Pre-Season Diet for Horses

Pre-Season Diet for Horses
10 February 2016 | Sabrina Barnwell MVB MRCVS


A pre-season diet for horses should be part of the equine prep for summer competitions.

Hurray, Spring is here and the daffodils are starting to appear. It’s been a winter full of storms with names, but, if you peep out the window at exactly the right moment, there is a chance of seeing blue skies.

For those of you clever enough to take a winter break from all things equestrian, it is now time for knocking off those cobwebs and plan a pre-season diet for horses. Horses up and down the country are sighing collective groans as owners survey the degree of winter spread and start mentioning words like “summer campaign” and “mane pulling”.

Some horses, regardless of age, may approach this time of year by pretending to forget that they were ever broken at all and certainly have never seen a school, show jump or “THAT” chair/sign/bin which DEFINITELY wasn’t there in August.

How Much to Feed a Horse

Part of the equine operation transformation is taking a look at the pre-season diet for horses. Considering the hazards of negotiating the most ordinary tasks it is sometimes wise not to be feeding quite the recommended three buckets of feed a day until you have both come to an agreement regarding acceptable behaviour.

Reducing the amount of daily feed may keep all four feet on the ground and your bum in the saddle for longer but it comes at a price. Many horses can easily afford a period of time on a reduced calorie intake but the reduced vitamins and minerals may cause other issues. Deficiencies in most vitamins and minerals can be difficult to detect and take some time to appear. Most problems will manifest later in the year so having your horse in tip top condition for the summer season means getting the diet right at this stage.

If your horse is on “restricted” calories (like us on a diet!) for a little while you can still meet the requirements for vitamins and minerals by adding a supplement. Chevinal is a multivitamin supplement that can boost your horse’s nutrient intake.

The planning starts here.

Supplements to Make a Horse’s Coat Shine

You wouldn’t do a dressage test without training and preparing and having your horse in the best possible health. Dull coat, brittle, cracked hooves and reduced stamina are the symptoms that are often caused by problems in the nutrition of the horse. During the summer months, we are often asked how to make a horse’s coat really shine. Start by feeding Kentucky Karron Oil early in the season to get a real sparkle from the inside out. Kentucky Karron Oil is an emulsified linseed oil (sometimes called flaxseed… they are the same thing!). Emulsified just means that it is slightly processed so that the horse can digest it better and quicker so that none is wasted. This also saves you money in the long term.

Copper Supplement for Horses

There are some areas of Ireland that have soil that is particularly deficient in copper. Horses that are grazed on this type of land often have a particularly dull coat. They often look brown rather than bay or chestnut or look sun bleached, which let’s face it is unlikely in Ireland! Adding copper to the diet is relatively easy, Copper-Max Paste comes as a paste in a syringe for once off, weekly or fortnightly doses, or Coppervit can be added to the feed daily or every second day as required. To read more about copper deficiency in horses see an article we wrote previously on Copper Supplementation in Horses.

There’s a reason that the old adage, “No Foot No Horse” has stuck about… its true. While some situations can’t be remedied with feed, supplements or indeed novenas, you can help horses with ongoing brittle hoof issues. Biotin and zinc are key factors in the construction of hoof. To avoid the farrier avoiding your phone calls start feeding Hoof Aid Liquid or Hoof Aid Powder as early as possible. Brittle, cracked hooves can’t be “healed” by adding supplement but the new hoof growth is healthier meaning that the cracks are less likely to occur in the future. Hoof Aid Liquid or Hoof Aid Powder is to be added to the feed daily.  To learn more about hoof health, here’s an article we wrote on “Promoting Healthy Hoof Growth”.

Good luck with motivating yourself and your trusty steed to competition fitness, mentally and physically. Check back in a few weeks for helpful tips on maintaining condition, maintain a cool head and understanding electrolytes.

For further advice or if you have any question relating to a particular horse or situation please contact our team.

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