Feeding the Winners
High-level performance horses can be the most difficult group of horses to feed because of the different types of horses and the different types of events. Winning is a combination of genetics, nutrition, train, skill and sometimes of touch of good fortune. Producing consistent, winning performances requires that the horse be at its best at the right time. In events where the difference between winning and losing is measured in hundredths of a second or fractions of a point, proper nutrition can the key difference. There are several areas of nutrition that are hot right now for potentially improving the performance of horses. The following is a summary of the ingredients or nutrients that may make a difference:
High fat added fat feeds
The benefits of high fat feeds are being well accepted. High fat feeds may improve endurance, reduce the risk of certain types of metabolic problems, provide energy while having a calming effect on the horse, and reduce the heat load on a horse during hot weather. Vegetable sources such as corn oil, soy oil, canola oil and high fat rice bran are preferred by most owners. Animal fat can be used, but may be less palatable. Extremely high fat (greater than 15% if the total diet) may have sine adverse effect on performance. It requires a minimum of about 2 weeks on a high fat diet to get maximum benefit. At total of 5%-7% fat in the grain portion of the ration produces desirable results. Additional oil or fat can be added to a maximum of 10% of diet.
Lower protein levels
There is very good research and good practical experience to suggest that lower protein levels with proper amino acid balance may improve performance, as it limits the excess nitrogen produces when extra protein is used as an energy source. The first limiting amino acids are lysine, methionine, and oriented horses are going to be fed, depending on the forage or roughage source, a 14% or 12% protein feed with specified lysine and methionine levels. AS we learn more about amino acid requirements, total protein fed may be reduced.
Calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and other trace minerals have received a lot of attention in recent years, particularly in the area of bone growth. There is some evidence that mineral levels in forages may be lower than book values. Phosphorus levels are getting more attention in young horses. Potassium has also gained attention, particularly with HYPP horses. General suggestions are to avoid alfalfa and high molasses feeds. There are so many different opinions on electrolytes. Sodium and chloride from salt are at the top of the list, with potassium and magnesium being included. Event, endurance and race horses are going to require the most careful management. Selenium is definitely of interest to performance horse owners, as it may be useful in the prevention of many exce4ris-related problems (tying-up syndrome, etc.) According to the FDA the maximum amount of selenium allowed in the total diet is 0.3 ppm. Many manufactured feeds are 0.4-0.6 ppm, so when fed as directed with hay, the amount will be at the appropriate level. There are many supplements available with higher levels, so directions should be followed.
Many probiotics products are on the market and in feeds, primarily yeasts and Lactobacillus. These products may improve fiber digestion and maintain appetite, and are a source of B vitamins.
Like many things in the horse industry, success can be a matter of doing simple things very well. Providing a balances diet from high quality feeds which provide adequate water, energy, protein, minerals and vitamins is still the best base upon which to build the winning equine athlete.