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New Year, New Diet

Although horses don’t suffer from the alcohol and unhealthy or excessive food intake that we often do over Christmas, New Year is a good time to overhaul their diets too. Reassess your horse’s performance throughout 2019 and question their diet and feeding regime. Could it be healthier, cheaper, more effective, less wasteful?

Making your feeding goals for 2020

If you’ve kept a diary of performance – not necessarily competition but just how your horse felt and any problems they had – you will be able to look back and assess what didn’t work and what did work. If not, consider these aspects. Then come up with a goal for what you want from your horse’s feeding regime in 2020. Once you have a goal, you’ll be able to make informed choices about what type of regime and which feed and/or supplement products to buy. Your goal may be to avoid the weight loss that your horse has every year towards the end of the eventing season, to make feeding cheaper for you, to improve your horse’s health and welfare and avoid the gastric ulcers they suffered from last year, or perhaps you are competing for the first time in affiliated competitions and need to make sure you’re working within competition rules about prohibited substances. 

How to assess the performance of a diet or feeding regime

The most important way to assess performance or if a certain feeding regime or diet is working for you and your horse is to keep records. You need to monitor your horse and ideally keep a diary. In this way you’ll be able to more accurately assess whether that regime is working for them (and you) or not. This might be calculating the cost of feeding per day, measuring hoof growth rate (or asking your farrier to!) and will definitely include monitoring their body condition and their response to your training regime, in terms of energy including stamina. 

What’s a healthy diet for a horse?

A healthy diet for a horse is one which:

  • Supplies all the essential nutrients required every day
  • Supplies enough fibre
  • Supplies as many essential nutrients as possible from forage
  • Fulfils the horse’s behavioural needs including the need to chew 
  • Avoids more than a 4 hour fast at any time
  • Limits nutrients that could overwhelm digestive or healthy physiological capacities e.g. starch and sugar

In summary:

  • Make feeding goals for 2020 by assessing your horse’s health and performance last year, and working out what you are looking for this year
  • After you’ve made and implemented your plan, make sure you carefully monitor your horse regularly so you can assess your new feeding regime
  • Don’t be scared to try a different way of feeding, but do give any new system at least several weeks before assessing its effectiveness
  • If you’re going to be competing at affiliated level, be sure to buy products with the BETA NOPS logo, which shows due diligence in doing all you can to reduce the risk of your horse have prohibited substances in his body
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