Feeding The Endurance Horse
Endurance competition calls for a specific diet and three critical nutrients should be considered when competing an endurance horse: energy, electrolytes and water.
Energy is obtained from starch, fat, fibre and protein when these dietary sources are broken down in the digestive system. Starch sources (maize, oats and barley) are broken down in the small intestine and absorbed as glucose. Feeding too much starch per meal could lead to digestive upset, such as colic as well as tying-up.
The most common source of fat is soya bean oil (full fat soya) and is a very concentrated energy source, containing about 2.5 times the energy of starch in equal weight proportions. Fat is also highly digestible and does not cause digestive upset like starch.
Fibre such as grazing, hay, and hay replacers also provide energy. Energy is an end product of fibre digestion as it occurs in the hind gut through microbial digestion. Furthermore, fibre is critical in the endurance horse’s diet as it stimulates the horse to drink water and helps maintain healthy digestive function, thus serving as a fluid and electrolyte reserve.
Protein as energy source is not recommended. It is a very expensive energy source as not only is it inefficient but the breakdown of protein into energy results in huge amounts of ammonia which must be excreted through the urine, which can result in dehydration as the horse cannot consume enough water to replace what is lost.
Spurwing Stamina provides the endurance horse with a reduced protein diet with a high-quality digestible fibre source in the form of Oat Hay, which has an increased water holding capacity, reducing the chances of dehydration. Spurwing Stamina has the correct mix of digestible energy sources to ensure peak performance, through the inclusion of extruded full fat soya which provides the slow release energy needed as well as a fast release energy source from starch (extruded maize). The extrusion process ensures digestion in the small intestine, preventing digestive upsets. Full fat soya also provides the correct balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 is known to be anti-inflammatory and Omega-6 pro-inflammatory thus a correct balance is vital.
Why not Lucerne?
Lucerne has a higher calcium level compared with grass. Daily intake of high amounts of calcium can be detrimental when horses are working hard as the body becomes used to having a constant supply of calcium through the diet. When horses are working for extended periods (during an endurance ride) and need higher levels of calcium, the body is slower to mobilize calcium from storage, creating a shortage of available calcium which causes a metabolic problem. Lucerne also contains more protein than grass hay resulting in excess protein that needs to be broken down and excreted in urine, increasing a horse’s water requirements and dehydration risk.
Horses cool themselves by dissipating heat through sweat, resulting in a loss of both body fluid and electrolytes. It is vital to allow an endurance horse to drink at every given opportunity and even more so to replace lost electrolytes. Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride and magnesium and these control nerve and muscle function, the loss of which results in fatigue and muscle weakness. Perhaps even more dangerous is the decrease in thirst response which occurs during dehydration, further leading to the horse not wanting to consume either water or feed. Spurwing Electrolytes contains all that is necessary to replace these minerals. Dehydration is one of the major reasons horses don’t finish a ride as the gut stops working properly when dehydration occurs and you no longer hear normal gut sounds.
Spurwing Stamina also contains antioxidants, Vitamin C and E, providing protection against free radicals, ensuring a healthy immune system for your top Endurance athlete.