FEED MANAGEMENT OF THE PERFORMANCE HORSE IN OFF SEASON

It is common practice in most performance disciplines for horses to have a break in the off season for a well-deserved holiday after what has hopefully been a successful season. Resting has multiple physical as well as psychological benefits for the horse and they often return with increased energy and renewed enthusiasm for their work.

For the resting period to do its job properly feed management needs careful attention. If repair and recovery are going to be successful, then it is essential that a high quality and balanced ration is fed.

We have compiled some of the most Frequently Asked Questions  - answered by Lizzie Drury,  MSc Senior Nutritionist from Saracen Horse feeds, to help guide you through this summer (off-season) period. 

 

Q: What are the advantages of performance horses to have a break in the off-season?

A: The resting period provides physical as well as psychological benefits for the horse, this period helps the horse to regain increased energy and renewed enthusiasm for their work. Time-off can also assist with the healing of niggling injuries, reduce digestive conditions such as gastric ulcers and hindgut acidosis and prevent weight loss - Therefore improving overall physical health and soundness.

Q: What are the feed management needs for endurance and performance horses in the desert?

A: These horses need to eat optimum amounts of long forage i.e. fiber to help maintain normal digestive function. Endurance - as well as racehorses tend to finish the season with less than optimum digestive health, this is mainly due to the different feeding regimes and stresses that they are exposed to -  so forage would need to feature high on the priority list during the resting period.

Q:  Here in the UAE most horses won't have access to natural pastures and thus may not consume enough fiber, leading to underlying digestive issues. How can this situation be avoided?

A:  a Combination of the following should be considered:

  • Offer plenty of a Timothy Hay, but also offer a couple of alternative fiber products such as the Saracen Super Fiber Mix. This product's live yeast and “Super-Fibre” inclusion supports gut health and aids gut mobility.  Let the horse browse between the different forages and this will increase their total fiber intake.
  • Provide feeds that are specifically formulated to be low in energy but nutrient dense with regards to the variety of ‘super fibers’ (Soya Hulls, Alfalfa, Sugar Beet Pulp), good quality protein ie Alfalfa Soya and contains high oil sources,  such as Saracen Arabian Summer Mix. Arabian Summer Mix is formulated to provide a source of ‘safe and non-heating’ calories that will help to restore overall body condition and replenish glycogen stores. This product also  provides  essential amino acids for cell renewal, tissue and muscle repair.
  • Horses that are more digestive-ly challenged additional supplementation may be of benefit. These supplements include live yeasts, pre-and probiotics.

Q: When a horse come back from their break, what positive horse conditioning  changes should be expected?

A: The horse ideally should have gained a conditioning score in the region of 4 (when using the 0 to 5 condition scoring system). If feed and work are managed hand in hand it -  these horses ultimately stand a better chance of maintaining optimum bodyweight through the competition season, without losing too much condition very early on.

Remember that  any diet and training programme should be adapted and altered depending on the individual horse’s training and setbacks such as injuries or illnesses.

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Source: Saracen Horse Feeds