KER.com - Full Article
March 21, 2019
By Kentucky Equine Research Staff
Horses are superior athletes. Physical adaptations through evolution have given horses speed and endurance. Selective breeding has narrowed and refined desirable athletic abilities in modern horses. Some of the physiologic adaptations include high maximal aerobic capacity, large intramuscular stores of glycogen, specific ratios of muscle fiber types within breeds, splenic contraction to increase circulating red blood cells, efficient gaits, and the ability to regulate heat stress through sweating.
The inherent athletic ability of the horse is impressive. However, to achieve optimal performance in any equine sport, a conditioning program must be designed that improves cardiovascular function, capillary density in muscle, flexibility, bone strength, increased muscle mass, increased energy substrate storage, and more efficient utilization.
Carbohydrates and Fats
Performance horses require water, protein, minerals, vitamins and, most importantly, energy. Energy can be supplied by carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Protein is used very inefficiently for energy. Carbohydrates can be categorized by how they are digested. Grains such as oats, corn, and barley contain high levels of starch that are digested by enzymes in the stomach and small intestine. Forages and high-fiber by-products are composed primarily of cellulose, hemicellulose, pectins, and indigestible lignin. These structural carbohydrates vary tremendously in energy level, from beet pulp that has the same digestible energy as oats to mature grass hay, which can provide 65-75% less digestible energy...
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