Feeding for Performance: What I Feed My Horses

I was recently looking through old photos of the horses on my phone, as I often do, and was delighted to see how much they have changed physically, and how much their condition has improved over time. The changes are due to good food and correct, varied work – in this post I will discuss the food bit, as both horses are on a unique diet thanks to the variety of feed our livery yard offers.

It is important to note that no feeding program is permanent, and I am always open to revisiting what the horses are fed based on their level of work and dietary requirements at any given time.

Paddy

Paddy is traditionally a difficult horse to keep weight on, and despite feeding as much haylage as he could want and as much hard feed as was good for his digestive system and leave me still in the saddle after every session, he never was as ‘filled out’ as I would like, I would always have considered him ‘the bare minimum’. To be sure I got him scoped for ulcers and he came back clean as a whistle.

Just before he got injured I began to take his feeding much more seriously, and when he was off work this gave me a chance to play around with different feeds to see what worked best for him.

Top image, April 2016. Bottom image, April 2018. Good feed, and good work!
Bottom Image Credit: Louise O’Brien Photography.

  • Beet Pulp – both horses get beet pulp in every feed which bulks up the feed and provides additional fibre in each feed.
  • Red Mills Horse Care 10 – I put Paddy on this when he was on box rest, as he has a sensitive tummy that reacts to the slightest of stresses – resulting in a ‘runny bum’. He also has a tendency to internalise his tension, and having read fantastic reviews about how this neutralises the acids in the stomach, has reduced starch and sugar, and is a great source of vitamins and minerals, I thought this would be a great feed to try. Paddy has been on this since last July and is thriving on it, with solid droppings and much less sensitive to having his girth done up.
  • Dengie Alfa A Oil – I won this in a Facebook competition and thought it would be worth trying as Paddy hoovers up his feed, so anything to slow him down and add more calories to his diet without heating him up would be a massive bonus! Padge from Dengie Horse Feeds was immensely helpful, getting information about my current feeding program and finding ways to integrate Dengie into what I already feed. He also informed me that Alfa-A Oil is a complete feed, something I didn’t know – so as his workload increases I have simply added more Alfa-A Oil to the feed rather than increasing the Horse Care 10 and he’s thriving. This worked so well for both horses I have since kept them on it and ordered a few more bags.
  • Micronised Linseed – The ultimate addition to any feeding program for weight gain, condition and shine. Paddy gets one cup per day split over two feeds. A bag lasts forever and is great value for money. Saying that, once it runs out, I will probably not buy another bag and just stick to the Dengie Alfa-A Oil as this does just as good a job with the benefit of also being a complete feed.

Paddy’s current feeding program has really helped him to ‘bulk up’ and fill out!
Credit: Louise O’Brien Photography

Supplements: Paddy is currently on FlexAbility, as following his injury on my vets advice I wanted to use something as a preventative to ensure the area remains strong. This was the only supplement with scientific research behind it, and this spoke to me so I have invested (I say invested, as it is not cheap!) in it on a maintenance dose.

Willow

Willow is a growing young horse whose shape is constantly changing as her workload increases and her young bones continue to grow. It’s important to feed her to help build this condition without overheating her, so the focus is on feeds that condition.

  • Beet Pulp – both horses get beet pulp in every feed which bulks up the feed and provides additional fibre in each feed.
  • Baileys Top Line Conditioning Cubes – I used to have Paddy on this when I first got him, as he was still growing as a gangly six year old. This is a great feed for young horses as you begin to ramp up their work and they change shape, to help boost the improvement and development of their topline with the work being done.
  • Dengie Alfa A Oil – Willow also gets Dengie Alfa-A Oil to bulk up her feed and improve condition.

Willow, April 2018. You can see the shine from her, and she has really filled out since last winter!
Credit: Louise O’Brien Photography

Both horses get as much hay/haylage as they can eat, and are turned out year round (bar the days where it is really too bad to go outside) with either grass or a hay bale to eat from. Good fibre, clean drinking water and a decent salt lick forms the basis of a good diet for a horse, and depending on their needs, condition and work levels then additional hard feeds can be looked at. I know horses who need nothing but a cup of balancer morning and evening and look super, and others who need more, so it is very much individual.

My best advice I can give you is to partner closely with either your yard owner or a feed company that you trust – we really believe in Baileys, Red Mills and Dengie on our yard, and adjust the combinations and amounts depending on the horse’s condition and workload the given time. I would trust the recommendations of any of these companies and the results speak for themselves.

What do you feed your horse? Is there anything you have found works, or doesn’t work?

Natalie xo

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