The relationship with energy is always a tricky one. Dietary energy is basically a measure of the calories consumed which can be in different forms, water soluble (sugars) and structural or non-soluble. Many of us may find that during the summer our horses and ponies have either too much energy, and can show fizzy behaviour, or sometimes the opposite and not have enough energy.
Whilst diet is often implicated there are many other factors to consider, including your horses level of fitness, having variety in their work and training, their management regime and their overall health and well-being.
One of our most commonly asked questions on our advice line during the summer months is how to ensure the good doer on a restricted diet for weight control, has enough energy for the work it is doing. As with our own bodies, we cannot directly control whether the calories we eat are used for exercise or condition! What we can do to is to provide the correct source of energy at the correct time. We often underestimate the level of fitness our horse or pony has and the amount of work it is doing. For example a two hour hack for a native pony, living on a small paddock or pen for restricted grazing would still cover less mileage than the same pony would cover on a daily basis in a free living natural environment. Therefore at a steady walk trot hack the level of fitness for competition will not be significantly increased and the calories utilised will still be low.
Horses and ponies on restricted diets will often be lacking in micronutrients as they no longer have the freedom to browse and graze on a variety of forage and it’s likely that you will have reduced or removed any hard feed. These individuals will definitely benefit from a suitable balancer, such as Keyflow Perfect Balance™ or high specification vitamin or mineral supplement. It is important that the balancer or supplement contains high enough levels of the essential amino acids for muscle function and performance, and vitamins and minerals for example B vitamins for energy production and metabolism.
Many horses and ponies who lack energy in the summer months may be suffering from dehydration. You can encourage them to drink by ensuring water is fresh and clean. Buckets of water left in stables or paddocks can quickly become tainted and warm in hot weather and they are less likely to want to drink. Keyflow Pink Mash® can be fed as a sloppy appetising mash to encourage them to take on more water, but can also be added in a small quantity to a fresh bucket of water, to make a ‘pink juice’. Sloppy Pink Mash makes a great base to add salt to on a daily basis or electrolytes when needed. Horses on restricted diets often lack salt, simply adding standard table salt every day can help with hydration. Please contact the Keyflow team for advice on how much your horse or pony may benefit from and advice on whether they may need extra electrolytes too if they are sweating heavily.
Sometimes, they just need a little bit of help. Feeding a high-energy feed strategically, such as Keyflow Maestro™ in a small quantity (200g) just over an hour before training or competing can help give them a little lift. The energy in this small amount feed should be digested and absorbed in the small intestine, easily entering the bloodstream in the same way as small amount of chocolate would help us! This may not suit all horses, we recommend that you contact us to see if it may suit yours.
Conversely, there are many horses and ponies for whom the flush of rain and grass growth is providing too much and they have too much energy evident as fizzy behaviour. These horses often benefit from hindgut support to moderate the impact of high-sugar grazing and to keep the microbiome as settled and consistent as possible. They will still need their diet balancing and topping up with the vitamins and minerals and essential amino acids that grazing could be lacking in. If you’re unsure, contact one of our nutritionists or advisors who can help you. The Keyflow advice line is totally free of charge, we can discuss your horses management their overall health and living conditions and suggest some suitable feeding options to ensure their diet is balanced and providing them with what they need for the job they are expected to do whether that is attending pony club camp or stepping up to the next level of eventing this summer.