high fibre diet is particularly recommended for horses prone to becoming over-excited, such as thoroughbreds, especially those that need to gain weight without becoming too lively. By feeding a fibre-based diet and keeping starch and sugar levels to a minimum, you can be sure that your horse receives his necessary energy requirements without running the risk of over-fuelling him – giving you much calmer horses to work with.
Keep it simple
Simplifying your horse’s feeding system into one that’s based, for example, around fibre and oil can not only improve the health of the horse but can also save money and take much of the confusion out of feeding. A fibre-based diet will address a lot of issues(coupled with a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer depending on amounts fed) and at much less cost.
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