Feeding for Optimum Performance

Lecture with Dr. Teresa Hollands, Internationally renowned Equine Nutritionist.

Internationally renowned equine nutritionist, Dr Teresa Hollands gave a very interesting and informative lecture recently at Nottingham Trent University's Brackenhurst campus on Feeding for Optimum Performance.

Dr Hollands started by stating that the basic principles of feeding were the same for all disciplines, whether Driving, Eventing or Endurance, with fibre being the foundation of all rations and its relationship to cereals then discussed.

Lack of fibre in the diet, resulting in gastric ulcers and colic, was the thread running through the lecture. Teresa stated that horses chew hay once a second equating to three thousand six hundred chews per kilogram. A diet of 80% forage:20% concentrate will keep them occupied for approximately sixteen hours a day and they will remain happy and healthy. Concentrates take far less chewing and therefore diets with increased levels of concentrates over forage will occupy the horse for less time during the course of the day. Recent studies have revealed in racehorses that the high cereal, low forage diet leaves the horse with up to ten hours spare. The consequent boredom leaves horses to develop stereotypic behaviour such as wind sucking and crib-biting. In addition, 75% of racehorses and 70% of sport horses show signs of gastric ulcers.

The trend towards increased use of haylage over hay can also cause difficulties. Wetter haylage needs to be fed in higher quantities than hay to meet the same level of dry matter from forage in the diet.

Ad-lib principles were generally advised by Dr Hollands, the term "heating" was then discussed at length and judged misleading especially in relation to feeding oats. And heat, (warmth) being produced in the hind gut from increased fibre digestion.

Obesity and its dangers were then discussed with fat being undesirable in the modern competition horse as it cannot be converted to muscle. Calories, not energy, will be used to express the nutrients in horses' diets in future as this will be easier to understand.

Dr Hollands summed up by saying that quality as well as quantity needed analysis in feeding. In addition, giving horses daily turnout, that is, trickle feeding was key in maintaining healthy gut function.

A lively question and answers session finished the evening where optimum feed to exercise time was raised in horses exerting themselves. Two hours was said to be needed, but in endurance work the time could be much less.

Dr Hollands was thanked by Heather Owen, academic team leader for the university's School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, for her lecture.

The next lecture in the series at Brackenhurst will be with Andy Bathe MRCVS on Equine Sports Injuries and Rehabilitation on Thursday 15 th February. To download and application form click here. Or for more information and tickets, please contact Zoe Cobb on 01636 817026 or visit www.ntu.ac.uk/ares/equestrian_centre.


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