On several occasions in the past year or two, we’ve discussed in this series the intricacies of feeding young horses for optimum growth. We’ve also walked you through the pertinent points of fueling the high-performance equine athlete, for maximum output with minimum fatigue. But there’s one category of performance horse which combines both of these concerns in one package—and that makes feeding them a complicated issue.
It’s generally agreed that racehorses, whether they be Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Quarter Horses, Arabians, Appaloosas, Paints, or even Trottingbred ponies, represent one of the hardest-working, most fit, and most stressed group in the equine population. Not only that, but they labor under a unique handicap—they are almost always asked to hit a performance peak while their bodies still are immature and growing. It’s a double whammy that from a feeding point of view is a serious challenge.
How do you provide lots of energy for performance, without risking developmental bone and joint problems? How do you ensure correct bone growth while still offering enough “octane” in the diet to allow your racehorse to perform at his peak?
If you’re going to compete a racehorse, it’s important to recognize the dramatic stresses he’s going to experience while pursuing a racing career. The very least you can do is provide him with the right fuel so that he can do his job to the best of his ability. A balanced feeding program might not, on its own, prevent injuries, but it can help prevent fatigue and ensure that your young go-getter not only races well, but continues to grow correctly until he reaches maturity. (With luck, that good bone growth will also help keep him sound and allow him to go on to a second career at stud or in the show ring).
Stressed In The Shedrow
A typical Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse destined for the track gets a very ea