Feeding the Endurance Horse
In many equine sports, it can be possible to get away without dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s in preparing the horse, but there is nowhere to hide at the top of endurance racing.When exercising at the limit, nutrition is one of the fundamentals of performance, from the overall forage to concentrate ratio down to the details of electrolyte balance.The speeds at which elite endurance horses travel when racing mean that their muscles work aerobically most of the time during a ride. It’s only when tackling steep hills or in the sprint to the line that they go anaerobic.Muscles are most efficient when working aerobically, and to do this a horse can “burn” either fat (lipid) or glycogen. The dietary source of the lipids is either volatile fatty acids from the digestion of fibre or the oil supplied in the diet.
Fibre is probably the most important nutrient (after water) for the equine endurance athlete. The digestion of fibre takes place slowly, so the energy it releases is produced more evenly and long after the end of the meal. This means you get more ‘kilometres per litre’. Additionally, fibre seems to bind water as it passes through the gut, acting as a fluid and electrolyte reservoir.
Notwithstanding poor training, the onset of fatigue can be affected by nutrition. Fatigue is measured not only by time, but at the vet checks during a race. If the horse’s heart rate exceeds 64bpm after 2min you are out.Depletion of muscle glycogen stores, combined with insufficient dietary fibre, is one of the main sources of fatigue, but so is dehydration. Fluids and electrolytes are lost in sweat and, if not replenished, affect performance markedly.
Fibregenix feed balancers contain a revolutionary ingredient – Nucleotides. Nucleotides are essential nutrients, as they are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. They are present in the horse’s natural diet, but at low levels and cannot be stored by the horse. Nucleotides often become ‘limited’ during periods of strenuous activity or stress, and therefore there are real benefits to adding purified nucleotides to the horse’s diet. The specific blend of purified nucleotides in Fibregenix are designed to balance the lower levels found in the diet and provide three main advantages:
- Aiding cell replication – particularly important for the endurance horse and for recovery after exercise or from an injury.
- Nucleotides increase the length and surface area of the intestinal villi which aids nutrient absorption.
- Nucleotides act as immune facilitators aiding the immune cells’ response when infection or disease is detected; regular travelling and competing can compromise the endurance horse’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infections.
For shorter distances up to 60km, Fibregenix Prime Original is the ideal feed balancer of choice.Longer distance racing requires an elevated level of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients such as the key antioxidants, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and selenium and this is where Fibregenix Platinum Pro fits the bill. Platinum Pro contains a comprehensive blood building formula which aids oxygen transportation to the working muscles.
Fibregenix Platinum Pro contains a gut health package consisting of FOS and MOS prebiotics. The unique FOS in Fibregenix is a short chain of sugar molecules, providing a feed-source for the beneficial micro-organisms in the gut. However, if the digestive system is already compromised through the stress of competing and travelling, there could be a large population of ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut. Whilst the ‘good’ bacteria may start to thrive, the harmful bacteria will still cause an unhealthy gut and negatively affect the general health of the horse.The MOS prebiotic mimics the cursor that the harmful bacteria bind to on the gut wall; once the harmful bacteria have bound to the MOS, they cannot be released, and so they are rendered useless and ‘flushed out’ of the digestive system – this promotes the overall health of the digestive system, so the beneficial bacteria can thrive, which aids weight gain.These two superior prebiotics from part of Platinum Pro’s quadruple action digestive supplement package, combined with Nucleotides and high levels of an equine approved live probiotic yeast. This unique probiotic has been proven to double the digestibility of fibre in the diet so it is utilised much more efficiently which is ideal for the elite endurance horse and helps to improve and maintain weight and condition.
Both Fibregenix Prime Original and Platinum Pro contain a natural form of Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant and essential for the endurance horse that is often under stress. Natural vitamin E has been found to be 5 times more bioavailable than synthetic vitamin E.
- While the laws of physics dictate that the power to weight ratio (max power/min weight) will mean faster speeds, the reserves an endurance horse calls upon mean that it can’t be unduly thin.
- Energy should come predominately from fibre and oil: fibre from forage and alfalfa, but also compounds containing soya hulls and sugar beet pulp. Typically, hard feeds with 6-10% oil are used, but huge excesses will make the horse fat, and can affect fibre digestion. (It’s not necessary to cut out starch altogether. The horse needs some in the diet to maintain muscle glycogen levels, necessary for the “power” work of going up hills or galloping, but a Fibregenix feed balancer will enable minimal amounts of grain feed to be fed.)
- Water and electrolytes are crucial throughout and after a ride.
- If you go slowly on endurance rides, you just need forage and low-energy feeds — horses have evolved to cover long distances like this. It’s only when going at speed that the extra feed counts.