Is your horse lacking in show condition?

Here TopSpec Veterinary Nutritionist, Anna Welch BVSc, BSc, MRCVS provides advice on steps to get ready for the spring shows.

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Most show horses do best when fed all the forage that they can eat and therefore, for those lacking in condition, hay or haylage should be provided ad-lib. This is a more natural way of feeding than offering large hard feeds. It usually makes sense to buy good quality hay or haylage because the more nutrients provided by forage, the less hard feed your horse will need to achieve a good show condition.

With a horse that needs more condition coming out of the Winter, it is important to have a dental check to ensure they are chewing their forage sufficiently and therefore, getting the most from it. An appropriate worming regime will also improve the cost-effectiveness of your feeding programme.

When feeding for condition, nutrient dense products are most effective, not only to achieve high forage to concentrate ratios but to keep meal sizes small. If maximum meal sizes are exceeded, feed will be forced through the stomach and small intestine too quickly and overload the horse’s large intestine, or hindgut. This reduces the efficiency of digestion in the hindgut meaning that your horse will obtain fewer nutrients from his forage. For a 500kg horse, meal sizes should be no more than 2kg (approximately one heaped Stubbs scoop of cubes).

In order for your horse to gain more from their diet, I would suggest basing their hard feed ration on a top specification feed balancer. A conditioning feed balancer, such as TopSpec Comprehensive Feed Balancer will provide protein, vitamins and minerals and other important micronutrients to balance a high forage diet and promote a supple skin, healthy coat and strong hooves.

Rob Walker and Party Time Supreme Ch at the Hunter Show

Show horses need to look well-muscled and it is protein which provides the building blocks for muscle development and topline. TopSpec Comprehensive Feed Balancer provides a very high ratio of protein to calories and the quality of protein is the best possible, i.e. it is rich in essential amino acids.  Using TopSpec Comprehensive Feed Balancer will also promote focus and stamina, so important in those end-of-day championships.

You should also use a conditioning chop e.g. TopChop Grass even though the small amount you feed will mean that it only makes a small difference.

You will make a bigger difference to your horse’s condition with high DE (Digestible Energy) cubes than chop e.g. TopSpec CoolCondition Cubes. This is because you feed a much greater weight of a higher nutrient product. CoolCondition cubes are low in sugar and starch and cereal-grain-free but high in super-fibres. They are ideal for horses that need condition, with presence but without over-excitable behaviour.

For relaxed horses that need an exceptionally nutrient dense product TopSpec Super Conditioning Flakes can be used, providing excessive amounts are not fed as they contain 36% starch. For example a 16hh horse should not receive more than one heaped Stubbs scoop (1.3kg) of flakes in a meal.

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