Getting your horse ready for competition

With the competition season fast approaching many of you will be spending more time in the saddle getting your horse fit for the competition season ahead. With an increase in workload many of you will also be thinking about a change to your horse’s feeding regime, but what changes do you need to make?

Forage should be the foundation of any feed ration

Even for horses in hard work forage should be provided at a minimum of 1.5% of the horse’s bodyweight per day in order to maintain digestive health. For a 500kg horse this would be equivalent to 7.5kg dry matter per day.

As forage forms such a large part of the horse’s ration it make sense to use the best quality forage available. If a good clean forage source is difficult to find Dengie Hi-Fi Senior may be a suitable alternative replacer. Not just for veterans, Hi-Fi Senior combines high temperature dried grasses and alfalfa with a light molasses coating and can be fed ad lib to replace forage completely if necessary. As Hi-Fi Senior is high temperature dried it provides a consistently clean and nutritious forage source from bale to bale.

If you are competing and staying away from home, moving your horse on to a partial or complete hay replacer may be a practical option. Any of Dengie’s grass based fibre feeds such as Pure Grass, Meadow Grass with Herbs or Performance Fibre can make a valuable contribution to your horses total fibre intake. They are all based on high temperature dried ingredients so are clean and highly palatable. The distraction of being away from home can stop some horses eating so why not try tempting them with one of these feeds – you can leave a large trug full for them to eat alongside their usual hay or haylage?

What about bucket feed?

An increase in workload does not always mean a change in feed is required, but if your training is going up a gear this spring ask yourself the following questions about your horse’s existing ration: –

  • Is it maintaining your horse at an ideal bodyweight?
  • Are you happy with your horse’s temperament?
  • Has your horse got enough ‘energy’ for the work that he is doing?
  • Is your horse’s diet balanced?
  • Is your horse looking good i.e. coat and hoof condition?

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then it suggests that the existing ration is suiting your horse. If the answer is no to any of these questions then it is definitely time to re-evaluate your horse’s diet. Contact the Dengie Feedline on 01621 841188 for some friendly feeding advice or fill out our feed advice form for a personalised diet plan for your horse.

Do I need to add a Competition mix/cube to my ration?

An increase in workload does not automatically mean that you need to use traditional mixes and cubes to meet your horse’s energy requirements, especially if your horse is a good doer or becomes excitable very easily. A high fibre feed can provide plenty of energy in a slow release form. Dengie’s Alfa-A Original for example, has an energy or ‘calorie’ level comparable to a cool mix or cube and Alfa-A Oil, Dengie’s highest calorie fibre feed at 12.5MJ/kg, is equivalent to a competition mix/cube but without the starch.

Alfa-A Oil is based on pure alfalfa with a rape seed oil coating and provides ‘slow-release’ energy making it ideal for horses and ponies in hard work, helping to promote stamina or for those in lower levels of work that need condition without the fizz. Dengie Alfa-Beet can be fed alongside any of the Dengie fibre feeds to provide an additional source of highly digestible fibre. It needs to be soaked prior to feeding and horses seem to love it! As Alfa-Beet is fed soaked it literally carries water into the digestive tract where it releases it readily to aid hydration – great for horses competing in hot conditions.

What about horse feed supplements?

It’s not just the horse’s energy requirements that change with increased workload. Feeds formulated for horses in harder work often have higher levels of vitamins and minerals some of which are powerful antioxidants. These are especially important to counteract some of the effects of exercise and aid recovery.

When feeding a fibre only ration or significantly less than recommended of a feed with added vitamins and minerals, the ration should be topped up with a source of vitamins and minerals such as a performance balancer or supplement. Both of which are formulated with performance in mind and so have elevated levels of the key nutrients the sports horse needs.

Case Study

Hannah Esberger is an international 2* dressage rider and trainer. She has won many of the top national dressage titles and has high hopes for her top horse, Iggy Pop, who is currently working towards PSG.

Hannah Esberger

Hannah feeds alfalfa to her competition horses and youngsters. “Dressage requires a careful combination of energy and concentration,” she says. “Cereals have a tendency to hot up some of my horses, so I like to feed alfalfa, as it keeps them calm.

“My top horse, Iggy Pop, is currently on a diet of Alfa-A Oil, Performance Fibre and a performance balancer, with Alfa-Beet fed alongside ad-lib forage. His training regime is intense. This high-fibre diet provides the right level of slow-release energy and is a more natural way to feed, helping to keep his gut healthy.” Take a look at our other Conditioning for Showing case study, here.