GAIN Equine Nutrition – Changes to your feeding management
- 14 April 2020, 17:02
For many horse-owners and competitors, the month of April signals better weather, grass growth and welcome competitive action at shows and events right throughout the Country. Nationally the season was just beginning and whether you are a professional or amateur rider, your passion or hobby has been put on hold due to the unfortunate circumstances we find ourselves in due to the global COVID 19 pandemic.
Changes to feeding management
As with any changes to a horse’s diet, we must ensure that we carry these out gradually to avoid upset to the digestive system. The level of change to the diet will largely depend on whether you intend to keep your horse in work (at various levels) or whether you decide to give your horse a break from exercise completely.
Generally, we are feeding horses to maximise performance right now in many cases we are reducing our horse’s workload significantly and accordingly need to review our feeding rates or look at other product options. As always, your horse still requires a fully balanced diet even if not exercising at intense levels or working towards a competition. Therefore choosing the correct product for your horse is as important as ever. You will also need to monitor your horse’s body condition so to that it remains at optimal levels to ensure the return to competitive action will be as smooth a transition as possible.
The energy requirements of a horse in work increase according to their workload. The body of the horse is well adapted to storing and mobilising energy from various types of nutrients e.g. fibre, sugar, starch and fat. A horse in more intense exercise will require greater calories, more vitamins and minerals than a horse in light exercise. For example, muscle contractions cause oxidative damage to muscle cells, vitamin E works as an antioxidant to help restore muscle membrane integrity. Similarly, B vitamins are used during the cycle of energy synthesis and therefore as the level of work increases so does the horses’ requirement for these vitamins. The stress of intense exercise on bones may also slightly increase the need for calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and zinc.
Horses who are exercising lightly at this time you can be fed a reduced amount of high energy feed per day or you can opt to use to a lower energy feed or balancer. GAIN Opti-Care Balancer, Easy Go Cubes and Cool N Easy Mix are lower-calorie options.
For horses that continue to train at moderate to intense levels GAIN has several products that will meet their energy, trace mineral and antioxidant requirements including 14% Equine Cooked Mix, Hi-Grade Horse & Pony Cubes, Elite 10 cubes, Competition Mix amongst others. Specifically for horses requiring a diet with a lower non-structural carbohydrate level, there are a number of options also; GAIN Freedom Mix, Easy Go Cubes and Opti-Care Balancer have an 8% starch content and are suitable for horses prone to EGUS (Equine Gastric Ulcers Syndrome) or tying up.
The Stabled Horse
If you have decided to keep your horse stabled and in light work, it is essential that you provide your horse with as much frequent access to good quality forage (hay/haylage) as possible with ad-lib forage ideal as this may help reduce the likelihood of EGUS and ensure that your horse’s digestive system is performing optimally. With a reduced work-load and being kept in, a horse may become ‘heated’ or ‘fizzy’, this is where the lower energy feed or a feed with a lower starch content can help manage your horse’s temperament while ensuring he still receives an appropriate fully balanced diet. Ensure your horse has access to salt in the form of a salt lick and fresh clean water at all times.
If you have decided to give your horse a break and turn him out now that the weather is improving and soil temperatures increasing giving rise to some grass growth it would be prudent to feed a balancer such as GAIN Opti-Care Balancer. This is a low calorie, nutrient-dense product that will ensure that your horse is receiving a fully balanced diet while at grass. As always, your horse will require access to fresh clean water at all times.
While it is very important to keep your horses healthy and active at this time, it is also healthy for you to keep to a routine as much as possible. Keeping on top of daily yard duties and perhaps focus on the ones that have been put on the long finger, such as organising the tack or feed room, painting the stables, fixing the back fence etc.
With schools off and kids having more energy to burn than the horses, they may roam more around yards. It is vital for the safety of both the yard and the children that they are kept away from machinery at all times. Adhere to physical distancing and keep the length of a horse between you and another person. Wash your hands on arrival and departure to the yard.
Whilst we want to remain in a somewhat normal routine, we need to understand that this is not the norm. The equine community have been incredible and flooded social media with feel-good campaigns to raise positivity and fun memories for our community to look back on and share.
What is your fondest memory and what are you most looking forward to when routines resume as normal?
What competition are you aiming for?
If you have any funny videos or photos of your horses or ponies, we would love to see them so get tagging and sharing on our Facebook and Instagram.
Return to Full Work and Competitive Action
While the health and safety of our families, friends and communities are of priority at this time we all hope that we can return to competitive action before too long. If you need any support when readjusting your horses’ diet at this time please feel free to reach out to the technical team at GAIN Equine Nutrition who will be very happy to help. You can reach us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook – @GAINEquineNutrition
GAIN Equine Nutrition sponsors the Team Ireland Underage Showjumping, Eventing and Dressage Teams and are Official Feed Consultants to Horse Sport Ireland.