Do Elite Show Jumpers Get the Nutrition They Need?

Dr. Shannon Pratt-Phillips surveyed elite show jumper owners/managers about their horse’s diets. Here’s what she found.

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Elite show jumpers are the frequent flyers of the horse world, soaring over massive fences with room to spare, while also collecting air miles while traveling between competitions. Not unlike jet planes that fill up with petrol before every flight, jumpers need the appropriate fuel to make it over the fences cleanly and within the time allowed. But the added stress and logistics of international transit can make getting a consistent diet difficult. So how are these horses getting the nutrients they need to stay successful? One researcher recently sought to find out.

Shannon Pratt-Phillips, MSc, PhD, associate professor of animal science at North Carolina State University, sought to gain nutritional information about show jumpers, so she surveyed owners and managers of these elite athletes in active competition. She presented her survey findings at the University of Maryland’s Dept. of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ 2016 Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference, held March 23-24, in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

In response to Pratt-Phillip’s survey, managers reported getting the bulk of their nutrition information from the Internet, magazines, veterinarians, farriers, and feed companies.  Additionally:

  • Managers weren’t utilizing independent nutritionists;
  • Many horse/rider teams were supported by feed companies and often followed manufacturers’ recommendations; and
  • Some managers wanted to know more detailed nutritional information, while others were satisfied with the status quo. 

Top nutrition-related health concerns among the managers surveyed included ulcers and lameness. Interestingly, most managers reported feeding the hay provided by the competition facility, which was often of poor to moderate quality, without mixing in hay that the horse was used to eating. However, horses had access to hay the majority of the time they were stabled

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Written by:

Nettie Liburt, MS, PhD, PAS, is an equine nutritionist based on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she studied equine exercise physiology and nutrition. Liburt is a member of the Equine Science Society.

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