Performance Feeding - Altering Energy According to Work

As we approach the last few events, in what’s been a rather fragmented season, it’s important to consider feeding and management for the quieter months ahead. While some horses will be kept in work for continuing the season later in year, some will be turned out for a short but much deserved break. Below are some important nutrition points to consider, to make the transition between work and spelling as smooth as possible.

Forage comes first. An adequate supply of high-quality forage is important for optimum digestive health. While forage sources may change from work and spelling, ensure at least 1.5% of the horse’s body weight is provided daily. When decreasing work and turning horses out for a spell, beware of the effects of high sugar pastures, as the combination of less work and high calorie grass could cause undesirable behavioural changes! As well as increasing risk of injury while turned out, care must be taken in this situation when starting work again.

Alter caloric intake in relation to the horse’s workload and body condition. In most cases, less work generally means less calories required to maintain weight. To continue supplying nutrients daily while the horse is spelling, consider NRM Equine Balancer concentrated balancer pellet fed at 100g per 100kg body weight daily (approximately 500-600g daily). If more calories are required use a low energy feed such as NRM Coolade, NRM Horse and Pony or McMillan Cool Feed. NRM Low GI Sport or McMillan Grain Free are ideal for supplying slow-release energy to those hotter types. Monitor body condition regularly and alter intake accordingly.

Continue meeting nutrient requirements. Even while on a break, horses have daily requirements for important trace minerals and vitamins. Meeting these will ensure they come into work in optimum health. To avoid complicating diets, select a well formulated feed and offer it at the correct levels for your horse or pony. NRM and McMillan equine feeds have all been formulated to provide the correct amount of all essential nutrients for any performance horse in a balanced way, when fed at the correct levels and combined with New Zealand forages.

Always provide salt. Sodium and chloride will be required daily, even when the horse is out of work. Even during the cooler months, electrolyte losses can occur. The best way to ensure adequate supply is through the correct amount of a well formulated feed with a free choice salt block, or 30-60g of salt added to feeds.

Consider digestive health. While increased pasture turnout and decreased work will reduce the risk of digestive conditions such as gastric ulcers and hindgut acidosis - and may even aid in their healing - if the horse is displaying symptoms or particularly prone to digestive upset, continue with a credible digestive aid such as Maxia Complete, Maxia Digest or KERx EquiShure.

For assistance with feeding plans to enhance overall health and performance, head to or consult with an experienced equine nutrition advisor.

Article supplied by Luisa Wood, Equine Nutritionist for NRM and McMillan Feeds.

CLICK HERE FOR BLOG 6 - Prepairing for the season ahead