So the competition time of year is in full swing and you may be pondering if in fact you should have put your horse on a competition feed. Many wonderful all-rounders up and down the country can compete very successfully on a leisure feed, so how do you decide if you need to make the transition? Here are 8 Guidance Points to help you decide:
Is he the ideal weight? Sounds dead obvious but if he is overweight moving to a higher energy feed could easily exacerbate the problem. Energy is calories, the two are the same, so through changing to a higher energy feed you will be increasing the calories and making the problem worse. On the flip side if he is losing weight he may require the additional energy and therefore calories of a competition feed, although check the point below first.
Are you feeding the manufacturers recommended weight of your current feed? I find with many leisure horses they normally aren’t, which for many works brilliantly with the inclusion of a balancer or a vitamin and mineral supplement. However it may be that your horse just needs more of his current feed as opposed to moving onto a competition feed. Remember if you do increase the weight of your current feed you may not need to add your balancer or vitamin and mineral supplement any more.
Has your grazing increased? Grazing can account for a significant energy/calorie intake so don’t forget to bear this in mind. Whilst you might not think your horse’s energy intake has gone up, the chances are at this time of year it probably has by default.
How hard is your horse actually working? Make an honest assessment of the situation. It is easy to think our horses are working harder than they actually are. Just because you are competing every other week does not necessarily mean your horse is working ‘hard’. That is not to say your horse does not require competition feed, but are you putting a ‘human take’ on it, when actually your horse is already coping well.
Does he have enough energy for the job? Don’t confuse being unfit for needing more feed. Remember to look at your horse as a whole and to look at his fitness programme in conjunction with the feed you are giving. No amount of feed will remedy an unfit horse.
Does he have any nutritionally related clinical history? For example has he tied up, or suffered from laminitis? Has he had colic or gastric ulcers? With any of these this is not to say he can’t have a competition feed, however the type of competition feed used will need to be decided carefully. Luckily these days there are a vast array of competition feeds available and my next blog will cover which type may suit your horse better if it is appropriate for you to use one.
Is he developing muscle tone nicely? Remember, this comes in conjunction with correct work NOT just feed. However if you and your trainer are finding you are working the horse in the correct way and he is struggling to develop muscle tone you may require a higher level of protein that comes with a competition feed, or should I say increased ‘quality protein’ through an improved lysine level.
Is what you are doing already working well? Honestly don’t feel you should change just because others around you are. You know the old saying, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it” and so if your horse is going nicely, maintaining an ideal weight there is no reason to think you should change just because you are competing.
Above all don’t feel peer pressure to feed the latest, most beautifully marketed bag of competition feed if actually you are already doing pretty well as things are and your horse’s diet is balanced!! However, if you have a feeling through reading the above points that your horse does require a competition feed to meet an increased demand my next blog will cover how to choose the type of competition feed that might be right for him.
Whatever you decide make sure your horse is adequately hydrated at all times, and have a suitable electrolyte strategy in place. Also make sure that whatever feed you choose to use the diet is properly balanced to provide the necessary vitamins and minerals. If you are still not sure if you should be feeding a competition feed or not, or require additional assistance for your horse, to book a visit please contact Donna directly on +44 (0)7901 337826 or firstname.lastname@example.org