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Feeding and Preparing Yearlings for Sale

It is that time of year again when you are preparing yearlings for sale. Nutrition can play a key role in the preparation of horses for sales.

Flat thoroughbreds are bred to start their racing careers at two or three years old and so at the auction stage have not yet reached maturity. Nutrition of yearlings must address the rapid growth phase of the musculoskeletal system and achieve optimum body condition for presentation at auction.

Preparing Yearlings for Sale

While the sales day is a vital cog in the equine industry the preparation of yearlings must not be at the expense of future athletic ability, soundness and ultimately the longevity of the horses racing career. Excess weight can cause problems. Skeletal issues have been well documented in association with overweight youngsters but recent studies suggest that excessive weight in the developmental stages of the horse can lead to epistaxis, bleeders and other respiratory problems. The aim of sales prep should be to produce an athletic individual in good body condition.

The primary component of a horse’s diet is the roughage or fibre intake. Yearlings in prep are in a stressful environment. That’s not to say that anything is being done wrong. The process of being in a stabled environment, possibly separated from pasture buddies and starting a new exercise regime is stressful for horses. Stress, such as stabling, has been shown consistently to lead to problems with gastric ulcers in horses.

Gastric ulcers in yearlings can cause behavioural problems and weight loss, this is not ideal when getting ready for a sale. The single most effective means of reducing ulcers in horses is to provide constant access to roughage, be that grass or hay/haylage in the stable. The chewing of the fibres in hay or grass creates increased saliva which neutralises acid in the stomach, reducing the damage to the lining of the stomach which causes ulcers.

Some yearlings will get ulcers in spite of excellent management and husbandry and may benefit from a reduced starch diet such as Horse Care 14. This will provide the high-quality protein to support growth but reduce the incidence of ulcers.

Aiding Dietary Balance

When it comes to sales day you will need a great pedigree, a yearling in good condition, with a great skin (add Kentucky Karron Oil to feed daily), and a very impressive walk. The transition from self-regulated exercise in the paddock to a daily routine of walking in hand and lunging can take its toll on growing muscles. Horse Care 14 can be of great benefit to yearlings that are “tight” or “short” in the walk. The formulation of high-quality proteins and super fibres with low starch reduces the build-up of acids in the muscles and promotes muscle recovery after exercise.  Fillies in particular may be prone to “tying up” and will be much easier to manage on a diet of Horse Care 14.

Growth of the muscles and bones of the horse requires a high level of protein, and the right balance of vitamins and minerals such as copper, calcium and phosphorus. This is reflected in the makeup of specialised products such as 18% Premier Yearling Cubes. Protein is essential, but it must be easily digestible and high in the essential amino acids such as lysine and methionine. These are the amino acids responsible for muscle development.

Feeding Yearlings Correctly

A common problem reported while preparing yearlings for sales can be diarrhoea or consistently loose droppings. This is often associated with overfeeding and reduces the effectiveness of the gut leading to weight loss and dehydration. Feeding large quantities of feed that cannot be absorbed by the horse is not cost effective. It is absolutely vital to make all feed changes slowly, whether that be changing the feed or increasing the feed significantly.

Yearlings being fed large amounts should be fed small feeds several times during the day. This will reduce the incidence of diarrhoea, colic and most importantly ensure maximum absorption and so maximum cost efficiency. Balancers such as GROCARE Balancer can be used to increase the nutritional value of the daily feed without having a significant impact on the quantity. One cup of GROCARE Balancer can be added in place of one scoop of the regular feed.

Good luck with your efforts in preparing yearlings for sales. For further advice or to discuss a specific issue please contact a member of our nutrition team.

  • Tags:
  • Horses
  • Sales Preparation
  • Thoroughbred
  • Thoroughbred Foals
  • Yearling Feeding
  • Yearlings