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Re: 100 Miles On No Grain Diet?

I'm not an endurance vet or a 100-miler, but if you want to hear the
nutritionist's take on it---I'm assuming that by competitive, you're talking
about top ten or close to it, and given today's average speeds, that's going
to be pushing the horse close to anaerobic metabolism, and thus, a heavy
reliance on glycogen as a fuel source.  You don't HAVE to feed carbohydrates
directly in the diet to provide a good supply of glycogen, the body will
also manufacture it from volatile fatty acids from forage, and from amino
acids, but not from fats directly.  So whether or not the horse had enough
glycogen on board to make it through a fast 100 would depend on how fit he
was (and therefore how efficient at using what glycogen he has, plus how
much glycogen can he normally store over an unfit level), how crafty you are
about riding as efficiently as possible (therefore avoiding sprint
situations as much as possible), warming up very well before the start (to
kick in fat oxidation as quickly as possible without a half hour of burning
sugars) and the amount of glycogen the horse had onboard before the start.
Since you won't be able to feed a few pounds of grain the day before to top
up the fuel tanks, you'll have to allow more time for forage digestion to
take place, so cramming the horse full of forage (good quality hay and beet
pulp would be excellent) for three or four days before the ride, plus not
doing any strenuous riding after Wednsday on race week will help him top up
the tanks.

You might also consider that tying up can be due to alot of factors other
than carbohydrates (ie, electrolytes, dehydration, etc), and given that you
want to be competitive, you might experiment with extremely tiny meals of
grain through the ride itself---like a handful once an hour.  Grains a
little lower on the glycemic index (like whole oats) would be safer than the
high-starch grains like corn.  Unless this horse's metabolism is totally
dysfunctional (in which case, he probably isn't the greatest of prospects,
anyway, which isn't likely), then very small meals during exercise will go
almost immediately to energy production, not into storage.  You can also
load him up with carrots throughout the day---they have a high water
content, but 7-8 pounds of carrots have the same energy as a pound of grain
and would have a minimal impact on plasma glucose at any one time.

If he's getting alot of alfalfa, you might consider minimizing that as
well---excess protein can cause some muscle effects that are pretty much
equivalent to tying up, even though the imbalance is related to minerals
rather than carbohydrates.

To answer the question, I think it's *possible* for a no-grain horse to make
it through a 100 mile ride and be competitive---I'm sure there are plenty of
horses that have done it in the past, though who knows at what speed.  The
difference is going to depend on the individual horse, his level of fitness,
your rider strategy and making the most of alternative sources of energy for

Good luck,
Susan G

----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2000 2:16 PM
Subject: RC: 100 Miles On No Grain Diet?

>     I would like to hear from endurance vets and 100 milers as to whether,
> their experience, a horse who has to be off grain due to tying up
> and who is on a high fat diet, will have sufficient energy to be
> in a 100 mile race.
>     Thanks for your help!
>     Dabney Finch
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