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Training a horse to perform at high levels takes a lot of time, effort, patience and resources. Regardless of the discipline, from racing to reining, endurance to eventing and hunters/jumpers to polo ponies, all horses actively in a training regiment for competition are considered to be performance horses.

A performance horse is not defined by the amount of love its owner has for him, but rather by the amount of energy they exert when performing in their chosen discipline. Typically, performance horses are those who are trained or ridden more days than not in a given week.

Performance horses are athletes and it's important that we treat them as such. As athletes, it's essential that performance horses are in a structured management program. This program should include proper nutrition, exercise, hoof care, leg care, dentistry, grooming and overall wellness. However, remember horse maintenance is not a one size fits all approach, each horse has different needs and must be treated as an individual.

FUEL TO PERFORM

Much like race cars, performance horses at the top of their game need the correct fuel to deliver their best results. In order to perform to their highest ability it's critical that horses receive the correct amount of energy in their feed. The amount of energy needed is dictated by the amount of energy expended in a given day. Horses performing at high levels expend higher volumes of energy than those at a maintenance level, such as a grazing horse, therefore it's essential that their energy be provided as part of their daily diet. Energy can be found in both carbohydrates, starches, as well as in fat.

Performance horses should maximize caloric intake and muscle function with high fat, controlled starch diets and high levels of antioxidants (vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium) to maintain active muscle tissue and immune system function. You can increase nutrient utilization in your horse with digestive enzymes, yeast culture, organic trace minerals, probiotics and lecithin compounds.  In addition to feeding a high quality grain mix, good quality hay should be fed to maximize caloric intake. In addition to feeding a high quality grain mix, good quality hay should be fed to maximize caloric intake.

Additional electrolytes, should be given to hard-working, heavily sweating horses. Depletion of electrolytes in the horse interferes with muscle contractions and can cause fatigue or poor performance. If enough sweat is produced it could also lead to tying up or impaction colic. To combat this, feed two to four ounces daily, of a salt-based electrolyte. Electrolytes can be mixed into both water and feed.

Recommended Products for your Performance Horse include: Hillsboro Feed Company 12/4 Horse Feed or 12/7 Horse Feed. Designed to be fed to horses with a medium or higher workload to maintain body conditioning and add to stamina. Feed Alongside good-quality forages to maintain body condition or gain weight. This is our number one selling horse feed, keep this in your bin and your horses will always be happy!

Nutritional needs vary among performance horses, even horses that are competing in the same discipline. Don't hesitate to contact us at Hillsboro Feed Company to help you determine the correct feed for your need.

WORKING ON YOUR FITNESS

In order for an athlete to perform at the highest levels he or she must continually maintain a level of fitness and work on enhancing his or her skills. Equine athletes are no different than their human counterparts when it comes to needing a consistent exercise and conditioning program. If you were planning to run a 10K or marathon this weekend you wouldn't sit on the couch all week without stretching your legs on a few practice runs, the same is true with horses. Horses can't be left to "just be a horse" during the week and then expected to perform at high levels on the weekend at their competitions.

Make sure you set up a training schedule for your horse. Training involves a combination of physical conditioning and task-specific schooling (pole bending, jumping, flatwork patterns, etc.). While consistency is key, remember to schedule one or two "off" days a week to give your horse time to decompress and his or her muscles to recover.

Unfortunately, equine athletes like human athletes sometimes get hurt. Making sure that your horse is in a regular exercise program is one way to prevent injury. Try to have your horse physically fit for the work you want it to perform. If you aren't sure how to assess this, your local veterinarian or trainer can assist you.

...to be continued Next Week.....

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