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Over fit/Over fed? (was Help....)


> At the moment, he is on 500 grams of concentrates per day.
> He looks like a million bucks.

> Do I need to increase his grain as his work increases? 
> Will he get sufficient trace minerals / vitamins from the
> Super Codlivine I add to his diet.  I've cut the oil out of
>  his diet completely, as I'm worried it might make him
> hot.

Here is my take on your feeding questions.

The base of any horse's diet is forage (aka, pasture grazing or 
hay), and one provides a higher energy supplement if the horse 
is starting to lose weight.  So if your horse ain't losing 
weight (or seems to have a lack of energy), you don't need to 
increase the amount of calories in his diet.  Fat, grain, etc. 
are high energy supplements for increasing the amount of 
calories in the horse's diet.  A good grass diet should provide 
your horse with the amount of other nutrients (i.e. vitamins, 
minerals, etc.) that he needs, except for salt (which is 
supplemented by offering free choice salt). 

If you are really worried about the vitamins/minerals in your 
horse's diet, you can use a straight vitamin/mineral supplement 
(without the calories of the other supplements you mention).  
The vitamin supplement that I use for my horses if I feel that 
they need supplemental vitamins is Dynamite Plus, which can be 
fed to the horses directly by hand, no need to mix them in with 
any other "candy" to get them to eat it (they are alfalfa based, 
which is why the horses like to eat them, but the amount of 
alfalfa in a 1-2 oz scoop of vitamin supplement is so negligible 
as to have no measurable nutritional impact in and of itself).  
I suspect that there are other vitamin supplements with the same 
palatability, if not, I can recommend a source for Dynamite if 
you want it.

If you feel that your horse needs electrolyte supplementation (I 
NEVER give my horses electrolytes at home so don't have to deal 
with this when I am training, but that is a separate issue), you 
can "force feed" them through a dosing syringe (i.e. mix with 
water and shove it down the horse's throat, which is what 
everybody on this list does at an endurance ride :)).

So, if instead of giving grain supplements for its energy 
content (i.e. necessary if the horse is losing weight or is 
"dull") or giving grain for the ability to hide other 
vitamin/mineral (electrolytes are just another kind of 
minerals), you are giving them to your horse as a "treat" so 
that he doesn't resent you, might I recommend carrots instead.

They do provide vitamins, minerals, and calories, but these 
things are mixed in with so much water that you can give your 
horse a great deal more carrots before their nutritional value 
has a major impact on the nutritional content of his diet.

  My concern is this : as this horse gets fitter, he
> gets worse, and worse, and worse.  By the beginning of the
> eventing season last year, he looked like a fire-breathing
> dragon : all rippling muscles and veins protruding, but it
> felt like I was sitting on that bloody great fault running
> through California, waiting to be thrown into the middle of
> next week!
> So, how do I balance his nutritional needs against my need to 
> survive?

> Do I keep him slightly less fit, and if so, am I being cruel 
> asking him to do the work I'm asking for. 

This, as much as I hate to say it, is a completely separate 

But the answer is:  "No, you do not keep him less fit just so 
you can 'control' his exuberance."  The problem you have with 
your horse's exuberance is not because your horse is too fit, it 
is because he is not sufficiently schooled.  One cannot school a 
high performance athlete (which is what both eventers and 
endurance horses are) by keeping them at a sub-optimum fitness 
level so that they will be too tired to kill you :).

This, BTW, is the thing I REALLY like about eventing.  The first 
test is a dressage test, in which you are required to 
demonstrate the obedience of your VERY FIT horse (if he isn't 
very fit he will be unable to do the rest of the event), the 
second test is the Endurance test, in which you are required to 
demonstrate the fitness and boldness of your horse while at the 
same time (in the road and track) demonstrating your ability to 
"rate" your very fit, very bold horse; and the third test is the 
stadium jumping test, in which you must demonstrate your horse's 
willingness and obedience to jump big fences even when he is 

You cannot, then, as your training philosophy, have the attitude 
that your horse is only manageable when he is unfit or tired. 
You must school your horse in such a way that he is manageable 
when he is extremely fit. (This, BTW, as far as I am concerned, 
applies to endurance horses too.  So it is an ill-advised and 
wrong-headed training philosophy, to take the approach that an 
endurance horse only becomes manageable after the first five 
miles and "settles in."  If you take this philosophy, your 
endurance horse may kill you or himself in those "first five 

So, while it is possible that you are overfeeding your horse 
(i.e. providing him with too many calories for the amount of 
work that he is doing), your statement to the effect that "the 
more fit he becomes the more unmanageable he becomes," suggests 
that this is not a feeding "problem" but a schooling "problem."  
And that the "control" that you have over him when he is unfit 
or tired is, in fact, an illusion (i.e. he can't be bothered to 

Our goal, in having high performance athletes is to school them 
so that we can properly direct them when they are at the peak of 
their fitness.  It is not to "tire them out" so we have some 
semblance of control (to use an abused word), but rather to have 
that "control" no matter how fit (and/or tired) they may be.

You cannot, with any degree of fairness or success for that 
matter, take the "tire him out" approach, with an eventer.  In 
the dressage test, which comes first, you must demonstrate the 
obedience and precision of a horse which must be fit to do the 
endurance portion next...BEFORE you have had a chance to tire 
him out :).

This is, of course, an over-simplification, but I prefer to take 
the approach that if my horse just won't listen to me, that this 
is a communication problem, and I prefer to try to solve 
communication problems with schooling rather than the feed 
bucket (with the caveat that this is not always the case, and 
that not all calorie sources produce the same behavioural 

Orange County, Calif.

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