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Feeding Trial Riding Horse And Racehorse

Feeding Trial Riding Horse And Racehorse

Postby Scott » Sun Feb 09, 2014 11:49 am

hello sir, what all should be fed to a trial riding horse and a racehorse
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Joined: Wed Feb 05, 2014 1:54 pm

Feeding Trial Riding Horse And Racehorse

Postby Barrlow » Mon Feb 10, 2014 8:18 am

Hi Caine,

Below is the answers for you. The first part concerns racehorses and the second cocerns pleasure or trail horses. There is alot of info there and I hope it answers your question.

Race horses:

Over the past 50 years the physical performance of the racehorse has improved very little. Compare that with the human athlete the past 50 years and you observe a dramatic inequality. Yes, speeds over common distances have improved some, but comparatively small when you compare any improvements to the human athlete. Despite the sophisticated breeding programs to promote horses with greater racing ability there is very little measurable improvements. Furthermore, to many of our equine athletes succumb to crippling injuries with 95% of these brought on by fatigue and compromised skeletal systems.

The performance of humans improves yearly, monthly and in particular cases even daily in some athletic events. Why? It is the constant development in nutrition and training regimens. Horses can also be expected to perform better if they are properly conditioned, fed a diet with the proper "fuel"(energy) and other nutrients needed to do the work.

A horse that is "dead fit" and fed with the proper "fuel", will run as fast as genetically possible if that horse has "heart". Many people believe "heart" is size - but "heart" is closely related to "fuel" and fitness. If the horse has the available "fuel"(energy) and the nutrients necessary to use that energy, the horse can voluntarily run faster and perform at a higher level than horses with insufficient "fuel" and other nutrients to perform this task.

When our racehorses nutritional requirements are met with accurate nutrient requirements, better feed management and proper training regimens, performances will be improved over the status quo of unbalanced feeding programs, irregular amounts and at inappropriate times.

Race Bred Prospects

The goal: To produce and maintain a successful racehorse.  Winning is important but preparation is vital.

This process starts soon after the foal is delivered.  Two vital goals are: Promote early growth and sound skeletal formation. Thus the weanling can't have the same diet as the yearling and the yearling can't have the same diet as the 2-year old. Long yearlings in training must be given a different nutrient mix than yearlings not being exercised.

A recent study of 58 farms raising 2,000 thoroughbred and quarter horse race bred prospects revealed a common detrimental feeding practice: The farms are failing to feed the high ratio of concentrate(grains, fat, etc) to hay necessary for weanlings to develop to high-class racehorses. 90% of the farms were trying to grow weanlings by feeding more hay than concentrate. 44% of these young horses were deficient in amino acids, unbalanced in their mineral concentrations or in mineral ratios.

Concentrate to hay ratios: Weanlings 70%/30%; Yearlings 60%/40%; Long Yearling(In training) 60%/40%; 2-Yr Old(In training) 55%/45%

Overfeeding hay and unbalanced concentrate will combine to give the "pot-belly" appearance you see so often.

Yearlings that are not being conditioned for sale can achieve a moderate rate of growth on improved pasture. A yearlings digestive system can tolerate more roughage than a weanling. For yearlings being conditioned for sale or being retained for pre-race training have significantly different requirements. These yearlings need a concentrate with a minimium of 14% crude protein; 0.6% lysine; 0.7% calcium; 0.4% phosphorus; 7% or more fiber; not more than 1.4 megacalories of digestible energy per pound. Once intense training or forced excersice begins, the feeding program should be analyzed again.

Horses In Race Training

Researchers have recently found that the fuel supply to the muscles and the horses ability to use that fuel, may be altered by different ingredients in the diet, including glycogen(carbohydrates) and vitamin B-15 and fats.

Racehorses require twice as much "fuel"(energy) as a do non-working horses. If more energy is taken out than put in, you will have an under-performing racehorse. During regular training and racing, a racehorse must perform both aerobic and anaerobic work. Aerobic work occurs during exercise in which the heart rate doesn't exceed about 150 bpm. In aerobic work the horse is able to get enough oxygen to the tissues to burn fat as a fuel source. During anaerobic work(heartbeat typically above 200 bpm), the horse is unable to rely totally on fat as a fuel source. For this work it must rely primarily on blood glucose and liver and muscle glycogen. In a race or hard work, the horse primarily uses carbohydrates(glucose/glycogen) and fat.  A horse with a reserve amount of glycogen, glucose(carbohydrates) and fat will work harder and delay fatigue. To meet the short duration, high-speed requirements of anaerobic exercise, it is critical that a racehorse receive enough readily available energy from carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose and store energy in the form of muscle glycogen.

This energy must be managed at a safe level to the horse.  A horse in intense training has very high energy requirements and usually has trouble getting enough energy from conventional feeding routines. The racehorse also needs a comparatively large amount of digestible starch in their diet to meet aerobic and particularly anaerobic exercise. Soluable carbohydrates such as oats, barley and corn can be mixed together to produce concentrates of varying energy concentrations. Cereal grains should be processed - either ground or "cooked" - to promote digestion in the small intestine and to insure high amounts of glucose are absorbed. When horses deplete their muscle fuel stores(carbohydrates) they are unable to work at a high-level.

Many studies have proven that adding fat to the diet increases the racehorses ability to store fuel, thus better work performance. Fat adds safe energy concentration. Start with about 10% fat in the feed concentrate. Although the amount of energy supplied daily is important, of greater importance is preparing the horse for short term, high-velocity, anerobic work.

NOTE: To achieve maximum performance in a racehorse, feed a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet...NOT a high-fat, high-fiber diet.

Remember: The energy requirements for work take precedence over the storage of fat as energy. Animals that are not fed enough energy to maintain body weight will use the energy stored in body tissues...including muscle glycogen stores. A thin or under-weight horse may not be physiologically able to exercise strenuously because it does not have enough energy.

For thin horses exercising , adding fat to the diet increases the glycogen stores within the muscle. Feeding fat tot eh racehorse, even with a reduced body condition, will add stamina due to the increase glycogen levels.

Lower fiber feeds are usually more energy dense than higher fiber feeds. If you are feeding a good quality hay, no additional fiber is necessary for the racehorse. Horses that are calorie deficient cannot run with the same intensity as those with energy from concentrate and glycogen stored in muscles. Furthermore, excess body fat increases thermal stress on the horse, but a fat-supplemented diet reduces the thermal stress on a horse. Thus it is important to maintain the horse in lean condition, but not "ribby".

Feed them a fat-supplemented diet with adequate carbohydrates  and you will likely see an improvement in the horses performance, with fewer injuries and less fatigue.


Some attention to protein is important, but generally should not be the most critical consideration for racehorses. Protein is often fed under the misconception that the crude protein in concentrate should be raised as the racehorse level of activity increases. Horses do require a small increase in protein for optimum production and performance, but having a high concentrate of protein in a mature racehorse diet can do more harm than good. A balanced diet of concentrate will provide adequate protein as long as the horses energy levels are being supplied with additional feed intake.

Adding supplemental fat to the concentrate reduces the protein levels. A 12% protein feed is sufficient when no fat is added to the feed. Use a 14% protein feed when adding supplemental fat for energy stores. This is especially important for 2-year olds since they are still growing.

Feeding high protein diets to mature racehorses is useless. Giving more protein than it requires creates metabolic stress on the horse and is an unnecessary expense.


Vitamin needs are not as defined in horses and many other species. Saying that, vitamin supplementation is of great interest to racehorse owners, to the extend that vitamins are many times grossly overfed. Excess vitamin supplementation does not improve performance and in fact, can be dangerous or toxic. Nevertheless, horses need enough vitamins to supply their needs.

Vitamin A: Horses obtain significant amounts of fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K through high-quality hay. Vitamin A helps maintain normal eating behaviour and respiratory health. However excessive vitamin A may eventually lead to bone weakness.

The feed concentrate of a racehorse should contain between 1,000 and 2,000 IU per pound of vitamin A.

Vitamin D: Requirements of vitamin D have not been defined. Exposure to sunlight and sun cured hay show sufficient amounts. Too much vitamin D has shown calcification to soft tissue.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E has received more attention lately because of its possible role in reducing tissue damage and as an anti-oxidant. Most manufacturers add vitamin E to the racehorse mixture. If you mix your own or your feed or it hasn't been added to your feed concentrate, add 45 IU per pound of feed.

Vitamin K: Synthesized and absorbed in the hind gut - there is no dietary requirement for it. Adequate amounts of this vitamin are produced in the anaerobic bacteria of the hind gut. Many racehorse owners and trainers give additional vitamin k for "bleeders". It's influence on bleeding has yet to be documented in equine research.

B-Vitamins: The most  misunderstood and the most widely used vitamin. B vitamins are synthesized like vitamin K. Water soluble vitamin B12 is quickly voided in the urine and do not increase packed cell volume or increase hemoglobin concentration. Instead of over using the B vitamins, it is recommended that you rely more on conditioning and exercise to increase blood volume and oxygen-carrying capacity.

Research indicates that an exercising horse may need addition B1(thiamine). Loss of appetite could be an indication of adding B1. "Track sour" horses are many times low on B1. Adding brewer's yeast to the diet is reported to increase appetite and energize the racehorse.

Biotin: Limited clinical reports have claimed about 1/3 of the horses researched have had some improvement in hoof growth from the use of this vitamin. More recent research has revealed that d-biotin increases the health of the overall hoof wall, health of the coronary band and prevention of white line syndrome.

NOTE: In most cases it takes 9 months to a year or more to see the effects of biotin. If you have a horse with flaky hoof walls, 15 milligrams of biotin per day appears to help.


Racehorses require a balanced supply of minerals for maintenance of skeletal tissue, muscle contraction and energy transfer. Racehorses should have as much calcium as phosphorus in their diets. Diets with more phosphorus than calcium can lead to weak bones and subsequent lameness. Because cereal grains contain more phosphorus than calcium, improper ratios are common in the horse industry.

Electrolytes: During workouts, racehorses lose a significant amount of electrolytes(sodium, chloride, potassium). Usually these can replace with hay, feed minerals and salt. However, most commercial feeds do not contain enough for horses that sweat a lot, particularly in the summer. Add about 3 oz. electrolytes per day for horses in race training. Watch the potassium levels. An exercised horse needs about 1.2% of total diet.

Adding electrolytes to water is not recommended. It can reduce the amount of water the racehorse drinks.  

Trail horses or pleasure horses:

For our purposes, feed for horses can be divided into three categories: pasture, hay and concentrates.


The most natural food for horses is good quality pasture. Most mature pleasure horses doing light work will do well on pasture alone if they have sufficient grazing. However, horses are selective grazers and need a large area to meet their nutritional needs. Just because a field is green does not mean it contains sufficient grazing for a horse, and depending on where you live, for a large part of the year pasture is not available.

You can optimize the amount of grazing available by dividing your pasture into sections and rotating your horses through the different paddocks. That way, you give the grass a chance to grow back and can pick up the manure.


Hay is the basic food of domestic horses. Only feed good quality hay to horses. Inspect hay carefully before buying it, asking the seller to open a bale. Make sure the bales are green and dust and mold free. Stick your hand down into the centre of a bale to make sure it's not warm. Feeding moldy hay can cause colic and dusty hay can cause respiratory problems.(To avoid dust, it's a good idea to pull the flakes apart and shake them out well before feeding. As a precaution, you can also soak hay before feeding.)

The type of hay available varies according to the area you live in. Three basic types in Alberta are grass hay, alfalfa hay and grass/alfalfa mix. Common grasses are timothy and brome. Alfalfa has a higher protein content than grass. Many horse people consider a grass/alfalfa mix the best for horses, and timothy/brome/alfalfa is a common combination.

Alfalfa is also available in cubes and pellets. However, horses need chew time to be content, so except for veterinary reasons, most people feed some hay. Some horses have a tendency to choke on cubes. To be safe, you can soften cubes with water before feeding.

Do not feed your horse grass clippings as they can cause founder.


Hay alone cannot provide enough nutrition for hard-working horses, pregnant and nursing mares, or growing youngsters. They need concentrates to supplement the hay. However, hay should still provide the bulk of the diet. Feeding too much grain can cause problems.

Concentrates include grains(whole, rolled or cracked), sweet feed(grain mixed with molasses), and manufactured feeds(pellets, cubes, or extruded). You can buy bags of feed specially formulated for every stage of a horse's life from creep feed for foals to feed for senior equines.

Beet pulp provides additional bulk. Beet pellets must be soaked before feeding to allow them to expand. If you use hot water, they expand in about an hour, but with cold water, allow overnight soaking. Only prepare enough for one day's feeding at a time.

Does my horse need anything else?

Horses need lots of drinking water and an adequate amount of salt and minerals.


Fresh water is a vital part of your horse's diet. Horses drink from 5 to 10 gallons a day.

Clean water should be available at all times except when the horse is very hot from work. As you cool out your horse, allow him to take several small drinks rather than giving him free access to water.

While horses can survive on snow in the winter, it is far from ideal. The horse's body has to melt a lot of snow to get enough water, thus wasting body heat. A horse not getting enough water is more liable to impaction colic. An inexpensive stock tank heater can keep the water trough ice-free.

Salt and Minerals

A mineralized salt block should be available free-choice. You can also buy a variety of other vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements. Consult your veterinarian.

How much food does my horse need?

The amount of food a horse needs will depend on such things as size, breed, age, and activity. In cold weather, a horse living outside needs more food just to keep warm.

As a general rule, a horse needs 2 to 2.2 pounds of feed for every 100 pounds of body weight.(You can buy a weight tape to measure how much your horse weighs.) For example, an average 1000 lb horse would need 20 to 25 pounds of feed a day. Most of that should be hay. A typical diet for a horse being ridden for one hour five days a week would be 2 to 5 pounds of grain and 15 to 20 pounds of hay a day, split into at least two separate meals.

Common sense and ongoing awareness of your horse's health and body condition should let you know if you need to make changes. Use a weight tape on a regular basis and keep a record. If your horse is gaining or losing, adjust his feed. Your horse's weight should remain stable regardless of how much work he is doing or how cold the weather is. As a responsible owner, it's up to you to adjust the amount you're feeding accordingly. In winter, look with your hands as well as your eyes. A heavy winter coat can easily hide a thin horse. Feel under that hair. If you are unsure about how much to feed your horse, ask your veterinarian for advice.

How often should I feed my horse?

The basic rule for feeding horses is to feed little and often. The more meals you can split the day's feed into, the better for the horse. For practical reasons, most people feed two or three times a day. Keep to a regular schedule and allow the horse an hour between work and feeding.

Can a horse eat too much?

Overfeeding can be a problem. While some horses will eat only what they need, most will eagerly overeat if given the chance. This can lead to founder or laminitis. Keep an eye on your horse's weight and adjust meal size as required. Don't feed concentrates unless your horse needs them. If your horse is pastured, it may be necessary to confine him in a dirt corral for part of the day. In some ways, a fat horse is as unhealthy as a thin one.

How can I can tell if my horse is the proper weight?

A system called "body condition scoring" has been developed to determine just how fat or thin an animal is.

To a large extent it is based on common sense, looking at the amount of flesh on the ribs, on the base of the tail, between the hips and on the bony prominences. These are the bones that stick out from the spine behind the rib cage.

In a horse carrying ideal weight, the ribs have a slight fat covering but you can feel them. The base of the tail has a smooth shape with slight fat covering. The neck is firm but, except for stallions, has no crest.

You can learn more about body condition scoring by going to the web site of the Equine Research Centre at Guelph, choosing "Horse Health Care" from the first menu, then "Management" from the second.

I have several horses. How do I make sure they're all getting their share?

If you are feeding more than one horse, you'll have to make sure each horse gets enough food. Horses have a strong social order and the top horses will take more than their share. To give the bottom horses a chance, spread the hay out with one more pile than the number of horses. It's best to physically separate horses to feed the grain ration. At the very least, use separate feed bins spaced wide apart. If you don't, there's a high risk of injury as each horse fights for his spot at the feeder, and the bottom horse will probably stay away altogether.

Is there anything else I should know about feeding my horse?

Find a diet that works for your horse and stick to it. Make any changes in feed slowly, spread out over several days. If your horse is not doing well even though you are feeding him enough, the problem might be teeth or worms or your horse might be sick. Check with your veterinarian.
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