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Tips for optimum performance

Feeding the racehorse 

To achieve optimum performance in any equine sport, a well-balanced diet that meets the nutritional requirements of the equine athlete is vital.  However, when it comes to nutritional requirements, racehorses are in a class of their own. While it is certainly important to meet protein, trace mineral and vitamin requirements, diet formulation for racehorses usually begins and ends with energy. 


Forage comes first
An adequate supply of high-quality forage is important for supplying energy, protein and some nutrients. Forage is also key to ensuring optimum digestion and the prevention of digestive conditions such as gastric ulcers and hindgut acidosis. Pasture, hay, fibre products and beet pulp are all ideal forage sources.


Reduce the risk of ulcers
Horses at risk of ulcers would benefit from some amount of Lucerne in their diets, and offering a handful of Lucerne hay or chaff prior to work is extremely beneficial for preventing gastric acid splashes and contributing to the risk of ulcers.


Use premium protein sources
While pasture and hay contain moderate protein levels, additional protein should be provided in the feed using a high-quality source with the correct ratio of essential amino acids, especially lysine, methionine and threonine.


Boost energy levels
Energy should be supplied through mainly structural carbohydrates (forage), non-structural carbohydrates for fast release energy (grains) and some amount of fat through oil for slow release energy and to assist with recovery. Provide a blend of energy sources according to the type of racing the horse specialises in.


Use processed grains
Aside from oats, all grains require processing using both heat and pressure before feeding. Steam flaking is ideal for ensuring optimum digestion and decreasing the risk of digestive conditions associated with consuming unprocessed grains.


Adjust calorie intake
Vary the blend of energy sources according to the horse’s behaviour. For example, ‘hot’ horses should have less grain and be provided more energy through slower release forms such as fat and fibre. Horses at risk of digestive conditions or tying up should also be provided low grain diets. McMillan Muscle Relieve is an ideal high-calorie racing feed that supplies energy through fat and fibre rather than grain. Monitor body condition regularly and alter caloric intake in relation to the horse’s workload and condition.


Replenish lost Vitamins and Minerals
Macro minerals such as calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) are critical for the constant bone-remodelling process, especially in young in racehorses. Ensure the ratio of Ca to P is around 2:1. High-quality commercial feeds will be balanced for calcium and phosphorous. Replenish minerals lost through sweat such as sodium, chloride, magnesium and potassium through an adequate daily salt intake and electrolyte replacement on work days. Antioxidants, vitamin E and selenium are essential for maintaining muscle health.



McMillan Equine has a range of high-quality racing feeds that contain a blend of steam-flaked grains, digestible fibre sources and high-quality fat sources to provide an optimum blend of energy for racehorses. All McMillan racehorse feeds including Protein Plus, Premium Plus, Energy Max have been formulated to provide the correct amount of protein and essential nutrients for any racehorse in a balanced way when fed at the correct levels and combined with New Zealand forages.

For assistance with feeding plans to enhance overall health and performance, consult with an experienced equine nutritionist.









Article supplied by Luisa Wood, Equine Nutritionist for McMillan Feeds.

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