Optimal Feeding Practices for Performance Horses

“The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” – Charles Schwab

Feeding practices play a crucial role in the performance and overall well-being of your equine athlete. Just as proper training and conditioning are essential, providing the right diet can optimize their athletic performance, support recovery, and promote overall health.

When it comes to feeding performance horses, it’s important to consider their unique dietary requirements. You need to provide enough calories, vitamins, minerals, and protein to maintain optimal body condition and muscle function. But where do you start? What are the optimal feeding strategies that can help your horse reach its full potential?

In this article, we will delve into the best feeding practices for performance horses, explore the key elements of a performance horse diet, and provide valuable horse nutrition tips to guide you in designing an optimal feeding program. Whether you have a racehorse, show jumper, or eventing champion, understanding equine performance nutrition and meeting your horse’s dietary requirements is paramount to their success.

So, let’s dive in and discover the path to unlock your horse’s true potential through optimal feeding practices!

Key Takeaways:

  • Feeding practices are crucial for the performance and overall health of performance horses.
  • Optimizing the diet of a performance horse involves providing enough calories, vitamins, minerals, and protein.
  • The foundation of a performance horse’s diet should be forage, such as hay and grass.
  • Ration balancers and performance feeds can be added based on energy needs and specific performance requirements.
  • Supplements like electrolytes, gastrointestinal support, and amino acids are important considerations for performance horses.

Choosing the Best Nutrition Program for Performance Horses

Selecting the right nutrition program for a performance horse can be challenging due to the wide range of horse feed options available. It is essential to evaluate the specific needs of the horse based on its breed, job, body condition, and energy requirements. The diet should provide enough calories through carbohydrates and fats to maintain optimal body condition and fuel the horse’s athletic performance. Additionally, it should include the necessary vitamins, minerals, and protein to support muscle and organ function.

When choosing a nutrition program, consider the following:

  1. Horse Feed Options: Explore different horse feed options, such as pelleted feeds, extruded feeds, and textured feeds. Research the benefits and drawbacks of each option to determine which best meets your horse’s needs.
  2. Nutrition Program: Consult with an equine nutritionist or horse nutrition expert to develop a customized nutrition program tailored to your performance horse’s specific requirements. A professional can guide you in selecting the right combination of feeds, supplements, and forages to support your horse’s performance and well-being.
  3. Feed Quality: Ensure that the horse feed options you choose provide high-quality ingredients that meet the nutritional standards necessary for performance horses. Look for trusted brands and carefully read the feed labels to understand the composition and nutrient content.
  4. Balancing Nutrients: Achieve a balance of essential nutrients in your horse’s diet, including protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Adjust the feed quantities based on the horse’s body condition, and consider additional supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids or joint support, if necessary.

Incorporating a mix of hay, pasture, and concentrates can provide a well-rounded and balanced nutrition program for your performance horse. Keep in mind that regular evaluation and adjustments may be necessary as the horse’s needs change over time or with varying levels of activity.

“Choosing the right nutrition program is crucial for your performance horse’s overall health, stamina, and success in their chosen discipline.” – Dr. Emily Johnson, Equine Nutritionist

Working with an equine nutritionist or consulting a horse nutrition expert can help owners make informed decisions about the best feeding practices for their performance horses. Their expertise and knowledge can provide valuable insights and recommendations to optimize your horse’s nutrition program.

Continue reading to learn more about supplementing performance horses for optimal performance.

Supplementing Performance Horses for Optimal Performance

Performance horses require specialized supplementation to meet their unique nutritional needs and optimize their performance. Incorporating electrolytes, gastrointestinal support, muscle development, amino acid supplements, and vitamin E supplementation into their diet can enhance their overall health and athletic abilities.


Electrolytes are essential for maintaining fluid balance in performance horses, especially during intense exercise. Providing electrolyte supplements helps prevent dehydration and supports optimal performance. By replenishing electrolytes lost through sweating, horses can maintain their hydration levels and avoid the negative effects of electrolyte imbalances.

Gastrointestinal Support

The stress of high-intensity exercise, travel, and competition can take a toll on the gastrointestinal health of performance horses. To mitigate these effects, it’s crucial to provide gastrointestinal support. Incorporating a gastric buffer product into their diet can help protect against gastric ulcers, a common issue among high-performance horses. Additionally, feeding hay during tack-up can provide a soothing effect on the stomach and improve overall comfort during exercise.

Muscle Development

Muscle development plays a vital role in the athletic performance of horses. To support this, it’s important to include high-quality sources of protein in their diet. Whey, soybean meal, and alfalfa meal are excellent options that provide the necessary amino acids for muscle growth and repair. Amino acid supplements can also be beneficial in boosting muscle mass when necessary, enabling performance horses to reach their full potential.

Vitamin E Supplementation

Vitamin E is essential for neuromuscular support in horses and can contribute to their overall performance. Supplementing their diet with vitamin E can help prevent conditions like equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy and support optimal neural function. Ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin E through supplementation promotes a healthy nervous system and enhances the horse’s ability to perform at its best.

By incorporating electrolytes, gastrointestinal support, muscle development supplements, and vitamin E supplementation into their diet, performance horses can maintain their overall health, optimize their athletic performance, and prevent potential deficiencies. Consulting with an equine nutritionist or expert can provide valuable guidance in determining the appropriate supplementation regimen for individual horses, ensuring they receive the necessary support to thrive in their respective disciplines.


Fueling the Equine Athlete: Energy Sources and Feeding Guidelines

When it comes to fueling equine athletes, understanding their energy sources and feeding guidelines is crucial. The energy requirements of horses differ based on the type and duration of exercise they engage in. Two primary mechanisms through which horses produce energy are aerobic metabolism and anaerobic metabolism.

Aerobic metabolism is the dominant energy source for endurance activities. In this process, horses utilize oxygen to break down carbohydrates, fats, and protein to produce energy. Forage, such as hay and grass, plays a crucial role in the equine diet as it provides essential fiber, nutrients, and calories for sustained aerobic metabolism.

On the other hand, anaerobic metabolism is prevalent in short, intense bursts of exercise. During anaerobic metabolism, horses produce energy from glucose without the need for oxygen. While forage is still an essential part of the diet, concentrates become necessary to meet the increased energy demands during anaerobic exercise. Concentrates, including cereal grains like oats, corn, and barley, provide additional carbohydrates, fueling the horse’s performance.

It is important to maintain a balanced diet that consists of an appropriate ratio of forage and concentrates to support optimal performance. Quality forage provides the necessary fiber and nutrients for overall health, while concentrates supply the extra energy required during intense exercise. Striking the right balance between carbohydrates, fats, and protein in the diet ensures horses are energized without compromising their overall well-being.

Feeding Guidelines for Equine Athletes

The following feeding guidelines can help in providing the right nutrition for equine athletes:

  • Ensure access to high-quality forage, such as hay and grass, to meet the horse’s fiber requirements and support optimal digestion.
  • Introduce concentrates gradually, considering the horse’s energy demands and specific exercise regimen.
  • Choose concentrates that are formulated to provide the appropriate balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein for optimal performance.
  • Monitor the horse’s body condition and adjust the diet accordingly to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Consult with an equine nutritionist or veterinarian to develop a customized feeding plan tailored to the horse’s individual needs.

By understanding the energy sources and following appropriate feeding guidelines, horse owners can ensure their equine athletes receive the necessary nutrition for optimal performance and overall well-being.

energy sources


Feeding practices play a vital role in the overall health and performance of performance horses. Providing the appropriate nutrition program based on the individual horse’s needs is crucial for optimal athletic performance, muscle development, and overall health. The diet should include a combination of forage, concentrates, and necessary supplements to meet the horse’s energy requirements and support recovery. Careful attention to electrolyte balance, gastrointestinal support, and muscle development can further enhance performance. Consulting with an equine nutritionist or expert can provide valuable guidance in designing an optimal feeding program for performance horses. With the right feeding practices, performance horses can unlock their full potential and achieve peak athletic ability.


What should be the foundation of a performance horse’s diet?

The foundation of a performance horse’s diet should be forage, such as hay and grass. Forage should be fed free-choice for most horses, providing essential fiber, nutrients, and calories.

How do I choose the right nutrition program for my performance horse?

Selecting the right nutrition program for your performance horse requires evaluating its specific needs based on breed, body condition, job, and energy requirements. Working with an equine nutritionist or consulting a horse nutrition expert can help ensure informed decisions.

What supplements are important for performance horses?

Performance horses may benefit from supplements such as electrolytes to maintain fluid balance, gastrointestinal support to mitigate stress, and amino acid supplements for muscle development. Vitamin E supplementation can also provide neuromuscular support.

What are the energy sources for equine athletes?

The energy sources for equine athletes vary depending on the type and duration of exercise. Forage provides essential calories, while concentrates like oats, corn, and barley are necessary to meet increased energy demands.

How do feeding practices impact performance horses?

Feeding practices play a vital role in the overall health and performance of performance horses. Providing the appropriate nutrition program based on individual needs helps optimize athletic performance, muscle development, and overall health.

Source Links