August 2013 - Active period for competition horses.
Summer is an active time for many competition horses. In August, we are now in the middle of summer and many competition horses have already gone through a long season of hot weather. However, many major competitions, particularly gallop and trotting, are still to come.
Are there specific issues around feeds and feeding we have to take into extra account when horses are competing during the summer? In general we can say that feed and feeding can continue as normal in the summer, but in especially warm periods it is important to protect horses against excessive heat of the day. It is also important to ensure good ventilation during transport. When a horse transport is stuck in rush hour traffic, it can become too hot for the horse(s) inside. After training and racing, horses should be cooled down carefully. Horses that are heat stressed may have poor appetites and this is very unfortunate during such an important period of the competition season.
Feed and feeding practices may be much the same as in the rest of the year, but it is especially important to maintain a proper fluid and electrolyte balance in warmer weather. Training and competing in warm periods increases the loss of fluid and electrolytes significantly. In practice this means that horses must receive guaranteed access to fresh water and salt.
Many experiments have shown that horses do not drink enough water when they only take water from automatic water bowls . If they get their fresh water from buckets the daily water uptake will increase. If horses are drinking too little water, this can affect their performance significantly. In addition, horses are more prone to colic if they are drinking too little water. Remember also to offer horses an adequate supply of water during prolonged transport and journeys.
To ensure that horses get enough salt, salt licks alone are not enough. Many horses will take too little salt from salt licks even when their salt requirement is high. We must instead provide adequate amounts of salt with the feed or mix the salt in the water. If we give salt with the feed it should be distributed over at least two meals. After hard training and competition, horses have sweated a lot and therefore lost a great deal of salt. To quickly replace this loss it can be beneficial to accustom the horses to drinking water containing 5 grams of salt per litre of water. One to two buckets of such water will add 50 -100 grams of salt to the intake and thus contribute significantly to restoring electrolyte balance. All the values in this example are calculated for horses of 500-600 kg body weight. For smaller horses and ponies, values must be converted according to body weight.
The PC-Horse program calculates your horse's requirement for salt according to its body weight, the amount of exercise you determine and, additionally, the season. This means, for example, that the program will calculate higher levels of need for salt in summer than in winter months. Making active use of the program throughout the year will help you stay in control of your horse's need for salt, regardless of changing body weight, exercise regimes or the actual season.