Feeds for Stock and Campdraft Horses

Feeds for Stock and Campdraft Horses

On the face of it, the feeding value of different horse feeds might seem easily gauged by simply comparing the energy content.  Not so says Amanda Carney, animal nutritionist for Stance Global.

Just as oils aint oils, horse feeds aint horse feeds.  Horses can obtain energy from fibre, starch and oils.  Whilst all three nutrients supply energy, they are metabolised differently in the horse.  Fibre and oils produce slow-release energy for stamina, whilst sugar and starch yields "up and go" energy for explosive exercise.  This is an important distinction when it comes to choosing the right feeds for your horse, and explains why energy content alone is not an accurate indicator of a feed's suitability.

Roughage should form the basis of every horse's diet, and this is no different where stockhorses and campdrafters are concerned.  Roughage (i.e. hay, pasture and chaff), is high in fibre and helps in the transit of feed through the horse's gut, as well as providing an essential source of slow-release energy.  .

Campdraft horses compete for apprximatley 1 minute per run. They need explosive energy usually supplies by high NSC (grain based) feeds. Most commercial feeds are grain based. Grain is high in sugar and starch (NSC) and often related to metabolic disorders including ulcers, tying up, colic and lameness and fizzy behaviour. The trade off therefor is high grain and  possibly metabolic chaos.  Campdraft horses also suffer from ulcers induced by both diet and stress. High NSC diets induce ulcers. Stress induced by transport and competition also induce ulcers. Also, if the teeth have not been rasped, this will reduce saliva flow and exacerbate stomach ulcers.

By comparison. oils are also very energy dense, and provide "cool' energy".   Not all oils are the same.  Polyunsaturated (PUFA) oils including canola, soy, maize and ricebran contain high levels of omega 6 oils and are often linked to inflammation. These oils are also slowly absorbed and provide for stamina energy. Other oils such as coconut oil are saturated and hence do not go rancid. Coconut oil is also rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCT) which are rapidly metabolised to produce non glucose ready energy. 

When selecting feeds for working horses, remember to consider what type of energy each feed will provide, rather than simply comparing the energy content. Select feeds that provide balanced energy from glucose (is feeds <15% NSC) with an oil content of 10-15%. Check for ulcers, check teeth and feed a balanced feed to avoid ulcers wherever possible