Archive for May, 2021

Feeding Your Performance Horse

Monday, May 10th, 2021

Performance HorseYour performance horse is an incredible athlete, and like any athlete, your horse’s nutrition plays a significant role in his ability to reach his full potential.

A performance horse’s diet should be tailored to the horse’s individual needs based on certain factors. For example, the type and frequency of training, current body condition, and lifestyle. Here are some common nutrition objectives to consider when feeding your performance horse.

Goals of Performance Horse Nutrition

When making decisions about your performance horse’s nutrition, there are some basic goals to keep in mind regardless of the type of work your horse is doing. These include considerations such as:

  • Providing enough energy to sustain the workload.
  • Maintaining appropriate body condition and muscle mass.
  • Ensuring adequate forage intake for digestive tract health.
  • Supplying all required nutrients and replenishing those lost during performance.

The products you feed your horse should achieve these goals through an appropriate balance of nutrients. The exact ratios of nutrients will vary between products. When deciding what products to give your performance horse, you’ll need to consider several components to determine whether it is right for your horse.

Energy

The energy, or caloric content, of the performance horse diet is a delicate balance. A balanced diet for your horse should provide enough energy to keep the horse in good condition and to fuel the horse for extended exercise. Assessing the amount of energy your performance horse requires will be the first step in choosing an appropriate feed or supplement.

Carbohydrates and fat are the most important sources of energy in a performance horse’s diet and are typically supplemented as part of the grain ration. All horses need these nutrients as part of a balanced diet, but the ratios required will vary depending on the type of work your horse is doing. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for short, intense bursts of work, such as racing. Fats, on the other hand, provide sustained energy for endurance work such as eventing. Supplements could also help your horse maintain energy.

Forage

Forage is the mainstay of any equine diet, yet is sometimes overlooked. High-quality forage is not only important for the health and function of the equine digestive tract but also provides other essential nutrients such as protein and carbohydrates. Although most performance horses rely on grain supplementation to meet their energy requirements, recent research has suggested that even performance horses doing intense work can be maintained on a forage-only diet if a high-quality, high-energy forage is used.

Alfalfa and timothy hay are the most commonly used forages due to their palatability and availability. Alfalfa, in particular, offers a higher energy and protein content than many other forages. The types of forage available for your horse will vary depending on your geographic region, but it is most important to obtain a high-quality early cut. When traveling, be sure to bring plenty of your horse’s usual forage with you whenever possible to avoid abrupt dietary changes.

Protein

Performance horses with heavy workloads typically require slightly more dietary protein than horses with a less active lifestyle. Protein is needed to maintain muscle mass and promote recovery after exercise. However, feeding too much protein may result in health problems and decreased performance. It is recommended that horses receive about 8-12% crude protein depending on their workload. Keep in mind that protein does not just come from grain; high-quality hay often contains as much protein as the grain ration while also providing appropriate forage for the horse.

Fat

As a horse’s workload increases, the energy required to maintain that level of activity also increases. Horses with a moderate to high level of activity need more energy than can be provided by forage alone. Because of this, fat supplementation has become popular in many performance horse diets. A high-quality fat supplement, can provide additional calories to the feed, is highly digestible, and can also be a source of essential fatty acids. However, it takes time for horses to become adapted to fat supplementation, so gradual implementation is necessary.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are especially important for performance horses. As a horse sweats during exercise, water, sodium, and chloride are lost from the body. If the horse becomes dehydrated, potassium may be lost as well. Ensuring adequate intake of these electrolytes both before and after exercise can support dehydration and promote water intake. Horses should always have free access to fresh water before and after exercise to maintain adequate hydration.

Choosing the Best Feeds and Supplements for Your Horse

Good nutrition is a complex subject and is especially crucial when fueling the performance athlete. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to performance horse nutrition, and your horse’s needs may change as his training advances. Your veterinarian is your best resource for more information on choosing an appropriate performance horse feed. By customizing your horse’s diet to meet his unique energy and nutrient requirements, you can help your horse be at his best no matter where he competes.

Kissimee Valley Feed carries several different feeds and supplements, as well as hay, for Performance Horses, including Purina, Triple Crown and Patriot. Visit one of our locations to find the perfect feed for your Performance Horse!

 

Article sourced from: vitaflex

Make Your Horse More Accepting and Less Fearful

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

If you’ve been around horses any length of time, chances are you’ve heard about “desensitizing.” The concept may sound positive: getting your horse to be calm around things that previously upset him. Some methods can actually backfire and cause more difficulties down the road. Read these tips, provided by farnam, to help make your horse more accepting and less fearful.

When you overload a horse with too much sensory information at once, he typically responds in one of two ways: he’ll either explode (“I’m outta here!”) or he’ll simply shut down and zone out (“I’m going to my happy place and it’s not here!”). Neither reaction is what you want.

While you might think the horse who “zones out” is in a better place mentally than the horse that explodes, that’s not the case. He might be standing quietly for the moment, but if you look closely, his eyes and expression tell the truth.

The horse with dull eyes and an “I’m not here” expression has mentally and emotionally gone inward to escape what’s happening, in many cases. This horse still has the potential to explode or react negatively and even dangerously.

That’s why it’s so important to take the time to teach acceptance and encourage confidence, rather than bombard a horse with an overload of stimuli in the name of desensitization.

Acceptance and acclimation are probably better words to use than desensitization. What we want to do is get our horses acclimated to and accepting of things that are outside their natural world,” notes Richard Winters (www.wintersranch.com), a longtime clinician and 2009 champion of the popular colt-starting competition, Road to the Horse.

Winters conducts horsemanship clinics across the country, and his Richard Winters Horsemanship TV shows can be seen on HRTV. He and his wife Cheryl live on their ranch in Reno, Nevada.

“When a horse sees something outside his paradigm, his instincts kick in and he thinks, ‘I won’t stick around for this!’ He reacts rather than responds,” Winter explains.  “What we want to do is ‘reprogram’ or ‘recondition’ our horses so they respond rather than react.  They have a program built in by God when they’re born, but they’re so adaptable and they can be reconditioned.”

Scary Stuff

Two common “scary” things a domestic horse encounters are clippers and spray bottles.  Winters points out that there are right and wrong ways to get your horse accepting of anything.  Before you get started, get the stage set for success:

  • Don’t wait until the day before a show when you HAVE to clip or spray the horse.
  • Don’t tie him up.
  • Make sure the area and footing are safe.
  • Be patient!

“Any time you’re trying to get a horse used to something, you can eliminate a lot of volatile reactions if you don’t tie him up,” cautions Winters.  “Be organized with your lead rope so it doesn’t get tangled or wrapped around you, and so that you can move with your horse if he moves.”

Clipping 101

“I’m a big fan of cordless clippers because you aren’t fighting the cord and have all the room you need,” says Winters.  “Just make sure the batteries have a full charge, because otherwise the blades may tug at the hair.  Sharp blades are important because dull blades will also pull the hair.  You also need to keep the blades well lubricated with clipper spray.”

“You have a big responsibility to the horse NOT to hurt him with the clippers so he doesn’t have a bad experience,” he adds.  “Blades are sharp, so you really need to be aware of how you use the clippers and that you don’t jab the horse.  If you want to know how it feels, just run the blades over your own hand and take off the peach fuzz.”

Consider your approach.  If you “come at” your horse’s head with the clippers, he’s naturally going to resist.

“It’s a matter of degree.  Many horses are touchy about their ears and the hairs under the jaw, so start somewhere on the horse’s body where he can handle the clippers, such as his shoulder,” advises Winters.

“At first, just hold the vibrating clippers in your hand and rub the horse in that area with the back of your hand.  Don’t actually touch him with the clippers yet.  Let him hear the noise and feel the vibration through your hand.  Don’t be jerky and quick.  Your hand needs to have smooth, fluid motions.”

Ideally, you want to turn the horse’s apprehension into curiosity and that curiosity into confidence.  To do this, you can’t have a timetable and you must be patient.  Let the horse sniff the clippers if he wants.  Don’t be in a hurry!

After the horse is quiet and accepting of your hand holding the clippers and moving in different areas of his body (this might take more than one session), you can actually use the clippers on him.

Again, don’t tie him up. Stand to the side, not directly in front of him. Horses aren’t fighters by nature, but a startled horse may strike out, so you want to be safe.

Use common safety sense when you start clipping. When you’re working on the head, place your hand — the one that isn’t holding the clippers — on the bridge of the horse’s nose. This will help steady him so he doesn’t move quickly and hit you with his head.

Clipping legs can put you in a very dangerous position. The best policy is to have someone else hold the horse. You and the handler should always be on the same side of the horse. This way if the horse jumps or moves around, the handler won’t unintentionally swing the horse into you.

If you need to clip the fetlocks, start by running the back of the clippers (or the back of your hand holding the clippers) up and down his leg to be sure he’s accepting. After you know he’s fine with this sensation, carefully proceed to clip the fetlocks.

Winters found that some horses are more sensitive to having their legs clipped than their heads, so use caution. With some horses, it’s helpful to pick up the leg and hold it while you’re clipping.

Spray, Spray Away

You may think a spray bottle is nothing to be frightened of, but it’s not a natural thing to the horse. While it can’t cause pain like clippers can, the sensation of something spraying on the horse can bother him.

For starters, fill a spray bottle with plain water so you don’t waste whatever product — fly repellent, coat conditioner, etc. — you want to use.

Hold the lead rope, but don’t tie the horse. Standing at his side, lightly spray near his body in the area where he is least reactive. Just spray the air near him — not the horse himself — until he begins to accept the sound and motion of the spray bottle.

“Use gradual, rhythmic sweeping motions with your arm,” says Winters. “Don’t spray him directly, but just spray a mist of water up so it drifts down on him. Then gradually get closer to him as you spray the air beside him. Using the sweeping motions, go back and forth, in closer to the horse and then away.”

As you begin to spray the horse, do so in the areas where he is least sensitive. For example, his barrel, shoulder or back, rather than his legs, head, neck or belly.

“Don’t continually spray the horse in the same area,” says Winters. “Just keep rhythmically moving your arm and he won’t have as much time to react to where he’s being sprayed.”

It may take several sessions with the water bottle for your horse to accept that being sprayed isn’t a torture session. Never spray product on your horse’s face. Even when he seems accepting, because you might get some of the spray in his eyes or nose. Instead, apply the product using a cloth, or use a roll-on applicator, if available.

Just remember: Lessons with the clippers and spray bottle are really about trust and confidence. Always end on a positive note. Take your time and be sure to reward your horse with rubs and praise in a soothing voice when he responds positively.

Kissimmee Valley Feed carries feed, hay and supplies. Contact or visit one of our locations today for more tips (to help make your horse more accepting and less fearful or in general)!

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