What Competition Feed Should I Choose for my Horse?
So, you decided after the last blog your horse requires a competition feed… If you want a quick recap as to if your horse may need one click here.
But now what?
There are various different feeds which pass as competition feed so here are some bite size nuggets to help you decide what may be right for your horse.
Competition Compound Mixes & Cubes
Most branded competition compound mixes or cubes will fall into two categories:
Those geared towards an 'excitable' type, and those better suited to the ‘laid back’ individual.
The biggest difference between the two is the way in which the energy is supplied. Products designed for excitable horses have a higher fibre and oil content and a more controlled starch level. Those designed to give a bit more sparkle tend to have a higher starch level anywhere from around 25% easily up to 35% plus.
If your horse is really excitable search for a feed at the lower end of the starch spectrum within the competition range (around 10-15% but sometimes even less), and keep an eye out for the cubes which tend to be slightly lower in starch than the mix equivalent.
If you are feeding a more laid-back horse you may find a slightly higher starch feed works better for you. Do bear in mind that higher starch levels will not be appropriate for certain clinical conditions however such as gastric ulcers and tying up to name a couple.
Remember not all feed brands will be equal. Look for a feed with quality protein to support muscle repair and development. You can look at this through comparing the lysine level of the feeds which are listed in g per kg as opposed to just the protein %.
Put simply if you feed below the recommended rate of compound feed, or you are choosing to use straights or alfalfa for example these will help to balance the diet. They provide not only the necessary vitamins and minerals, but in most cases also a quality protein without unnecessary calories and are extremely popular these days.
Physical Fibre Feeds
There are more and more of these available on the market now and they have many benefits. The first a very simple one but brilliant for the horse is they take longer to eat due to the longer fibre lengths as opposed to a cube or a mix. Extended chew times increase saliva production which buffers gastric acid. These feeds also tend to have extremely controlled starch levels due to their very nature, normally anywhere between 3 and 10% (although sometimes higher) meaning they tend to be well suited for horses with clinical history such as gastric ulcers, tying up or colic.
The down side is they may be more expensive than other types, and some very laid-back horses, (if their clinical history allows it) may require a slightly higher starch level. That said I have seen horses run off the race track on physical fibre feeds so do not underestimate the energy they can supply and just how beneficial they can be!!
Straights just like the other types have their advantages and disadvantages. Linseed for example which has a brilliant lysine level and fantastic Omega 3 levels can be extremely useful and is used in many competition yards up and down the country.
Another advantage depending on the individual straight in question is they can be fairly cost effective when running a large yard. A big disadvantage though is they tend to be deficient in various vitamins and minerals and in some instances may not contain the necessary amino acid profile to support muscle development and topline which will need to be corrected. For horses with clinical conditions, many straights will be too high in starch.
Finally, feeding the competition horse is a combination of art and science. Temperament and clinical history will both be key areas to think about when making your choice of competition feed, and may well dictate what is and isn’t suitable.
Whilst this has been a bit of a whistle stop tour, hopefully it gives you some pointers in the right direction for you and your horse. If you need more bespoke help for your horse do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07901 337826.