Critical evaluation of the feeding of race horses in two different stables
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The life of a horse in the modern race horse industry is a difficult one. An intense work load and a feeding regime that is not according to the feed, the equine digestive tract is made for. A high nutrient density is necessary to increase performance and make the hard work possible. The requirements of dry matter, energy, protein and crude fibre were listed and special needs for the race horse emphasized Exact data on feeding and training were collected in two different stables in Germany. Stable “A” is a hobby business; Stable “B” represents a highly professional training facility. The stables were chosen as representatives of their kind. To evaluate the nutrient supply of the horses, a computer program, named “Rationsmanager”, developed by nutritionists and veterinarians, was used. The program considers the daily training schedule, the keeping system, the feeding time and the different feedstuffs. Both stables did not supply the animals with the recommended amount of roughages and the feeding time was also not optimal. The animals in stable “B” are undersupplied with crude fibre. The supply is 3.7 to 7.7% under the recommended requirement. An oversupply of 74% in digestible energy and 144% in digestible crude protein according to the computer program, does not seem to have negative impact in consideration of the body condition score of the horses. The horses in stable “A” are also oversupplied with energy and protein, but the same circumstances as in “B” lead to the conclusion of a well adjusted nutrient supply. Risks related to the actual feeding habits, like the development of the Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS), and fermentation failures are discussed. High amounts of concentrates in large single doses are a potential risk factor for the occurrence of EGUS. The stomach is in an overfilled condition several times per day. The daily ration misses to provide enough roughage and does not provide the horses with these around the clock. There are possible periods of an empty stomach, which promotes the development of damage to the gastric mucosa. Imbalances of the fermentation process in the caecum can also not be excluded With the intention of decreasing the chance nutrition related diseases and to approach a more natural nutrition the feeding was changed stable “A”. In the first approach, the oat ration of the morning and evening feeding was reduced by 50%. 500g of oats were now fed on a third feeding time at 6 am. In 4 of 10 horses the voluntary feed intake decreased. Introducing a third ration to the horses of stable “A” was unsuccessful. 29 A second approach was the change of the hay feeding time in the evening. The horses were provided with hay one hour before the concentrate feeding in the evening. The better supply with crude fibre is supposed to decrease the chance of nutrition related diseases. After one week trial the horses accepted the change well. No decrease in feed intake could be observed. This feeding system was maintained after the trial.