Keeping a racehorse healthy is of paramount importance before and during all races. The key to a horse’s health lies in their daily diet and workout regimes. Nutritional requirements of the racehorses are a thesis on their own. Whenever you start thinking about the diet requirement of a horse preparing for a big race, think energy! The top racing horse’s diet as of 2017 depends purely on their protein and carbohydrate requirements.
Racehorses need to run fixed distance races with the highest possible burst of energy. They have to speed up and hold that speed throughout the race to be the winner. Achieving a high speed is one thing and holding on to it for the next few hundred meters is another. In the wilderness, horses usually survive on grass and low-quality fodder. That supplies enough fiber and volume to fill their stomach, but that is simply not enough nutrients for the champion racehorses we see in the Breeders’ Cup and the Derbies.
An ATP fueled run
When a horse runs, it burns a lot of energy. According to info on Breeders Cup participants, these horses burn a lot of ATP. Just like all other mammals, horses do not have a natural ATP boosting mechanism that can work without enough protein-rich and energy-rich food. Some food groups produce high volumes of ATP at a faster rate as compared to low-grade fodder. There are tons of specially formulated feed for all racehorses.
A complete meal for the equine stars
Earlier, we used to see a lot of hay, cereal grains and beet pulp in the race horse’s diet. However, the owners, groomers, dieticians, and veterinarians prefer commercial grade; laboratory tested nutrient-rich meals for their prized runners throughout their life.
A complete meal includes proteins, highly fermentable fiber, naturally digested fibers, starch, and fat. They need about 16 to 17 MCal of digestible energy per day for giving their top performance. Fiber can help to maintain the horse’s health by protecting them from gastric ulcers and colic. Derivatives of oats, corn, and barley can maintain gut pH and maintain a balance in their usual high-protein meals. Horses digest vegetable fat without breaking a sweat. They need oil as a compact source of digestible energy. The commercially available food usually has sufficient amount of oil to provide enough energy, yet prevent signs of high levels of oil intake.
All protein diets are never good for horses either
There are many, who believe that racehorses can survive only on high protein diets. However, they could not be more wrong. These horses need a well-balanced diet, overseen by the groomer and the dietician. Overconsumption of protein in the diet can lead to excessive thirst, high urea levels in the blood and urine and problems of nerve irritability due to high ammonia levels in the system. Too less starch can also mess with their carbohydrate cycle. This can lead to low stamina and speed.
A good feed usually limits the caloric contribution of sugar and carbohydrate to 50% maximum and derives about 30% of the rest from fat. Some other feeds often contain 10% fat with fermentable sugar sources. With these feeds, it is easier to reduce bulk and limit the intake to 10 to 15 pounds per day depending on the horse’s size, age, and sex.