Managing Feeding Programs on the Road for Show Horses
The show season is in full swing and horses are subjected to the stress of going down the road on a regular basis. This travel schedule imposes additional requirements for managing the feeding program. Horses like consistency. Changes can cause emotional and physical stress. The more we can keep the routines the same, the easier it is for the horses to cope with the challenges of travel and competition. The following are some suggestions that may be useful to help maintain the body condition, appearance and performance that is required to maintain the competitive status of the horse.
First and foremost, it is critical to maintain water intake while traveling and while stabled away from home. The water may taste different at different locations. Horses should have fresh clean water available at all times when stabled at shows and should be offered water as needed between classes.
- When traveling, horses should be offered water on a regular basis. I recommend offering water every 2 hours while hauling and others may have different schedules that work for them.
- If horses are reluctant to drink water that smells different due to chlorination or water source, it may be useful to flavor the water at home with something like wintergreen or vanilla so that you can do the same when traveling.
- You need to make certain that whatever you use does NOT contain caffeine or anything that will trigger a positive drug test!
- If you are going to flavor the water, do it well in advance of travel so that the water at home smells and tastes like the water while traveling.
- If horses get dehydrated during a show, the risk of impaction colic may increase, particularly during hot weather. The horses may also not perform up to expectations, particularly in multiple day or multiple event competitions.
- As a judge and as an announcer, I can see the difference in some horses from day 1 to day 3 of an event.
Second, maintain your feeding schedule as close as possible to routine followed at home. You may have to adjust slightly to accommodate classes.
- If for some reason you have to miss a feeding, do not double up at the next one!
- Use the same forage as you feed at home. A sudden change in forage can be a potential cause of colic.
- Salt should be offered free choice while traveling.
- Additional electrolytes may be used prior to, during, and following a competition, but should not be added to the water as this may impact water intake.
Third, monitor body condition carefully and adjust feeding rates to avoid excess weight loss while traveling. A horse can tuck up badly if it goes off feed and water.
Fourth, select a horse feed that will help reduce the risk of metabolic issues and will help maintain intake to maintain body condition and bloom. Added fat, controlled starch & sugar products with balanced amino acids and added key vitamins work well for virtually all classes of show horses.
Pre-season preparation involves achieving desired body condition, coat condition, hoof condition and the required training. Managing the horse during competition is essential to maintain the competitive edge!