You’ve probably heard the expression “you are what you eat” and for horses this is definitely true and even more so for thoroughbred racehorses. You’ll probably be quite surprised to hear then that the diet of most horses doesn’t differ too much from that of a champion race horse, but there are a few subtle changes that make all the difference to allow them to challenge the horse racing odds.
Another consideration though is how you feed a racehorse affects its performance. Feed it a low amount of high-energy food and it’ll lack the fuel to compete; feed it too much forage and you’ll weigh it down and it will be sluggish and won’t be competition ready. There is a balance to be had to ensure the horse receives the right amount of the right food.
For competition purposes, performance horses such as racehorses are stabled most of the time so that their nutrient intake can be controlled and they can be fed easily digested concentrated foods that are taken more rapidly than less energy-dense forages.
Grass and Hay
Whilst this isn’t much of a surprise and horses have been grazing on grass and hay for hundreds of years, there are differences. Wild horses graze on land that is usually sparse and lacking in quality food and this may sustain them but to build a race winning machine it takes more than just grazing in a field. Racehorses eat lots of grass and hay. The grass or hay obviously needs to be high quality, and the best hay tends to be taken from well-maintained land. Certain strains of forage are preferred as they provide optimum levels of nutrition and are digested quickly.
Grain and Oats
As they do for humans, grains and oats provide lots of energy for horses when eaten at the right times and in the right quantities. These feeds, such as grain mixtures and oats (a cereal crop that is used in many feedstuffs including porridge) are fed in smaller quantities than grass and hay and are even more closely monitored as whilst they provide most of the horse’s energy they also tend to fill the horse up faster and can make it gain weight.
There are many other additional feeds that trainers like to introduce to a racehorse’s diet to supplement their diets. Some of these are high in fibre such as sugar beet pulp. This adds further energy for the horse as well as helping it sustain its weight. Another popular addition to their diet are vitamin supplements which are added sometimes in powder form to other types of feed. This helps the trainer know that the horse is getting the right amounts of different vitamins and goodness to allow them to be fit and ready to race.
This goes without saying however it’s a super important part of the horse’s general well-being. The average racehorse can drink between five and 10 gallons a day, depending upon the air temperature, activity level, and whether or not the racehorse’s main diet is grass or hay. Water carries bacteria or viruses, so the water supply must be clean and changed pretty regularly.
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