Friday, January 11, 2013

Matching Horse Diets to Performance Demands - Full Article

By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · December 27, 2012

In order to perform to the best of their ability, elite human athletes pay a lot of attention to what they eat, how much they consume, and when they schedule meals before a competition. Feeding a performance horse is similar in that what, when, and how much it is fed is tied to the length and intensity of the work it will be asked to do. A trainer preparing a Thoroughbred for a short, explosive sprint on a racetrack will feed quite differently from an owner who is planning to enter her Arabian gelding in a 50-mile endurance race.

Those who manage equine diets will be able to make better feeding choices if they understand the basic structure of the horse’s digestive organs and the influence of feeding on blood flow distribution. The horse’s digestive tract consists of a rather small stomach, a long small intestine, and a large hindgut that holds gallons of fluid and billions of microorganisms that aid in the fermentation of fiber. Much of the weight of the digestive tract is due to this sizeable fluid content. In the idle horse, somewhat more blood flow is sent to the digestive tract organs. When the horse exercises, blood flow to the muscles increases and the supply to support digestion decreases...

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