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  • Q:

    My 16-hand (163-cm) Anglo-Arabian is in good weight for his sport, just below optimal body condition. He’s in training year-round for competitive endurance riding, working towards 100-mile rides. He’s fed 2 lb (0.9 kg) of senior feed, 1 lb (0.45 kg) unmolassed beet pulp pellets, 0.5 lb (0.23 kg) whole flaxseed, 1 lb (0.45 kg) timothy pellets, one flake (3 lb, 1.4 kg) of quality hay, and free grazing. He was diagnosed with insulin resistance and hypothyroidism two years ago, but we manage that with diet control and exercise. Other than this, his health seems fine except for some hoof issues. He’s been a bit lackluster under saddle lately. I am worried about his electrolyte balance as we begin to step up the distance. I use a combination of electrolyte and homemade lipid-coated salt, but I would like to know more about calcium, magnesium, and selenium in relation to our region and supplementation.

  • A:

    Your current feeding program is not providing sufficient quantities of certain trace minerals–namely selenium, copper, and zinc–to meet recommendations for endurance horses. The senior feed is a sound source of nutrients, though it is formulated to provide the correct amount of vitamins and minerals when fed at a feeding rate higher than 2 lb (0.9 kg) per day, resulting in the current diet providing suboptimal nutrition. Adding a ration balancer to the current diet will provide additional vitamins and minerals to fulfill dietary requirements without significantly altering the amount of digestible energy in his diet.

    However, because you are training for long-distance competition and noted that your gelding has been underperforming, I have suggested an alternative diet for your consideration. The following diet provides a similar total calorie content but a greater proportion of these calories come from dietary fat.

    I recommend feeding the low-starch, high-calorie feed Re-Leve Concentrate at 4.5 lb (2 kg) per day in addition to pasture, hay, and flaxseed. By feeding a larger amount of concentrate feed, you will be providing complete nutrition, and this allows you to simplify your feeding program by removing the beet pulp and timothy pellets. I have suggested eliminating these fermentable fiber sources for two reasons: (1) Re-Leve contains optimal amounts of these feedstuffs, and (2) because you are happy with his body condition, this will keep the new diet at approximately the same energy density as the original diet.

    Electrolyte replenishment is a crucial part of the endurance horse’s feed program. Differences in the amount and type of electrolyte replacement needed during training and competition should be considered. During competition, a large proportion of electrolytes, including calcium and magnesium, must be replaced during the ride.

    Kentucky Equine Research (KER) has developed two advanced electrolyte products. Restore SR (Restore in Australia) contains a slow-release form of sodium for sustained absorption, ideal for use in a training program. Race Recovery, available in the U.S. and certain other markets, provides highly bioavailable sources of electrolytes and minerals, including calcium and magnesium, which can be used during competition. These electrolyte products may be used in combination to provide essential electrolyte replacement due to the demands of training and competition. These products are available in both paste and powdered forms for easy administration during competition through oral-dosing or top-dressing on feed at stops.

    A diet of high-quality forage and commercial concentrate feed often meets the dietary needs of calcium, magnesium, and selenium. Forages, particularly legumes, are an excellent source of calcium and magnesium. During competition and intense training rides, you may consider feeding a small amount of alfalfa to provide a digestible source of calcium.

    Central Kentucky, where you live, is not a selenium-deficient region, but depending on the source of your hay, selenium levels could be marginal when hay is the only forage source available. Therefore, supplemental concentrate feed, which contains selenium, is often required in performance horse diets.

    Dietary mineral imbalances and low intakes can result in poor hoof health; however, certain horses may have higher dietary needs for certain hoof-related nutrients that are best provided through targeted supplementation with products like Bio-Bloom PS. Bio-Bloom PS is a comprehensive hoof and coat supplement containing biotin, zinc, methionine, and iodine. For those horse owners in Australia, choose Bio-Bloom.

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