We have been focusing to much on fuel - which is extremely important for
endurance horses - but the it is only one of many factors. To be truly
competetive at the top level you have to get your horse there - which can
take several years and many miles - many more miles that the race horse
ever sees. If the the endurance horse only have so many miles in its legs
and speed is the bigest factor in the stress on the legs then the
management of this stress is a big factor in success.
On top of that the endurance horse is called on to perform on all sorts of
terrain in all sorts of footing from very hard ground, gravel roads, rocks,
mud, deep sand, etc. The skills have to be developed to handle these
conditions are very important. In fact the ability to be able to safely
and efficiently trot and gallop through these varying types of footing may
be as important if not more inportant that the ability to produce speed. I
would happly give up a little speed for a quick footed agile horse.
The endurance horse has to be able to deal with the stresses of extremes in
weather conditions. The top horses have to be able to perform at
altitiude, in hot dry conditions, in cold rainy conditions, in hot humid
conditions, etc. The ability to deal with varying types of weather is very
important in the top horses.
Fine tuning feeding to get an extra five minutes in a 100 miles will really
do little good if the horse doesn't have the necessary base and the
necessary skills required to be within five minutes of being on top. If
there is 20 miles of deep sand on a course and your horse can't deal with
deep sand it really doesn't matter what you supplement your feed with, you
won't win. If you have not trained you horse to deal with humidity you
probably won't do very well in big rides outside the dry climits of the
IMHO there are many, many factors (some of which are mentioned above) that
go into making the top endurance horse. Until the horse has developed the
necessary skills, the necessary base and has been trained to handle varying
wether conditions, he is not going to be a consistent top horse like Rio or
Cash. This process takes several years and until you get to this point,
good standard feeding practices as discussed by Bob will be just fine.
When you are at the point that you need the extra five minutes in a 100
miles, then fine tuning the feed may be the answer.