How a Work Program Changes Your Horse’s Nutritional Needs

Horses are natural athletes, but just like any athletes, they have specific nutritional requirements that increase when they’re in a work program. Figuring out how much to feed your work horse can require some trial and error, and possibly some consulting with your vet, but here are the basics of what you need to consider when your horse is active.

How Intense Is the Work Program?

As humans, we have a tendency to overestimate how much work your horse is doing. Remember that horses are natural athletes and your work horse is probably far more comfortable with his levels of activity than you realize. Here are some guidelines to help you determine whether your horse truly needs an increase in feed.

  • Light work: Pleasure, equitation, or trail horses being ridden five or fewer times a week.
  • Moderate work: Horses being ridden for ranch work, barrel racing, cutting, team penning, or jumping. This category includes your average ranch work horse as well as most serious competition horses.
  • Intense work: Only horses being ridden in the most intense sports fall into this category. This includes racing horses, endurance horses, and polo horses.

In general, horses in light work don’t need to have their feed increased much if at all. Horses in moderate or intense work programs will need more calories and other nutrients to meet their bodies’ needs.

Increasing Overall Feed

Your average horse needs to eat around 1-2 percent of their body weight every day, a little more or less depending on activity levels. A horse that’s just in light work shouldn’t need much, if any, increase over this. If you do notice any unwanted drop in weight, add more feed, preferably forage or hay pellets. Horses in moderate work, however, may need grain to supplement their diet and give them enough energy, and horses in intense work programs likely need large amounts of grain, as well as a supplementary fat, such as oil, to provide enough calories to meet the daily energy demands.

Providing the Right Nutrients

Feeding the work horse adequately means more than just increasing your horse’s feed. As your horse’s activity levels ramp up, it becomes necessary to ensure certain nutrients are being increased as well. For instance, your horse will need more salt to replace what he’s lost through sweating and to keep him drinking adequate amounts of water. He’ll also need increased amounts of protein, calcium, and phosphorus to keep him healthy.

Striking the Right Balance

An active work horse does have greater demands on his body, requiring that his nutritional needs be met so he can continue performing at his best, but don’t take this as license to throw every supplement known to man in his feed. Overdoing it can actually have detrimental effects, more than just losing money on unneeded supplements; it can also create toxicities or upset the delicate balance in a horse’s body. Be sure to test your hay and supplement only for known deficiencies, or for the sake of simplicity, turn to a feed with a guaranteed nutritional content, such as Sacate’s pelleted feeds. For more information on feeding your work horse, contact Sacate Pellet Mills today.