The physiological demands of exercise means that the competition horse will require a suitable hard feed to ensure adequate calories, protein and micronutrients are provided in the overall diet. Providing too much energy can result in over exuberant behavior or poor concentration, whereas providing too little can lead to loss of stamina.
Energy is provided by everything the horse eats. However, the most suitable hard feed will depend on the level of work a horse is doing and their individual temperament. Cereals such as oats provide a source of readily digestible non-structural carbohydrates (e.g. starch), which are digested relatively quickly in the small intestine, providing what is commonly known as ‘quick’ or ‘fast-releasing’ energy. This is ideal for horses that are working hard for short periods that need either power or speed, such as show jumping. On the other hand, for horses that can be overly excitable, need improved levels of stamina or individuals prone to tying-up or gastric ulcers, low starch feeds are more appropriate. These feeds have been specifically formulated to provide energy from more ‘gradual’ or ‘slow-releasing’ sources such as fibre, which is slowly fermented by bacteria in the hindgut, and/or oil.