Horses involved in flat racing are physically immature individuals. While the nutritional requirements for energy, protein, fibre, water, vitamins and the macro and micro elements for the mature horse are reasonably established, the requirements of the young horse, particularly that of the working / in training young horse are less certain. What is without doubt, is that many young horses break down on the racetrack and therefore constitute an economic loss to the racing industry. Break down can be attributed to several factors:
- Age/ physical immaturity
- Genetic predisposition
- Training methods: a) Trainer b) Track
As this group of horses are both growing and working, they need a ration that supplies levels of energy and protein that sustain growth and repair. They also have an above average requirement for the macro minerals, electrolytes and vitamins, as they spend much of their life stabled, without access to sun and fresh pasture.
Historically racehorses have tended to be fed straights: oats, barley, maize, beans, and hay. However in recent years the feed manufacturers and scientists have been successful in persuading the Racing Industry to convert to complete ration compounds, either coarse mixes or cubes. Some are adamant that additional supplementation should not take place as this unbalances the ration, but the evidence is that supplementation of a wide range is carried out.
Useful supplements may include:
Glucosamine: This is a nutrient of the joints, musles, tendons and ligaments. It is useful in the maintenance and repair of the skeletal system.
- MSM -Methyl sulphonyl methane when fed to racehorses reduced stress. It has also been found to reduce inflammation, enhance circulation and help to alleviate pain. It is therefore a natural alternative to steroids.
- DMG -Dimethylglycine, improves cellular oxygen utilisation and lactate clearance, improving performance and reducing recovery time. It also supports the immune system.
- The above can be found in Equilitrate's CHF (CONDITION HOOF & FLEX) or purchased as individual supplements from Equilibrate
- Racehorses should be fed a diet that includes at least half the ration as forage i.e. hay or haylage.
- They should not be overfed protein as this stresses the liver and kidneys and may actually result in lost races!
- If fed straights then a mineral and vitamin supplement is essential.