Should I feed my horse before I ride?

Do you avoid feeding your horse before a ride? Here Clare Barfoot, equine nutritionist at Spillers, explains why feeding your horse before a ride can be beneficial. 

Q: I've always thought that feeding before riding was a bad idea, but I read the other day that this isn't necessarily the case anymore. I have a 15hh cob who's a good-doer. What should I be feeding before I ride?

A: The advice to not feed before a ride has been included in the 'Golden Rules of Feeding' for many years, but our knowledge has moved on and feeds have changed.

This rule came about when horses tended to be fed large cereal-based meals, which laid heavily in the stomach, restricted lung function and required a lot of digestive effort.

As feeds have become more fibre-based and are often fed alongside chopped fibre, there's increasing evidence to suggest a beneficial effect to feeding this time of meal before exercise.

Exercise, particularly fast intense exercise, can increase pressure in the stomach causing the acidic contents to rise in the stomach.

In addition, the physical movement can cause acid to splash up onto the more delicate unprotected upper part of the stomach.

This intermittent exposure to stomach acid can produce inflammation and contribute to ulcers forming. 

Current advice is to feed long fibre (such as hay) or a small meal of chopped fibre (alfalfa) before exercise, especially if it's going to include fast work.

As your cob is a good-doer, opt for a scoop of low calorie chopped fibre or alfalfa before you ride.

You should also provide him with a balancer on a daily basis to make sure his diet remains balanced.