In addition to being one of the oldest domestic horse breeds in the world, thoroughbreds are also one of the most versatile. After a full career in racing, many individuals transition very successfully into other disciplines. Some become top level eventers and showjumpers, some go on to play polo or horseball, and some become very content pasture companions. Nutrition is a particulalry important management consideration when planning for your ex-racehorse’s new lifestyle. Here Dodson & Horrell Veterinarian and Performance Horse Nutritionist, Dr Courtney Miller BS BVetMed MRCVS explains what to consider when feeding the ex-racehorse.
In order to meet their energy requirements during training, racehorses are often fed diets containing large proportions of cereal based concentrates, three to four times per day. To prevent injury and maintain routine, many also will not have access to turnout or grazing during the racing season. If you have taken on an ex-racehorse immediately after the completion of their racing season, dietary changes should be made particularly gradually, over the course of at least two weeks, to help minimise intestinal upset.
New feedstuffs should be introduced in increasing amounts, whilst simultaneously reducing the proportion of former dietary constituents. Certain feeding strategies and management practices should be additionally considered, to help combat the high incidence of gastric ulcers present in thoroughbreds whilst racing. Choosing feeds with a low starch contribution to total diet, in addition to feeding at least two percent of total body weight in forage each day, may help. Alfalfa has additional researched benefits pertaining to the management of stomach ulcers, including its ability to form a fibre patty within the stomach, and buffer against stomach acid. If you are concerned your horse may be suffering from stomach ulcers, please consider consulting your veterinarian and nutritionist for individualised diagnostic, treatment, and feeding advice.
Ultimately, our goal is adaptation of the diet to suit the energy requirements needed for optimum performance of your ex-racehorse, whilst maintaining health and welfare. As previously mentioned, at least two percent of total body weight in the form of fibre, should be included in the total diet each day. Ideally, forage should be available ad-lib, as well as fresh water. Contributing forage sources include grass consumed whilst grazing, dry hay, haylage, chaff, and certain high fibre concentrates. The use of high fat, high oil, quality protein, low starch feeds, may additionally help maintain condition whilst preventing excess fizz. Although some ex-racing thoroughbreds become easy keepers, most ex-racehorse owners face a difficult task of maintaining condition, without creating excess spark.
Utimate Balancer, Fibre Fusion, Build & Glow, High Fibre Nuts, Staypower Cubes and Muesli, as well as Sixteen Plus Cubes and Mix, are popular and versatile Dodson & Horrell products suitable for ex-racehorses. Various combinations of these products allow for the incorporation of an owner’s dietary wants and needs with their horse’s body condition requirements.
For individual recommendations, information about body condition scoring, or to schedule a yard visit with one of the Dodson & Horrell nutritionists please call their nutritional helpline on 0845 345 2627 or visit www.dodsonandhorrell.com