Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Nutrition Tips for High-Performing Sport Horses

Nutrition Tips for High-Performing Sport Horses

The food that your horse eats including the frequency and quality can have an effect on their health and overall ability to work. Here, our Versailles equine vets discuss the nutritional needs of high-performing sports horses and how you can help them feel and do their best.

The Importance of Performance Equine Nutrition

We all know that horses are incredibly athletic. They've been bred and evolved to be strong and fast.

In order to perform their best they need to have all parts of their body in optimal working order including their muscles, respiratory system and vital organs. This can be done with the help of a complete and nutritional diet.

What makes up a nutritional diet for performance horses?

Sports horse nutrition greatly depends on the type of work that the horse will be doing. There are a few general areas of their diet that are a main focus including:

  1. Water
  2. Energy
  3. Fiber
  4. Protein
  5. Vitamins

Energy Sources

Performance horses typically work on a daily basis making energy sources vital to their well-being. Energy may be provided by including carbohydrates, fat, protein and/or fiber in their diet. Carbs and fat content can be easily used as calories by the horse while fiber is a natural and easy way for the horse to create more energy.

The type of hay or grass that you offer your horse will have an impact on the energy levels of your animal. Did you know that different types of hay contain different amounts of fats? Keep this in mind when choosing hay for your horse.

Your horse will also gain fiber from grass and hay which is used as roughage to help with digestion. This makes greens an integral part of your horse's overall diet.

You should keep in mind that your horse will need added energy as a working horse and so you should be sure to alter their diet to include more energy sources than other leisurely horses may intake.

Protein Requirements

Protein is actually a very broad spectrum and there are many different types of proteins. When it comes to performance horses, their nutritional needs call for amino acids as opposed to basic proteins.

If you have a horse that doesn't work much they will likely be on a high grass and hay content diet while performance horses will need a hay diet balanced with proteins.
You do not need to worry about overloading your horse on proteins as horses will expel excess proteins as they urinate.

While overdoing the intake of protein is rare, you should watch that you never provide them more than 25% as this could lead to other serious complications.

Vitamins & Minerals

There are a number of vitamins and minerals that you may find your performance horse lacking. In these cases, you can provide a supplement to help get your horse balanced again.

Some  of these vitamins and minerals which your horse have need a little extra of include:

  • Vitamin B
  • Thiamin
  • Vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Selenium

Your horse's feed should include a mixture of these and other vitamins and minerals but your equine vet may offer recommendations for these and other supplements depending on the health of your horse.

Ideal Feeding Schedule For Optimal Performance Horse Nutrition

Generally, you will be feeding your horse two to three times per day with hay being offered throughout. It is recommended to not feed grain meals for three hours prior to heavy work or exercise as this affects their plasma volume, body weight and heart rate among other things, essentially reducing their performance abilities. Once the exercise or work is complete it is important that your horse receive hay and grains in order to replenish what they have burned off during their events or work. Concentrate should be offered approximately two hours after your horse is done working.

Portion Sizes For Performance Horses

The amount of feed and hay that you give your horse will ultimately depend on the amount of work they do and what type of work it is. Below are some of the recommended guidelines.

Diet Adjustments For Different Training Levels

You will need to adjust the amount your horse is eating based on the type of work they are doing. For example, horses with a light workload would be those that are used for leisurely trail riding, moderate levels of work might include roping and jumping while heavy-working horses may be endurance riding, race training and cow horses. Below are guidelines for feeding your horse. These are calculated as the percentage of your horse's total body weight they should intake based on their activity level.

In conclusion

The main goal is to meet all of your horse's nutritional needs while feeding them a healthy and balanced diet. You should focus on following a strict feeding schedule and only offer your horse the highest possible quality of concentrates and hay. If you are meeting all of your horse's nutritional needs you will be helping to ensure that they perform to their best ability. Your equine vet can offer advice and recommendations for the diet and care of your performance horse.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals, or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate regulations governing the care and transportation of equine animals please make an appointment with your vet.

Would you like to learn more about how to meet the nutritional needs of your high-performance horse? Contact Bluegrass Equine Surgery to speak with our experienced equine vets. 

Contact Us To Get Started

Whether you are looking to get involved with our rapidly-growing practice, or are seeking equine veterinary care, Bluegrass Equine Surgery welcomes you to get in touch. 

Learn More

(859) 682-5225 Contact