Horses and Feed: The Power of Sports Horses


High-level sports horses burn a lot of energy. And so they need rations rich in energy. For sports horses, suitable energy sources are sought that enhance performance without disrupting digestion.

Horses are animals with a special digestive system. It was developed years and years ago. The horses then traveled great distances, eating grass and other fiber-rich plant matter they encountered along the way. So it only makes sense that the stomach is small. Roughage enters gradually and also disappears very quickly into the small intestine. A large storage container is not necessary. Thus it can also be explained that the production of stomach acid continues for 24 hours a day, the horse mainly makes saliva during chewing movements and the gallbladder is missing.

Fats as a source of energy

However, there are also peculiar properties of the digestive system that are difficult to explain. In the small intestine, the horse has a certain, but limited, ability to digest starch. Well, the portion was not starchy, so it makes sense. But the ability to digest fats is great, while fats were not a major part of a horse’s diet. However, the metabolism and energy supply of muscle fibers is very capable of using fatty acids as fuel. In addition to the digestion of fats in the small intestine, these fatty acids also come from the fermentation of fiber (and its conversion into volatile fatty acids) in the body. In short, a horse can use fat as an energy source.

Long-term or short-term effort?

High-level sports horses burn a lot of energy. And so they need rations rich in energy. Equestrian sports are varied and so is the type of performance a horse has to give. This can be a long-term effort, a very short-term effort, or a combination of the two. The type of energy your muscles need is different. For example, the burning of fatty acids is an excellent way to maintain the effort for a long time. But if the horse has to put in a lot of effort, the muscles need usable energy quickly. The conversion of fatty acids into energy is very slow for that. The horse then claims its stores of glycogen (glucose) in the muscle tissue.

energy from bran

A different power source may be required for each sports discipline. Roughage is of course always the key. Roughage provides volatile fatty acids to the intestinal flora. The horse’s muscles and metabolism use these fatty acids directly as an energy source, but they can also store them as fat. Some types of volatile fatty acids can even be converted into glucose. The latter is interesting for limiting the amount of concentrates rich in starch and keeping glucose stores at the right level by feeding the right kind of fibre.

Energy from concentrates

In addition to the coarse, most sports (higher) horses need concentrated feed. Concentrated feed almost always provides starch and sugars as the main source of energy and a very small percentage of fat. Starch and sugars are an excellent source of energy for sports horses. But since the digestibility of starch is somewhat limited, you should take the dosage into account. And the horse must need the amount of energy. If the concentrate makes your horse too explosive and uncontrollable, give a high fat concentrate with low starch and sugar. The horse gets energy, but does not heat up much.

Focus is not always necessary

To choose the right position for your horse, knowledge of the horse’s needs and discipline are required. Many horses offer performance that, although it costs energy, can easily be delivered with an extra amount of roughness. Then power feed is not necessary. If your horse really needs the energy for a vigorous effort, such as high speed or a lot of jumping, feed concentrates or grains as a supplement. For dressage, the effort for strength and duration is relatively limited. Coarse foundation is excellent. Concentrates can be beneficial as the horse becomes more moody and more appetite for walking. Keep the dosage limited to prevent the horse from getting too hot or too fat. Choose a concentrate no higher than average values ​​for starch and sugars.

Focus levels a little modified high
starch and sugar less than 20% 30-32% > 35%
Crude fat <4% 4-6% >8%

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