Performance Horses

Horses used for performance purposes, be it racing, show jumping, dressage, or eventing, have a higher calorie requirement than horses not in work. Alongside this increased requirement for calories and energy, there is also a higher requirement for quality protein, vitamins and minerals. As for all horses, the most important part of the diet is forage. Ensure your horse has access to good quality, suitable forage, preferably ad lib.

The importance of protein

Performance and protein go hand in hand, as a source of good quality protein is essential for the horse to build new muscle, as well as maintain top line and condition. When protein is broken down into smaller pieces, it becomes amino acids. Amino acids are responsible for building the protein in the body, and there are 20 different kinds. Some of these are essential, some are not. An essential amino acid means the horse cannot produce it themselves and need to be supplied this through their diet. The most common essential amino acids are lysine, threonine, methionine, and tryptophan, which is why you sometimes see these listed as separate nutritional values for horse feeds. The rate of inclusion of these essential amino acids determines the quality of the protein – a low-quality protein will not include the right levels of essential amino acids and will not give your horse the protein requirements it needs.

Top tips

  • Make sure your horse has access to good quality forage, preferably ad lib, but a minimum requirement is 2% dry matter forage relative to their body weight.
  • Working horses have a much higher calorie requirement than horses at rest, and it’s important to ensure this increased calorie requirement is met through your horse’s diet
  • Along with increased calorie requirement, your horse also needs more protein, vitamins and minerals
  • Not all protein is good protein – make sure your horse’s diet has top quality protein, to ensure all essential amino acid requirement are fulfilled
  • Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and make up your horse’s musculature – if you do not meet the amino acid requirements, you risk your horse losing muscle mass even if you feed enough calories