Home Current News News Archive Shop/Advertise Ridecamp Classified Events Learn/AERC
Endurance.Net Home Ridecamp Archives
[Archives Index]   [Date Index]   [Thread Index]   [Author Index]   [Subject Index]

[RC] [RC] Nutrition questions & feeding fat - Eleanor Kellon

My basic philosophy has been to keep it simple and not add "stuff" just cuz someone else is using it, but rather see a need and find a solution.? I primarily feed some good quality grass hay and add a little alfalfa (like a handful or half slice) just in case my hay is deficient in calcium.? No, I haven't had it tested because we don't have a consistent source during a year or from year to year.

 There's a lot more to mineral nutrition than calcium. When you don't know your starting point, you could be doing as much harm as good with alfalfa in terms of mineral amounts and balances. If you know your hay type and the area where it was grown, you can give your local ag extension agent a call for leads on where to find average analysis figures. This isn't perfect, but it's better than no information at all.
I don't feed huge amounts of grain, usually a pound or so of Strategy and provide a free choice mineral block, which takes them a long time to go through, so I think I must not be missing too much.? When we have horses come into our facility they usually charge through a couple blocks and then slow down dramatically.
There's no evidence at all that horses have a "hunger" or "instinct" etc for any mineral except salt, so how much of it they go through really doesn't tell you anything. The horse's main source of minerals, protein and calories is the hay. Diets should be built with free choice hay as the starting point. Many horses don't require anything but their hay, salt, flax and correction of any mineral imbalances. A small amount of a balanced grain doesn't influence anything. Mineralized salt blocks often are not formulated to meet equine needs. Even when they are, they won't necessarily complement/correct your base diet.
During rides I offer a lot more alfalfa, feed beet pulp with lots more Strategy and Equine Sr. (probably a couple pounds of each for each feeding before the ride, at each vet check and after the ride).? I have not always been thrilled by the amount of food a couple of my horses eat during rides, but that's been isolated to one horse that I think has ulcers and I no longer compete and keep on Neighlox and the other has only done one ride, so I don't feel I have enough information on him yet.
I'm not too sure what you are trying to accomplish with this feeding strategy during rides. Feeding higher levels of soluble carbohydrates encourages reliance on glycogen as a fuel by keeping blood sugar high. For this strategy to work, you have feed frequently enough to keep sugar up, and have to have good glycogen reserves in the muscle for the horse to draw from.  Details depend on a lot of things inculding the horse's size, the actual size of the meals, how far apart they are spaced, the speeds you are going, any problems the horse may be having. If it's working for you, fine. If not, for the slower speeds especially I'd consider feeding closer to what you are feeding at home.
So my first questions are 1)? during active conditioning and the ride season, should I be feeding a lot more than a pound of Strategy??
Technically, you don't have to be feeding any! Grains are only needed when they can't hold their weight on forage alone. As speeds increase, and more and more glycogen is required, you will also reach a point where most horses benefit from the higher soluble carbohydrate in grains to keep their glycogen levels up.
2) should I be adding anything else to their general diet w/o a clear problem??
Salt. Flax when not on grass.
3) should I be feeding more Strategy and Sr during the rides?? 4) should I be feeding other grains/supplements during the rides??
As above. It's important to remember that the energy sources available from the diet and subsequently the blood stream during a ride are only a small part of what the muscles actually use. Mobilization of body fat and glycogen stores in the muscle are the major source of energy while working.
5)? I know it is recommended to not feed a heavy grain meal within 4 hours of the start of the ride – what is the definition of a heavy grain meal??
There are two things to consider here. One is that grain tends to remain in the stomach longer, how long depending on the type, how fine the particles are. A "full" horse may be sluggish. "Large" for a grain meal = over 4 pounds. The other issue is blood sugar. Sugar tends to peak about 1.5 to 2 hours after eating, is then on a declining slope to baseline. Many horses are "flat" during that decline. This effect is independent of meal size.
6) Is my beet pulp mix with Strategy and Sr too much "grain" for a couple hours before a ride?

 Again, two separate issues. Depending on whether or not your BP has molasses added, you're looking at simple sugar/starch levels ("grain") of 20 to 25% in this meal, half or less of straight grains but still enough to cause a blood sugar rise.

The next subject is feeding fat.? I haven't done this intentionally in the past, but it is one of the things I think I should be doing.? As I understand it, I should supplement fat on a general basis and then withdraw during a ride.? So my questions here are 1) is that protocol correct?? 2) how much fat are we talking about?? 3) what fat sources have people found generally affordable and available in rural areas?? We do have rice bran at our feed store and I've been adding a half cup to a couple horses.? If that amount isn't sufficient to "make a difference" then I should probably increase or else I'm just wasting money!

Not sure I want to open this particular can of worms! To some extent, fat can "spare" glycogen stores during low level work by "training" the muscle to rely more on fat for low level exercise. However, the usefulness of fat is limited since some glucose burning is required to keep the intermediates needed for energy pathways in good supply, and because fat alone does not support high speed work. If you feed too much fat, you run the risk of glycogen levels in muscles declining. Fat is calorie dense and cheap. If using it that way (to replace grain calories), you really should increase grain intake for 3 days before a ride, not just on the day of the ride, to make sure glycogen levels are where they should be.

Eleanor M. Kellon, V.M.D.
Equine Nutritional Solutions
58 Maple Farm Road
Ephrata, PA 17522