Matching Diet to Activity Level

When it comes to extracting the maximum effort out of your performance horse, there is no doubting the importance of a sound feeding program. He needs a balanced diet to replenish fuel reserves, repair tissue, and provide a foundation for

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When it comes to extracting the maximum effort out of your performance horse, there is no doubting the importance of a sound feeding program. He needs a balanced diet to replenish fuel reserves, repair tissue, and provide a foundation for training and competing successfully. All too often there is a tendency for us to focus on the latest and greatest supplement that has been touted to work wonders in terms of athletic performance, while ignoring the most important dietary consideration for athletic horses — energy intake.


A couple of things come to mind when we talk about energy. One is a horse’s “energy level.” A common complaint is: “My horse has too much energy,” meaning he is full of life and perhaps difficult to control when asked to perform various tasks. In this article, though, we are discussing energy in the nutritional sense — the number of calories in a feed.


The amount of energy (or calories) in the diet should match the horse’s needs. If it doesn’t, the horse will either gain or lose weight — both can adversely affect exercise performance. The overweight horse is rarely fit enough for the task at hand and can have overheating problems because of the insulating effects of fat, while the underweight horse might be lacking in fuel reserves. To avoid these problems, you need a working knowledge of your horse’s energy requirements and the energy content of the various feeds in his diet

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Written by:

Ray Geor, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, is the pro vice-chancellor of the Massey University College of Sciences, in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

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