Looking for valuable insights into the principles of nutrition for eventing horses? Look no further! In this highly informative webinar presented by Kentucky Equine Research, you’ll learn all about the importance of nutrition for performance horses. Delve into the fascinating world of energy sources such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and discover how they play a crucial role in muscle contraction. Gain a deeper understanding of the vital role that forage, including fiber sources like hay and chaff, plays in a horse’s diet. Plus, gain valuable recommendations for feeding eventing horses before, during, and after competition. Whether you’re an eventer yourself or involved in a different discipline, the principles discussed in this webinar can be applied across the board!

In the second part of our nutrition webinars, we’ll be taking a closer look at the specific needs of eventing horses. These incredible athletes showcase a unique set of skills, agility, and endurance, all of which require careful consideration when it comes to their nutrition. Alongside top expert David, who recently provided invaluable insights into fitness training, we’ll uncover the secrets to keeping eventing horses well-fueled and performing at their peak. Stay tuned for an upcoming talk featuring a panel of professional inventors who will answer questions and share their expertise on the field. So, if you’re keen to learn how to optimize your horse’s nutrition for peak performance, this webinar is not to be missed!

Table of Contents

Understanding Horse Nutrition

Fundamentals of equine nutrition

When it comes to understanding horse nutrition, it is essential to grasp the fundamental principles of equine nutrition. Horses are herbivorous animals and have specific dietary needs to maintain optimal health and performance. Their diet primarily consists of forage, which includes various types of grasses and hay. In addition to forage, horses may require other sources of nutrients such as grains, supplements, and electrolytes to meet their specific dietary requirements.

Role of nutrition in horse’s health and performance

Nutrition plays a crucial role in the overall health and performance of horses. A well-balanced diet provides the necessary energy, vitamins, minerals, and proteins that horses need to thrive. Proper nutrition supports various bodily functions, including muscle development, organ function, immune system function, and overall well-being. It also plays a vital role in the growth and repair of tissues, which is essential for performance horses involved in activities such as eventing.

Differences in nutrition requirements for different horse breeds

Different horse breeds may have specific nutrition requirements based on their size, activity level, and metabolic rate. For example, larger horse breeds, such as draft horses, may require a higher calorie intake due to their size and work demands. On the other hand, smaller horse breeds, such as ponies, may have lower calorie requirements. Understanding the nutritional needs of different horse breeds is crucial for providing them with appropriate diets to maintain their health and performance.

Importance of knowing your horse’s metabolic rate

Understanding your horse’s metabolic rate is essential for determining its nutritional needs. Each horse is unique, and their metabolic rate can vary based on factors such as age, sex, activity level, and overall health. Some horses may have a higher metabolic rate, requiring increased calorie intake to maintain their weight and energy levels. Conversely, horses with a slower metabolic rate may be prone to weight gain and require careful dietary management. By knowing your horse’s metabolic rate, you can tailor its diet to meet its specific needs and maintain optimal health.

Energy Sources for Eventing Horses

Carbohydrates as a primary energy source

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for eventing horses. They provide readily available fuel that can be quickly converted into energy during exercise. Carbohydrates are typically obtained from grains and forages such as hay and grass. They are broken down into glucose, which is used for muscle contraction and other metabolic processes. It is important to provide eventing horses with a sufficient amount of carbohydrates to meet their energy demands during training and competition.

Importance and benefits of fats

While carbohydrates are the primary energy source, fats also play a crucial role in providing energy for eventing horses. Fats are highly concentrated sources of energy and can provide a significant amount of calories. Including fats in a horse’s diet can help meet its high energy demands without overloading it with excessive carbohydrates. Fats also provide insulation and protection for vital organs and can improve overall coat condition.

Role of proteins in muscle building and repair

Proteins play a vital role in the muscle building and repair processes of eventing horses. During exercise, muscles undergo stress and require adequate protein intake to recover and grow stronger. Proteins supply the essential amino acids needed for muscle protein synthesis, which aids in muscle repair and development. Including high-quality protein sources in a horse’s diet, such as legumes and soybean meal, can help support optimal muscle health and performance.

Balancing the calorie intake based on horse’s workload

Balancing calorie intake is crucial for maintaining the health and performance of eventing horses. A horse’s workload, including training and competition, determines its energy requirements. It is essential to adjust the horse’s diet accordingly to ensure it is receiving enough calories to meet its energy demands without excess weight gain or loss. Working closely with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can help determine the appropriate calorie intake for an eventing horse based on its workload and body condition.

The Importance of Forage

Role of forage in a horse’s diet

Forage, such as hay and grass, forms the foundation of a horse’s diet. It provides essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals, necessary for proper digestion and overall health. Forage also promotes proper gut function, provides a natural source of mental stimulation, and helps prevent digestive issues such as colic. Including high-quality forage in a horse’s diet is crucial for maintaining its physical and mental well-being.

Different types of forages

There are various types of forages available for horses, including different types of hay and pasture grasses. Common types of hay include timothy, alfalfa, and orchard grass, each with its own nutritional composition. Pasture grasses also vary in nutrient content depending on factors such as soil quality and climate. Understanding the different types of forages and their nutritional compositions can help horse owners select the most suitable options for their horses’ needs.

Benefits of fiber sources like hay and chaff

Fiber sources, such as hay and chaff, provide horses with essential dietary fiber. Fiber plays a crucial role in maintaining gut health and promoting proper digestion. It helps regulate the passage of food through the digestive system and prevents issues such as colic and gastric ulcers. In addition to its digestive benefits, fiber also provides a slow-release source of energy for horses, helping to maintain a more consistent energy supply throughout the day.

How to incorporate forage into horse feeding schedules

Incorporating forage into a horse’s feeding schedule can be done through regular access to pasture or by offering hay and chaff. Providing horses with access to pasture allows them to graze naturally and meet their nutritional needs through fresh grass. If pasture is not available or during certain times of the year, offering high-quality hay and chaff can ensure horses receive an appropriate amount of forage. It is important to consider the horse’s individual needs, such as weight management and dental health, when determining the amount and type of forage to provide.

Feeding Performance Horses Before, During, and After Competition

Pre-event feeding practices

Feeding practices before an event or competition can significantly impact a horse’s performance. It is essential to provide the horse with a well-balanced meal a few hours before the event to ensure it has adequate energy and nutrients. The meal should consist of easily digestible carbohydrates and proteins to provide immediate energy for the upcoming exertion. It is also important to provide access to water to ensure proper hydration before and during the event.

Essential nutrients during competition

During competitions, it is crucial to provide performance horses with the necessary nutrients to maintain optimal energy levels and support muscle function. Access to water is vital to prevent dehydration, as horses can lose a significant amount of fluid through sweating during intense exercise. Electrolytes should be provided to replenish essential minerals lost through sweat. Small amounts of easily digestible carbohydrates, such as sports drinks formulated for horses, can be beneficial for maintaining energy levels throughout the competition.

Post-competition recovery feeding

After a competition, a horse’s body requires adequate nutrients for recovery and muscle repair. Providing a balanced meal with a mix of carbohydrates and proteins can help replenish glycogen stores and support muscle recovery. Including electrolytes in the post-competition meal can also aid in restoring mineral balance and hydration. Offering fresh water and allowing the horse to rest and recover in a quiet environment are essential for promoting optimal recovery.

Importance of hydration and feed intake during events

Maintaining proper hydration and feed intake during events is crucial for the health and performance of performance horses. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, decreased performance, and even serious health issues. Offering fresh, clean water is essential to encourage horses to drink and stay properly hydrated. Monitoring feed intake and providing small, frequent meals throughout the event can help maintain energy levels and support the horse’s overall well-being.

Role of Electrolytes in Horse Nutrition

Understanding the role of electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge and play a vital role in various bodily functions. In horse nutrition, electrolytes are essential for maintaining proper fluid balance, nerve function, muscle contraction, and overall cellular health. Sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium are among the key electrolytes required by horses.

Significance of electrolyte balance for performance horses

Maintaining proper electrolyte balance is particularly crucial for performance horses. During intense exercise, horses can lose a significant amount of electrolytes through sweat. Imbalances or deficiencies in electrolytes can lead to dehydration, muscle cramps, fatigue, and impaired performance. Supplementing horses with electrolytes before, during, and after intense exercise can help prevent these issues and support optimal performance.

Different sources of electrolytes

Electrolytes can be obtained through various sources, including commercial electrolyte supplements, salt blocks, and natural food sources. Commercial electrolyte supplements are formulated to provide a balanced mix of key electrolytes and can be easily added to a horse’s feed or water. Salt blocks placed in the horse’s paddock or stall allow horses to regulate their intake based on their individual needs. Natural food sources, such as forage and certain fruits and vegetables, also contain electrolytes but may not provide sufficient amounts for intense exercise.

When and how to supplement with electrolytes

Supplementing with electrolytes should be done strategically to meet the horse’s specific needs during intense exercise. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when administering commercial electrolyte supplements, as dosage and timing may vary. Electrolyte supplementation is typically recommended before and after exercise to support hydration and replenish mineral stores. During prolonged exercise or in hot weather conditions, electrolyte supplementation may also be necessary during the activity to maintain optimal electrolyte balance.

Antioxidants for Horses

Need of antioxidants for eventing horses

Antioxidants play a crucial role in supporting the health and performance of eventing horses. During intense exercise, horses generate free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause oxidative stress and damage cells. Antioxidants help neutralize these free radicals and protect the horse’s body from oxidative damage. Eventing horses often undergo significant physical exertion and can benefit from increased antioxidant support to aid in recovery and overall well-being.

Impact of antioxidants on horse’s health and performance

Antioxidants have several benefits for the health and performance of horses. They can help reduce inflammation, support immune function, promote muscle recovery, and improve overall endurance. By combating oxidative stress, antioxidants can help horses maintain optimal health and performance, reduce the risk of injury, and recover more effectively from strenuous exercise. Including antioxidants in a horse’s diet through natural food sources or supplements can provide valuable support for eventing horses.

Different antioxidant sources for horses

There are various sources of antioxidants that can be beneficial for eventing horses. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in maintaining muscle function and reducing oxidative damage. Other antioxidants such as vitamin C, selenium, and beta-carotene also have significant benefits for horse health. Natural food sources such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as specific equine antioxidant supplements, can help ensure horses receive an adequate supply of antioxidants.

How to provide antioxidants through supplements and diet

Providing antioxidants to eventing horses can be achieved through a combination of dietary choices and supplements. Including antioxidant-rich foods in a horse’s diet, such as carrots, berries, and dark green leafy vegetables, can help increase their antioxidant intake. Commercial equine antioxidant supplements are also available and can provide a concentrated source of antioxidants for horses. It is important to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine the appropriate dosage and ensure the chosen supplements are suitable for the horse’s specific needs.

Horse Supplements

Necessity of supplements for eventing horses

Supplements can play a valuable role in supporting the health and performance of eventing horses. While a well-balanced diet should provide most of the necessary nutrients, certain supplements can address specific needs or deficiencies. Eventing horses often undergo substantial physical exertion and may require additional support to maintain optimal health and performance. Supplements such as joint supplements, probiotics, minerals, and vitamins can be beneficial in addressing specific needs and promoting overall well-being.

Different types of equine supplements

There is a wide range of equine supplements available to address various needs and goals. Some common types of supplements include joint supplements, digestive supplements, hoof supplements, coat supplements, electrolyte supplements, and vitamin and mineral supplements. Each type of supplement serves a specific purpose and can help target particular areas of concern. It is important to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine which supplements are appropriate for an eventing horse based on its individual needs.

How to choose the right supplement for your horse

Choosing the right supplement for an eventing horse requires careful consideration of its specific needs and goals. First and foremost, it is essential to identify any deficiencies or areas of concern. For example, if a horse has joint issues, a joint supplement may be beneficial. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can provide valuable guidance in choosing the right supplement and determining the appropriate dosage based on the horse’s weight, activity level, and overall health. Reading product labels and researching reputable brands can also help ensure the quality and efficacy of the chosen supplement.

Benefits and risks associated with equine supplements

Equine supplements can offer several benefits when used appropriately. They can help address specific health concerns, support performance, and provide valuable nutrients not obtained through the horse’s diet alone. However, it is important to note that supplements should not replace a well-balanced diet. Care should be taken to avoid over-supplementation, as excessive amounts of certain nutrients can also have adverse effects on a horse’s health. When considering equine supplements, it is best to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to ensure their safe and appropriate use.

Feeding Horses with Special Considerations

Nutrition for horses with a history of laminitis

Horses with a history of laminitis require special dietary considerations to manage their condition and prevent further episodes. Laminitis is a painful condition characterized by inflammation and damage to the laminae, the sensitive tissues within the hoof. To support hoof health and prevent laminitis flare-ups, these horses may benefit from a low-starch, low-sugar diet. This involves limiting access to rich pastures and feeding alternative forage sources such as low-sugar hay or soaked hay. Working closely with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist is crucial in developing an appropriate diet plan for horses with a history of laminitis.

Understanding metabolic issues in horses

Some horses may have metabolic issues that can affect their weight management and overall health. Conditions such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID, also known as Cushing’s Disease) can impact a horse’s metabolism and require careful dietary management. These conditions often involve restrictions on carbohydrates and sugars to prevent weight gain and maintain insulin sensitivity. Feeding small, frequent meals and providing access to low-sugar, low-starch forage can help manage metabolic conditions in horses.

How to adjust feeding schedules for horses with dietary restrictions or special needs

Horses with dietary restrictions or special needs require adjustments to their feeding schedules to ensure their nutritional requirements are met while managing their specific conditions. This may include offering smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, providing access to low-sugar forage sources, and carefully monitoring calorie intake to prevent weight gain or loss. Working with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist is essential for developing a feeding schedule that meets the horse’s individual needs and supports its overall well-being.

Weight management strategies for horses

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for the overall health and well-being of horses, including eventing horses. Achieving and managing an ideal weight requires a balanced diet, regular exercise, and close monitoring. For overweight horses, gradually reducing calorie intake through portion control and limiting access to high-calorie forage can help promote weight loss. Underweight horses may require an increased calorie intake through additional forage and concentrates. Regular body condition scoring and consultation with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can aid in developing an appropriate weight management strategy for each individual horse.

The Use of Bicarb and Coconut Meal in Horse Feeding

Understanding the benefits of bicarb

Bicarb, or sodium bicarbonate, is a commonly used supplement in horse feeding for its potential benefits in buffering stomach acid and reducing the risk of gastric ulcers. It is believed to help maintain a healthy gastric pH balance and protect the stomach lining. Bicarb supplementation may be beneficial for horses experiencing gastric issues or at risk of developing ulcers. However, it is important to consult with a veterinarian before incorporating bicarb into a horse’s diet, as individual needs and circumstances may vary.

The role of coconut meal in horse’s diet

Coconut meal, derived from coconut copra, can be a valuable addition to a horse’s diet due to its high fiber content and nutritional profile. It can provide a source of slow-release energy, promote healthy digestion, and support coat and skin health. Coconut meal is also rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which can be an excellent source of readily available energy. As with any new addition to a horse’s diet, it is important to introduce coconut meal gradually and monitor the horse’s response to ensure it does not cause any adverse effects.

How to integrate bicarb and coconut meal into horse feeding program

Incorporating bicarb and coconut meal into a horse’s feeding program should be done with caution and consulting with a veterinarian. If bicarb is recommended, it is typically provided in controlled doses mixed with the horse’s feed. Coconut meal can be introduced gradually by adding small amounts to the horse’s regular feed and monitoring for any digestive upset or allergic reactions. As with any dietary changes, it is important to observe the horse’s response and adjust the intake accordingly.

Possible side effects and precautions

While bicarb and coconut meal can offer potential benefits, there are possible side effects and precautions to consider. Bicarb supplementation may interfere with the acid levels in the horse’s digestive system and should be used under veterinary guidance. Coconut meal should be introduced gradually to avoid sudden dietary changes that could upset the horse’s digestive system. Additionally, any new food or supplement has the potential to cause allergic reactions in some horses. It is vital to monitor the horse’s well-being closely and consult with a veterinarian if any adverse effects occur.


In conclusion, understanding the principles of nutrition for eventing horses is crucial for maintaining their health and optimizing their performance. A well-balanced diet that meets their energy, nutrient, and specific needs is essential. From the importance of forage and proper hydration to the role of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, every aspect of a horse’s nutrition must be carefully considered. Supplementation with electrolytes, antioxidants, and other supplements can provide additional support when necessary. For horses with special considerations, such as history of laminitis or metabolic issues, tailored feeding schedules and weight management strategies are required. By implementing these nutritional principles and staying up to date with ongoing education about equine nutrition, horse owners can ensure their horses achieve their full potential in eventing and other disciplines.