Managing Feeding Programs on the Road for Show Horses

Managing Feeding Programs on the Road for Show Horses

First and foremost, it is critical to maintain water intake while the horse is traveling and/or stabled away from home.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

When the show season is in full swing, many horses are subjected to the stress of going down the road on a regular basis. This travel schedule imposes additional requirements for managing the feeding program.

Horses like consistency. Changes can cause emotional and physical stress. The more we can keep the routines the same, the easier it is for the horses to cope with the challenges of travel and competition. The following are some suggestions that might be useful to help maintain the body condition, appearance, and performance that is required to maintain the competitive status of the horse.

First and foremost, it is critical to maintain water intake while the horse is traveling and/or stabled away from home. The water might taste different at different locations. Horses should have fresh clean water available at all times when stabled at shows and should be offered water as needed between classes. Also, when traveling, horses should be offered water on a regular basis. I recommend offering water every two hours while hauling.

If horses are reluctant to drink water that smells different due to chlorination or water source, it might be useful to flavor the water at home with something like wintergreen or vanilla so that you can do the same when traveling. Make certain that whatever you use does not contain caffeine or anything that will trigger a positive drug test! If you are going to flavor the water, do it well in advance of travel so that the water at home smells and tastes like the water while traveling.

If horses get dehydrated during a show their risk of impaction colic will likely increase, particularly during hot weather. The horses might also not perform up to expectations, particularly in multiple-day or multiple-event competitions.

Second, maintain your feeding schedule as close as possible to routine followed at home. You might have to adjust slightly to accommodate classes, but if for some reason you have to miss a feeding, do not double up at the next one.

Use the same forage as you feed at home. A sudden change in forage can be a potential cause of colic.

Salt should be offered while traveling, and additional electrolytes can be used prior to, during, and following a competition. But avoid adding electrolytes to water if you've not done so previously—this could impact water flavor and, thus, intake.

Third, monitor body condition carefully and adjust feeding rates to avoid excess weight loss while traveling.

Fourth, select a horse feed that will help reduce the risk of metabolic issues and will help maintain intake to maintain body condition and bloom. Added fat, controlled starch and sugar products with balanced amino acids, and added key vitamins work well for virtually all classes of show horses.

Pre-season preparation involves achieving desired body condition, coat condition, hoof condition, and the required training. Managing the horse during competition is essential to maintain the competitive edge.

Reprinted with permission from The Feed Room, by Nutrena.

About the Author

Roy A. Johnson, MS

Roy A. Johnson, MS, is an equine technology manager for Cargill Animal Nutrition. In his role, he is responsibile for the development of horse feeds for U.S. business, including feeds for Nutrena, ACCO, Agway, and private label brands. A former professional horse trainer, farm manager, and horse judging coach, Johnson was an assistant professor in the Agricultural Production Division at the University of Minnesota-Wasecae before joining Cargill. Johnson has also participated in a successful Thoroughbred racing partnership.

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