Feeding: the ration
Daily feeding is basic for well-being of horses. The ration can be divided into two parts, maintenance and ration for work.
The maintenance ration is what is required by each horse to maintain bodily functions and replace body tissue, for example to keep the mature horse at optimum weight and condition. This may well be provided just by grass in the spring and summer and include hay/forage, with perhaps some added sugar beet and hard feed in the winter, when more feed is needed to maintain body temperature and the grass has less nutritional value. The ration for work will vary according to the amount and type of work.
Working horses include brood mares in the last stages of pregnancy and when lactating, young stock who are growing and developing and breeding stallions, as well as animals being ridden or driven.
Animals breeding and developing will require a higher protein diet to help with their development. Horses being ridden and driven will require energy for exercise which will come mainly from carbohydrates.
The horse in hard competition work will require more energy food than the same horse in medium work. However, it should be appreciated that each horse will have a level of required energy. Food and feeding above that level will not produce extra fitness. Food doesn’t create fitness. It is used to be thought that horses doing strenuous work required considerably more protein than other horses. This has been found not to be so. The level of protein in the whole diet should not add up to more than 10%. The rations for competition horses doing fast or energetic work are all very similar although the type of work is often very different.
Blood-testing at the beginning of the fittening programme, and then again when the horse is fit, is a sensible investment. Their overall roughage intake should generally be 50% of their ration.
Horses running under FEI rules anywhere in the world may be tested for prohibited substances. This also applies to some national competitions. It is therefore very important that these substances do no get into horses’ food by mistake. Contamination usually occurs during transit or at the milling plant. Many of the top feed suppliers produce their competition equine mixes on production lines used solely for that purpose. They guarantee their products buti it is important that they are not contaminated once reaching the yard. Tools, feed bowls, buckets and storage bins must be all specific and scrupulous hygiene practised.
You can find the list of prohibited substances on FEI website www.fei.org.