Shaping the future of animal health

Feeding Campdraft Horses

The popularity of campdraft sport horse competition has grown over recent years, and requires a high standard of preparation and training to compete in the more demanding and upper level competition.  Campdraft horses are required to work at various exercise speeds of trot, canter and occasional gallop, be sure footed and quick to stop and turn, as they handle stock during training and competition.

While most horses are still trained from the paddock, where a horse is competed on a regular basis, supplementary hard feeds must be provided to meet energy demands to maintain speed and stamina as well as good condition and turnout.  The large variation of breed and types and the wide variety of training methods require that horses be fed on an individual basis.  Where horses are travelled long distances to compete they must maintain their appetite and be prevented from dehydrating during travelling.

Basic Nutritional Requirements

Energy is required to fuel the body processes including muscle contraction and provide heat to maintain body temperature.  The energy needs of a horse are influenced by the speed and duration of the exercise, the horse’s temperament, the weight of the rider and the horse, the type of working surface and the general metabolic efficiency of the breed or individual animal.  The adequacy of the energy intake in a working horse can directly influence the horse’s performance, its vitality, and maintenance of an optimum body condition.

The energy level in the total ration, including pasture and hard feed, must be adequate to maintain robust body condition without making a horse "fizzy", "above the bit", or risk problems such as "tying up".  Where horses have access to pasture, the hard feed mix may need to be concentrated to ensure they can consume adequate energy to meet exercise and condition needs.  For horses in daily training and regular competition, grains such as oats and rolled barley are suitable energy sources, with small amounts of corn and blended cooking oil (see paragraph below) providing an energy boost for hard competition or during hot weather.

Table 1. Comparison of “energy feeds” typically used in horse rations
Feed Digestible Energy (MJ/kg) Best form to feed to horses Comments
Oats 11.4 Whole or crimped Standard and safest grain – can be fed with hay as roughage for maintenance, breeding or working horses
Barley 12.8 Soaked whole, steam rolled Palatable and well accepted – cool energy for performance and working horses
Corn 14.1 Crushed Ideal energy dense boost for racing and high performance horses in place of oats. Limit volume to avoid founder
Wheat Pollard 13.1 Dampened Energy for conditioning. Limit to 3L daily on continuous basis – dampen and mix with chaff


Cracked lupins and black sunflower seeds may also be fed.  Lupins are also a valuable protein source while sunflower seeds provide additional fat.

There is also a large variety of commercially prepared "cool" feeds, which may be useful in horses that "heat up" on other grains, or have a tendency to "tie-up" when fed on hard feeds to prepare them for competition.  Increasing the amount of cooking oil in the diet also provides cool energy, reducing the bulk, as well as the dust in the ration. 

Oil as an energy source

White-E The main reasons oil is added to equine diets include improvement of body condition and coat, increasing the energy component of the diet without increasing bulk and decreasing heat produced from digestion of grains.  The performance related benefits include lower lactic acid accumulation in muscles and blood by sparing glycogen use, reduced severity of tying up, reduced muscle damage and calmer behaviour in horses on typically high grain diets.  Each oil or fat has a blend of different fatty acids (Omega-3, Omega-6) in its triglyceride content and a correct ratio of these is essential.  Oils that contain higher amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids are considered to provide natural anti-inflammatory compounds and hormone action to improve the function and strength of blood vessels and body cells.  Canola oil is generally suitable in its pure form.  Oil should be added fresh each day to the meal at feed time to prevent oxidation and Vitamin E (such as Virbac’s White E) should be supplemented to ensure best utilisation. 

Oil % of Fatty Acids in Oil Comments
  Omega 3 Omega 6  
Canola Oil 10 20 Palatable, well accepted, cold pressed is stable, less risk of oxidation
Soyabean Oil 8 54 Reasonably well accepted, some Omega-3, but high content of Omega-6
Corn Oil 2 52 Low Omega-3, not as palatable, more easily oxidised
Sunflower Oil < 1 66 Palatable.  Contains high levels of Omega-6 for coat conditioning but very little Omega-3
Blended Polyunsaturated Cooking Oil 1-5 45-60 Ratios depend on blend of oils.  Canola blends contain higher Omega-3 fatty acids

From: Kohnke at al., 1999.


Generally, grains and lucerne chaff and hay will provide sufficient protein to meet the needs of an adult campdraft horse in training.  Where lucerne hay or chaff makes up a total of 3kg or more to the ration, with grains for energy, the protein need will be easily satisfied.  However, additional high quality protein may be required for optimal muscle development and recovery.  This may be supplied by the addition of 1 – 2 cups daily of extruded full fat soyabean meal or cracked lupins.


Adequate fibre must be provided to balance the grain content of the ration.  However, horses trained from the paddock may retain a "hay belly" from bulky pasture feeding.  In this case, to reduce gut size, it is better to confine the horse to a stable overnight with ad lib hay with grazing as a "top-up" during the day. 

Each roughage type offers different levels of protein and minerals.  Lucerne hay is generally highest in protein and calcium, while grassy and “white” hay and chaff is lower in protein and minerals.  A comparison is shown below.

Roughage type Energy Protein Calcium Phosphorus Calcium to Phosphorus ratio
Lucerne 8.5 17 12.2 2.2 5.55
Oaten 7.5 9 2.2 2.3 0.95
Meadow 7.3 10 6.8 2.2 3.10
Wheaten 7.0 8 1.3 1.8 0.72


Ideally, the final ration should have calcium to phosphorus ratio within the range of 0.8:1.0 to 3.0:1.0 however this is more critical in growing horse diets.  This may influence the choice of roughage for the individual horse.

Minerals and Vitamins

An adequate intake of essential minerals and vitamins must be provided, not only to counteract deficiencies in the ration to meet daily needs, but also to maintain the appetite and general coat and skin condition required for competition.

CalPlusBiotin.jpg Calcium

Where horses are worked hard and sweat heavily during warmer weather, calcium should also be added to the ration, particularly where cereal chaff with minimal lucerne is provided as roughage.  In most cases, 2 scoops or 60g Cal-Plus with Biotin will provide calcium to meet losses and maintain bone strength in working horses and will also assist with improving hoof condition and strength.

Feramo Every Horse

Trace minerals and vitamins

A good quality mineral and vitamin supplement, such as Feramo Every Horse, will provide the foundation to balance and meet requirements for exercise, as well as supplement iron, copper and vitamins for the blood, Vitamin A for tendon strength, combined with copper, zinc and iron for coat condition, and B complex for appetite and energy use.  Start Feramo Every Horse at a ¼ scoop daily in the ration, building up to ½ - 1 scoop over a week or so.  Feramo Every Horse is recommended even when complete stud mixes, sweet feeds or pellet rations are used to ensure a daily intake of potent, stable vitamins for health and stamina.

An alternative formulation of Feramo with Chromium is also available.  This supplement provides 5mg chromium – a trace mineral which may help to promote muscle development and bulk.


Horses in heavy work, or those travelled and regularly competed, benefit from electrolytes added to their feeds to maintain water intake, replace salts lost in sweat, and prevent dried out coat and "tucking up" caused by dehydration.  Although 1-2 tablespoons of salt will help improve the palatability of the ration, it is not a complete electrolyte replacer.  An additional scoopful of Humidimix each morning and evening in the feed will provide a range of essential salts, including potassium, to replace sweat loss, and combat dehydration.  Where horses are travelled over long distances, or would benefit from a top up of salts and fluids between workouts to replace sweat loss, a drink of Recharge in water, or 80mL of Recharge squirted over the tongue after a hard work out, and cool water provided to drink, will rapidly replace electrolytes and fluids and help restore vitality and hasten recovery.

Founderguard.jpg Nutritional problems in hard working horses

Chronic overload with high carbohydrate grain can result in low grade laminitis from excess hindgut acid build up.  This can lead to symptoms of a scratchy gait, broken-away hoof edges and foot soreness.  A daily supplement of Founderguard may help to control these symptoms.

Gastric ulcers and decreased appetite are also significant problems contributing to poor performance of working horses, particularly when access to feed is limited.


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