|The flying Tex!|
In summary, despite my attempts to prove to my doctor that horsewomen are, in fact, superhuman, he cruelly (ok, he is actually amazing, but still) prohibited my plan to roll to Maryland at 0630 this morning & work four excruciatingly long days of awesome. Sadly, my body does not seem to time its failures well & I’ll just say it’s been a long year. My begging cry of “IT’S ONE OF MY 3DE’S, THEY ARE NOT OPTIONAL!” did not sway him.
There may be a silver lining, though: it is always a special year when one of our core Team Waredaca 3DE Staff gets to ride. This year, it’s our vet box champion, Dr. Julie’s, turn!! She & her boy, Texas Riddle (Tex), have been on fire this year, so I am fairly certain that since I will miss it, they will definitely score not only that coveted completion ribbon, but piles of prize swag! May ALL the 2014 riders have a safe & exhilarating journey this week; Solo & I are galloping with you in our hearts.
Carrying on, we are all now experts on equine metabolism, right? Accordingly, I have updated this part of the series quite a bit!
We also know that the horse must be fit if he is going to do his job well. We know that he needs fat & glycogen stores in place in order to power his muscles. He then will need carbohydrates & fats in his diet in order to restock his larders after a workout.
|Running on vapours...|
But I Carb-Load Before My Ultra-Marathons!
Equine digestive systems cannot handle "loading" of substances the way a human system would. Studies have demonstrated that it takes 24-48 hours for a horse to completely refill his glycogen tanks, so it's best to offer him a meal 60-90 minutes after he's tapped them. Then, if he has really drained the well, a second meal can be offered about three hours later.
What To Look For In Your Rocket Fuel
My base feed (Triple Crown Complete) is a fixed-formula textured grain with 12% fat and 12% protein. I have heard stated many times that, for the performance horse, you want to maximize the protein content of his diet. However, this is another instance where understanding the unique functions of equine physiology will help you build a better plan. Unlike the human body, your horse’s body cannot store protein & very little can be converted to energy. Instead, protein is catabolized (broken down) into amino acids, which are then used to build new proteins, such as muscle fibre. If protein levels exceed what the body can immediately process, it will be converted to urea, increasing urine output & simultaneously increasing rate of dehydration. So while it is an important component of nutrition, for the your horse, it is far less useful as an energy source than fat.
Love The Fat
Fat supplies 2.5 times more energy pound for pound than starches. How much needed on a daily basis will depend on your horse. Given that I am not blessed with easy keepers, I top dress feed during work with Legends Omega Plus, an extruded flaxseed pellet with 25% fat. That is a recent switch for us; I used their rice bran pellets (18% fat) for quite some time due to reduced cost, but a recent price change made it more practical to bump up to the higher fat content & I’m finding I can also use less with the same result.
Bonus tidbit: if you supplement a horse's diet with fat, he uses less energy for heat production in his body. He then has more energy available to do other stuff with. Like a lot more. Like up to 60% more.
|Ok, don't love it THAT much|
Before you go on a lard spree, though -- if the fat content of the diet gets too high, you can actually inhibit the storage of muscle glycogen (that's that thing we really need for anaerobic activities like galloping & jumping, remember?). Just like everything else involving a horse, as soon as you find something good, you find several ways for him to damage or kill himself with it.
It’s just not as much fun when you are kicking your horse's guts out just to stumble through the finish flags & slide off while he gasps in exhaustion. It's not very satisfying to try to pilot him around a challenging stadium course when he's got no gas in the tank & you wonder if the next set of jump poles might end up in your face. Hopefully, you are now armed with some new information to consider in the context of your own management program. If you can prepare your horse’s body to maximize the use of your fuel, then you'll have plenty left for that victory gallop at the end of the day.