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Handy Tips for Picky Eaters

performance horsesThere are many reasons why horses may fail to ‘clean-up’ their feed. Some small framed horses have difficulty consuming large, bulky meals, while others are naturally picky eaters and may be “poor doers” as a result. Many horses that are usually good eaters become picky or disinterested and start to leave feed uneaten, particularly when fast work, racing or strenuous competition are commenced.

Additionally, performance horses are exposed to a variety of stress factors such as stabling, travelling, training and high grain/low roughage diets, which can also affect their appetites. When competed or raced on a regular basis, these horses lose condition, vitality, and the ability to perform to expectation and to recover quickly from exercise. A commonly observed consequence of these cumulative stress factors in horses in hard training, is the development of stress-induced appetite reduction, or a failure to ‘clean-up’ at meal times. This has become one of the major problems faced by trainers and owners of performance horses today.

A variety of measures can be taken to encourage horses to consume sufficient feed to maintain bodyweight, vitality, bloom and the ability to perform to expectation and recover quickly from exercise on a continuing, long term basis. An important aspect of these management tips is the emphasis on reducing the stress factors experienced by these horses, which will help reduce the occurrence of stomach ulcers.

Encouraging Appetite in Horses During Training

  • improve the palatability of the ration
  • reduce the amount of grain and increasing the amount of fibre in the diet
  • substitute vegetable oil for some of the grain in the diet
  • provide access to an outside yard or paddock
  • provide fresh green feed, or a green pick each day
  • cut back on the amount of fast work to reduce overall stress
  • minimise other external stress factors wherever possible
  • feed additives to settle nervy behaviour or improve appetite

While these changes in feeding, environmental and exercise training practices are helpful in many cases, some horses with a progressively poor appetite will fail to respond to these measures, remaining “poor doers” and performing below expectation. Many will benefit from the addition of a nutritional supplement to help stimulate appetite and protect the gut lining from ulceration.

 

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