When it comes to feeding the event horse, many horse owners tend to utilise more cereals, as opposed to a fibre-based diet. This is because it is thought that a fibre-based diet is unable to provide the horse with enough energy required to go eventing, whether it’s a 1 or 3 day event. However, as the quality of fibre available as horse feed has improved and the downsides of using cereals have become more widely known, more people are choosing a fibre based ration for their event horses. Fibre is essential for a healthy gut and can provide the horse with the energy it needs if the right fibre sources are used.We have created a short guide explaining why feeding fibre to your event horse is key.
The hindgut is essential for the fermentation of fibre which produces energy that the horse can absorb and utilise for work. The colon and the caecum, which are part of the hindgut, are home to the population of micro-organisms that ferment the fibrous material over f 2-3 days.More digestible fibre sources are broken down more easily and release more energy to the horse. This would include horse feed materials like alfalfa and sugar beet.
An overload of starch can lead to a digestive imbalance in the hindgut, which can result in an increase in acidity result in beneficial fibre-digesting bacteria dying off. In turn, this can mean that the toxins that are created can result in colic. Therefore, it’s important that the gut of the event horse (and all horses) is kept healthy.
Fibre Is AnEnergy Source
If the horse appears to be lacking energy many horse owners will add cereals and an array of supplements into their feed. However, the first step should be to check that the horse is fit enough for the work it is being asked to do and to check there isn’t an underlying health issue stopping the horse from going forward willingly. It is also important to check the diet is balanced as vitamins and minerals are integral to energy metabolism and so an imbalanced diet can result in the early onset of fatigue. Interestingly, the fermentation of fibre results in the production of Bvitamins, such as biotin and so a healthy gut can usually be seen on the outside of the horse in the form of healthy hooves and coat. In fact, poor quality hooves can often be an indication the gut isn’t as healthy as it should be!
Competing On A Fibre-Based Diet
When finding the right horse food for your eventer, you need to consider the natural temperament of your horse. To go eventing a horse needs to be fit and so it can be a challenge to keep a really fit horse calm enough to perform a good dressage test. This is where fibre can be really useful as it provides slow release energy. If the right fibres are used then there is often enough energy for many fit even horses.
Conversely, if you have a more laid back horse, maybe they have more Warmblood than Thoroughbred in their breeding, you may want to try using cereal based horse feed as it provides quick release energy and so can give them a bit more sparkle. Use it judiciously though as for some horses, cereals can just make them spooky and silly rather than more forward going – not what you want in the dressage arena!
As you can see, a fibre-based diet is not only feasible for the event horse, but often also key to their success. If you would like more information about what to feed your event horse or the benefits of fibre, don’t hesitate to get in touch with an equine nutritionist. They will be able to help you to design a bespoke feeding plan that works for your horse individually.
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