Feeding according to discipline
The horse should be fed according to whether it is used for dressage, show jumping, endurance racing or sprint racing.
Sprint-racing horses need rapid energy and should therefore primarily be fed with easily digestible starch.
Dressage and show-jumping horses need a larger volume of starch than endurance racing horses, but less starch than sprint-racing horses. On the other hand, the feed’s fibre content must be higher than for the sprint-racing horse.
Starch: Large amounts of starch are found in oats, barley, wheat and maize. Oat starch is quickly absorbed, whereas wheat, barley and maize have a longer absorption time and can cause faulty fermentation and digestive disorders.
Barley has a high starch content and is therefore one of the most frequently used grains for horses. The starch gives the horse energy and calories for work. The horse’s digestibility of barley is 25%.
For feed dispensing, it is beneficial to either roll or micronise the barley.
Oats are also one of the most widely used grains for horses. Oats have a high, easily digestible energy content. The horse’s digestibility of oats is 85%. For feed dispensing, the oats can be whole or rolled.
Importance of roughage
Roughage: All horses need be fed a proper amount of roughage to ensure ideal digestibility. As roughage does not meet all of the horse’s nutritional needs, it is important to supplement roughage with vitamins and minerals. Roughage must constitute at least 50% of the horse’s daily feed.
Hay is ideal roughage for horses. The high cellulose content and large amounts of digestible fibres prevent digestive disorders. It is advisable to have the roughage analysed, as the nutrient content can vary greatly. Horses need a minimum of 1.5 kg of hay per 100 kg of body weight.
Wrapped hay is ideal roughage for horses. The high cellulose content and large amounts of digestible fibres prevent digestive disorders. However, one should be aware of the fact that wrapped hay with a high moisture content, low pH value and high sugar content can cause diarrhoea and colic problems. It is advisable to have the roughage analysed, as the nutrient content can vary greatly.
Lucerne is a good supplement along with grain and/or dietary supplements. Lucerne has a high content of digestible fibres and can replace some of the grain in the horse’s feeding programme. Lucerne prolongs chewing time and stimulates saliva production, which helps to combat ulcers.
Oil is used as an energy supplement for horses. Oil is good for horses, which have difficulty gaining weight, as oil has a high calorie content. Horses with reduced appetite also benefit greatly from oil, as it enables the volume of feed to be reduced. Three decilitres of oil have the same content of energy as 1 kg of oats. A horse weighing 500 kg may receive a maximum of 4 or 5 decilitres of oil per day. A period of adjustment should be expected before the horse optimises its oil uptake.
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