Endurance is a highly competitive environment that requires a horse and rider to travel a long distance. Endurance rides can be graded or competitive. Graded endurance rides are set at one speed over varying terrain, the result is calculated from the average speed and the horses recovery rate. Competitive endurance is a race of multiple riders starting together at a start line and successfully reach the finish line first and passing all vet checks to ensure your horse healthy to continue. This sport requires stamina and the determination from both parties to be successful. During the endurance rides there are veterinary checks beginning, sometimes middle depending on the distance and at the end of the race to ensure your horse is healthy, able to continue and monitor their recovery times. The two main factors to maintain your fit and healthy endurance horses are nutrition and training. Feeding the endurance horse can be one of the most complicated equine athletes to feed.
Equine Athletes Diet
Good quality forage is the forefront of any equine diet. Forage can provide slow-release energy, protein and some vitamins and minerals. Slow-release energy is crucial for a successful endurance horse. Forage sources can be good quality grass, meadow hay and legume hay. Lucerne (Alfalfa) hay is high in energy, however it is also high in protein which can have a negative impact on the endurance horse’s performance particularly close to race-days. You can still feed Lucerne hay but better as a chaff mixed in with a feed instead of the main source of fibre. High protein in an endurance horses diet can increase the body temperature resulting in sweating alongside urine production. This will require the horse to drink more regularly and may increase the likelihood of becoming dehydrated before competition. Providing hay after an endurance race can benefit the horse as they dry hay is more likely to encourage the horse to drink.
Slow release energy is crucial for stamina and the best way to provide your horse with slow release energy is to provide a high fat diet. By gradually introducing fat to a horses diet during basic training will allow the horses’ metabolism to adapt to utilising fat instead of glycogen. Horses introduced to a high fat diet for longer periods before competing have been known to utilise the fat to a greater extent than those introduced a short period before competing. Horses normal diet on average usually contains between 3-5% fat. Any diet that contains 10-20% fat is classed as a high-fat diet. Rowen Barbary horse feeds designed a fully balanced, high calorie mash with high levels of oils (15%) alongside key anti-oxidants to provide an excellent source of slow release energy. The Solution Mash is high in fibre and these super fibres have an excellent water holding capacity which is ideal for Endurance horses. The Solution Mash does not contain cereals or molasses which results in low starch and sugar. It also contains yeasacc and herbs for digestion and to promote overall health and vitality.
Good body condition is vital for performance and health, however it is common for endurance horses to appear more lean and skinny at the higher levels of endurance. Endurance horses will expend a large amount of energy through daily training and endurance competitions, so it is important to ensure they are meeting their requirements. Forage and fat are great for slow release energy however, starch is also a source of dietary energy. If you are looking to include starch in the diet look for grains and cereals that have been processed as this will help to reduce the amount of starch and reduce the risk of starch overload into the large intestine. Endurance riders prefer to feed a feed containing soya hulls or beet pulp to provide their horses with high fibre and low starch. Some horses lose condition when travelling long hours or staying away at a competition due to stress. An increase in stress can lead to horses to consume less and move around more, which could result in their stomach acidity decreasing in pH and increasing the risk of ulceration. Gastric Ulcers can also be present in high performance horses due to the early onset of fatigue which explains the importance of the correct diet and suitable training. Rowen Barbary horse feeds specifically formulated Acti-Soothe to target gastric health and help to reduce anxiety, which helps to support digestion and maintain gastric health. It contains a unique blend of ingredients associated with soothing and protecting the stomach lining, controlling the stomach pH, helping to reduce anxiety in horses prone to stress and also help lessen the risk of Gastric Ulcers developing.
A balanced diet is important for horses to be able to maintain body functions. It is more important for Endurance horses as they require a higher amount for recovery as well as anti-oxidants such as Vitamins E and Selenium to maintain the immune system, aid recovery and help the muscles endure the hard workload. Vitamins and Minerals can be supplemented if the feed does not provide essential vitamins and minerals.
A healthy diet will also include a fresh, clean supply of water as it is important to maintain hydration more so when a horse is in training and during competition. Mashes or adding water to a feed to ensure your horses is drinking an adequate amount. Maintaining cleanliness of water troughs and buckets will encourage your horse to drink. Encouraging your horses to drink when they have an opportunity not only maintains their health but also during competition and post-exercise will help aid recovery. Electrolytes can also be added to a mash or water to replenish the salt in the body but also stimulates the horse to drink water. The most effective electrolytes supplements have an equal balance of Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium and Chloride. Electrolytes can be used before, during and after competition. Rowen Barbary Re-Hydrate helps to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. It includes all necessary minerals on a water soluble glucose base to aid recovery for optimum performance.