Performing horses are like human athletes. Like any other athletes, these horses need our special attention when it comes to food, fitness, and overall wellness.
These kinds of horses spend their days most of the time in training to prepare for different horse shows. The owners and handlers of these show horses spend a lot of time, effort, and money just to make sure that they are in their best condition to win trophies and pride during the competitions.
Diet for Performance Horses
Performance horses require a special feeding program to keep them at optimal condition. Unlike retired and pleasure horses, performance horses need around 9-11% more protein in their diets. Non-performance horses only need around 8-10%. The extra amount of protein needed is for better muscle development and function of the horses.
Aside from the extra protein for the muscles, high quality hay is also a vital part of their diet. Performance horses are fed with hay around 3-4 times a day. A lot of forage is also given to keep the horse grazing to decrease the risk of ulcers to which performance horses are prone to.
Like human athletes, performance horses also need supplements to further boost their health. Performance horses are given alfalfa pellets or beef pulp as alternative to grains which often provide unnecessary carbohydrates. Technically, grains are not the main part of the diet because of its possible effects on the horse’s weight.
Not all performance horses though need to control their weight, some need to gain weight to be perfect for show competitions. Horse dietitians often use corn oil as additive to the horse’s diet to help it gain the needed weight. Basically, a thousand pound horse may need 2-3 cups of corn oil everyday to supply its dietary needs.
Keeping the Horse in Shape
Performance horses tend to be lazier if not trained or handled properly. To keep these horses in tip top condition there are several routines that must be followed:
To stay sound, performance horses must have regular shoeing at intervals of 4 to 6 weeks.
Aside from shoeing, there is footing routine that is needed. Several types of footings may be used depending on the sports that the horse may participate in. Horses that take part in dressage or jumping require a consistent and solid footing. Make sure that the footing ground is free of rocks or any materials that may present harm to the horse.
The legs of the horse must also be prepared and protected when they do hard training or leg work. Leg protections are a necessity to avoid injuries to their legs. Often, physical therapist specializing in horses will recommend using simple boots that act like splints which will provide extra protection.
Veterinarians also prescribe some medications to take care of the joints of the performance horses. These medicines help a lot to keep the joints strong but flexible since they are subjected to impact and stress during competitions.
There will be times that performance horses need help to feel better after a stressful event. Nowadays, there are a lot of possible solutions to alleviate pain or improve the horse’s condition. This is where massage therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists which specialized in treating animals like horses come in handy.