Race Horse Meal Plans to Ensure Peak Performance and Health

By Sandeep malik - January 24, 2018

There are many contributing factors to the peak performance of a race horse such as its genetics, environment, health, training, and nutrition. Even for the best breed of racehorses, nutrition will play a big role in attaining their peak athletic performance on races. The major source of energy for horses are carbohydrates, fats, glucose, and free fatty acids. Along with good nutrition, the intensity and type of exercise and training they get will decide how the energy is used and how to supplement again.

Fat supplementation

The caloric needs of most performing horses can be met by feeding them with grain and hay. However, grain at higher amounts may be harmful to some intensely working horses like racehorses and polo ponies, etc. Excessive carbohydrates also may lead to ulcers and colic health issues.

So, it is ideal to replace some amount of carbohydrate supplementation with fat. Fat is more energy dense compared to carbohydrates and also provide more calories on lesser feeds. Fat supplementation also found to help the performing horses as by an increase in fat up to 10% tend to help the glycogen storage on horse's muscles. Glycogen is the primary fuel used during the anaerobic performances like jumping or sprinting.

Feeding before race

The ideal feed before a workout or competition as you see in Gulfstream park live video racing depends on what the horse like the most and the overall meal plan. Studies have shown that feeding a grain meal with our without hay about two hours before performance decreases the free fatty acid and plasma glucose which are fuels for the horse.

Limiting the necessary fuels for energy is a critical detriment to their performance, particularly the top performance needs such as racing or hunting. However, feeding only with hay did not found to decrease the free fatty acid or glucose, and therefore, performance may not be limited to it. However, hay alone may tend to end up in a decrease in plasma and elevated body weights in some species.

Therefore, if competition is scheduled for early morning, then the best feed is to give grain meal during the previous evening. If competition starts in the afternoon, then it is best to serve a grain meal early in the morning. On race day, forage can be provided in smaller amounts throughout the day. If grain meal is missing during the day, don’t try to compensate it by overfeeding during the next meal.

Feeding after a performance

If the horse does high-intensity exercises or doing exercise for longer durations, it is essential to feed it with forage and grain as needed after each bout of exercise, especially if it competes for multiple days. After two hours of intense exercise, concentrates can be served. Forage and grain following intensive exercise can restore the lost glycogen, which is the primary fuel for exercise.

Another strategy in feeding to ensure peak performance is maintaining or attaining the score of optimal body condition. You can rely on the Henneke Body Condition Scale to identify the ideal score for your horse. The scale runs rules 1 to 9 with 1 representing a very thin horse and 9 to an obese one. A 5 may represent horses whose ribs are not seen out but can be felt easily. A score of 5 is considered as the most ideal to be maintained. You can ideally adjust the meal plan of the horse to maintain this ideal body condition score.

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