News & Guides

5th July 2023 by Rowen Barbary

Feeding for Optimum Performance

Feeding for Optimum Performance

Good feeding is key to success for any competition horse and a carefully managed diet can mean the difference between 1st and 2nd   place.  When planning a diet for your horse consider what your main goals are for the season, what will you be asking your horse to do?

The nutritional requirements of the competition horse vary greatly depending upon the type and intensity of work being performed but the importance of correct nutrition can not be over emphasized as diet can have a significant affect on performance.


Energy is one of the most important considerations to take into account when designing a diet for any competition horse.  If energy loss is greater than energy intake then weight, and subsequently, body condition will be lost and performance will be affected.  However, if a horse is receiving more energy then they are burning off daily then this will result in weight gain.

The energy requirements can be quite variable and are dependent upon a number of factors including the level and intensity of the work being performed, temperament, the individual horses metabolism, temperature and management.

The horses digestive tract is designed to eat large quantities of fibre however the performance horse simply cannot consume enough fibre to meet the daily energy requirements.  Therefore forage is supplemented with additional sources of calories and nutrients according to work and condition.

Oil is an extremely beneficial source of slow release energy, providing twice the amount of energy as carbohydrates from the more traditional cereals.  Helping improve stamina, oil is also beneficial for competition horses and ponies that tend to be a bit over excitable as it is non-heating.  If feeding straight oil in large quantities it is important to further supplement the horses diet with antioxidants or to use a high oil manufactured feed.

If your horse requires instant energy for short sharp burst of work or that added sparkle cereals can be added into the diet.  Cereals are good sources of starch which is rapidly broken down in the horses digestive system to release a rush of fuel into the bloodstream.


Regardless of the type of work the biggest factor affecting sound muscle development, coat and body condition is the type and quality of protein that the horse is receiving from his diet.  Certain amino acids including lysine and threonine are major components of muscle protein and are essential for growth, muscle development and repair.

Protein is particularly important as it will help encourage overall muscle tone and development helping improve topline.

Vitamins & Minerals

It is vital that the horse is receiving adequate amounts on vitamins and minerals to ensure the healthy functioning of body systems to maintain general health and vitality.

Studies have shown that competition horse may be deficient in B vitamin production due to low fibre, high starch diets coupled with the stress and the excitement of competition days.  B group vitamins are vital for enzyme function and for fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism as well as being required for the formation of blood cells so are vital for competition horses.

Antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Selenium play an important role helping support the immune system and they are used to attract and bind free radicals, which when produced in excess can cause damage to your horse’s body.


Many horses will arrive at an event already in a mild state of fluid and electrolyte depletion from the muscular work of travelling.  The hot and humid conditions experienced during the summer months can further influence the electrolyte balance and can lead many horses undergoing intensive exercise to sweat substantially.  This prolonged sweating can lead to water and electrolyte deficiencies, which can result in fatigue, decreased performance, dehydration, muscle cramping and other problems.

It is important that a horse has free access to water at all times with many horses benefiting from additional electrolyte supplementation which will help to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance.

Achieving a Balanced Diet

Special consideration must be made when feeding the competition horse for optimum performance, but this does not have to be complicated.  Forage should be kept at the forefront of the diet fed alongside a good quality concentrate feed that has been specifically formulated to meet the demands of the horse.

A good quality concentrate will ensure a balanced diet providing the correct energy sources, protein levels and vitamins and minerals to allow the horse to reach its full potential.

About Rowen Barbary

All manufacturing at Rowen Barbary is carried out in a state of the art mill located in the heart of the Shropshire countryside. We use only the highest quality ingredients sourced, where possible, from local farms before they are blended by our dedicated team in our UFAS audited mill.

Rowen Barbary also conforms to BETA NOPS guidelines with raw materials & finished feeds regularly laboratory tested to ensure that every bag of feed continues to meet not only ours, but also your high standards.