• Summer Nicole Terry

Let's Talk... Feeding the Performance Horse

💁‍ Let's Talk... Feeding the Performance Horse

First off, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! I hope you had an incredible day filled great memories and great food! Sooo who's stuck in that post-holiday dinner coma? 🙋‍ Since you're relaxing and scrolling through Facebook, I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk about the things we put in our own bodies and what we put in our horse's body!!

Do know what why you get so tired after eating a big feast? (It might be because you've been up all night cooking it, but that's another story)

It's because most of our traditional meals are super HEAVY! They're loaded with protein, carbs, starches, and sugar... And if you aren't used to that type of diet, your body has to go into hyperdrive to digest the third plate of food. (you know we all do it, no judgement) Now my high metabolism husband can eat our whole refrigerator and never gain weight... Me on the other hand, I'm a bit older, my metabolism has slowed down from health issues, I have to be very conscious of everything I put in my mouth. (I'm pretty sure I could gain weight watching him eat)

Now our bodies work different than a horse. We eat food, and when it enters our stomach then acid comes in and breaks it down. Horses have acid churning continuously, which is why they need to graze (or have hay) pretty much 24/7 so there's something to buffer that acid. (If there's a fruit and veggie tray left out, I become a grazing animal too.)

So let's go back to talking about heavy meals... It's important to fuel the body for the amount of work you need your body to do... For instance a professional human athlete is going to require way more food than someone that works a desk job, because the athlete needs to be able to replace everything they burn off. An athlete is going to have a higher metabolism (ability to burn and use nutrients) than someone that sits in one spot most of the day. Body type, build, genetics, and overall health also play a big role in this too.

People are always asking us... How much should I feed? What should I feed? I want to feed what "so and so winning barrel racer" feeds. My granddaddy fed this here thing to his horses 50 years ago and they did fine on it....

Here's the common sense factor to the whole feeding situation... Every horse is different. You have to look at how your horse is built. A small, stout cutting horse doesn't have the same nutritional requirements as a 16 hands thin built thoroughbred. Too much protein is going to build up in short, stocky muscles causing soreness and stiffness... Where that lanky, hard keeper may eat you out of house and home, and still not get fat. Their genetics are just different.

Also, the person whole occasionally trail rides for pleasure is going to be able to feed less than the person hauling 4 nights a week living that rodeo trail.

Another factor that plays into the scenario is gut health. That trail horse probably doesn't have near the stress and muscle fatigue and chronic pain as the professional rodeo horse does. So the trail horse is probably less likely to have gut inflammation, leaky gut, and ulcers.... He's going to be able to better digest and utilize the nutrients he's given. Your performance horse needs more to fuel the working body, but will generally have less digestive function unless you have a good preventative maintenance for gut health. You can pay for all the best supplements, but if the gut is on fire... They aren't going to be used properly. Same in people!

Another thing we see at our facility is horses that are injured being on stall rest with the same high powered feed regimen as if they were hauling. You want the healing body to have plenty of nutrients, but if you don't have the exercise to burn off what you put in.... You end up creating more inflammation, stiffness, and soreness. Plus you end up with a horse trying to "red bull gives you wings" out of the stall.... Some injuries require a very strict diet. Stifles, spine injuries, and colic surgery are just a few examples of thing where you just can't let a horse get fat on stall rest. It makes healing much more difficult with extra weight pulling on them. It's the same way heavier people typically have more trouble with rehab from knee, hip and lower back surgeries... I'm not shaming, I'm just telling it how it is.

The bottom line is that you have to do your research and understand what your nutritional goals are before deciding on the perfect feed. Every type of feed has its place, but you have to figure out how to best meet the needs of your horse. Just like our holiday meal... Too much starch, carbs, and protein make for a very heavy, stiff, sluggish animal if they don't work hard enough to burn it off. If you're not sure on your horse's body type, don't be afraid to ask! Hope you have a great Thanksgiving! Don't forget your Tums, Pepcid, Gas-X to help ease your body back to normal function! 🤣🤣🤣

— at Superior Therapy LLC.

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