Feeding Endurance Horses Before CompetitionBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 13, 2011
Following a routine of regular exercise and balanced nutrition is important to all aspects of endurance training and racing. These factors are especially critical in the last week before a competition. Getting to the race with your horse in his best condition depends on the preparations you make over the days just prior to the event. Follow these tips to support your horse’s efforts in the race.
Reduce exercise. Inadequate carbohydrate (glycogen) reserves can contribute to early fatigue during long duration exercise. For three to four days prior to competition, it is a good idea to back off training just a little to ensure that body stores of glycogen are fully replenished and complete prior to competition. Maintain feeding at the same levels until the night before the ride. For horses prone to tying-up, as exercise is reduced, grain should also be slightly reduced or replaced with highly digestible fibre sources. For days off, all horses should receive reduced grain rations to prevent the risk of tying-up on return to work.
Maintain high forage intake. The horse can be allowed free access to grass or hay at all times right up to competition day. This is important for a number of reasons including stimulating water intake, maintaining normal routine, and reducing stress of pending competition.
Pre-race boosters. Feeding a supplement of natural vitamin E during the final days before and at the race ensures that muscles are primed to deal with the stress of work. This can be added to the feed to combat stress and loss of appetite and give the horse a pick-up just prior to the big day.
Preparation for travel. Traveling can be quite stressful for the horse, causing him to expend a fair amount of energy. Allow plenty of time to take the journey slowly, with rest stops if the competition is a long way away. Allow enough recovery time after arrival before the race begins. Horses sweat and lose electrolytes during travel to the competition, so it is a good idea to give an electrolyte supplement before traveling. Traveling stress can negatively affect the intake of forage which can leave the horse prone to develop ulcers. Treat with an ulcer medication or supplement just before leaving for the competition and during the trip to calm excessive stomach acid and sooth digestive upset.