Your horse is an athlete and athletes need good condition to deliver top performance. Horses that feel good will perform better, no matter what level you are at. In this issue of Science Sunday in September, learn what you need to know to improve your horse’s condition.
A horse’s fitness depends on its physical condition. A good physical condition will ensure that a horse has the stamina for (long) intense work. However, condition is not based on duration of work. Good condition also ensures faster recovery from work, a lower risk of injury, and even stronger resistance to illness and infection.
As condition may be understood to mean different things, in this article we’ll be focussing on improving stamina. Top condition doesn’t come overnight. Like in humans, stamina in horses is increased through training.
Thresholds in building condition
There are two thresholds involved in building equine condition. The aerobic threshold and the anaerobic threshold. Below the aerobic threshold, the production and utilization of lactate in the muscles are in perfect balance. It is produced and burned, and this cycle repeats as long as exertion does not increase. As soon as the horse begins to work harder (above the aerobic threshold), lactate production increases. After a certain point, the amount of lactate will be too high, and this is when active muscles can no longer function as efficiently.
The body begins to transport the lactate to other muscles, this process requires more oxygen so the horse begins to breathe more heavily. An increased level of exertion alters the muscle’s metabolic balance, but the body has the ability to bring this back into balance with more oxygen. This is the so-called aerobic zone. If the level of exertion continues beyond this, a point is reached where the intensity is such that lactate production exceeds the rate of lactate metabolism. At this point, acidosis begins in the body and the horse’s muscles cannot maintain performance. This is called the anaerobic threshold. Beyond this point onwards the horse can no longer continue at this level of exertion because the supply of oxygen to the muscle cannot keep up with the demand.
Oxygen and fuel
In training, you raise the horse’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds: this makes your horse fitter and stronger. The more your horse trains, the longer it can work with aerobic energy, i.e., with oxygen. The more oxygen the muscles can take in and utilize during exertion, the easier it is for the horse to sustain exertion, meaning that it will have more stamina.
The ability of the horse to use energy aerobically is an important factor in the overall condition of the animal. Oxygen is used to convert energy into effective muscle contraction This energy is mainly obtained from fats, fibers, and carbohydrates. These sources deliver what is known as “slow releasing” energy, i.e., fuel that is released slowly to provide sustained energy and improved endurance. Often, the question isn’t whether the horse is getting enough energy, but whether it is getting the right fuel.
Equine energy metabolism is a complex process. To work well, your horse not only needs energy sources, but also minerals and vitamins, which lacking, the horse may have difficulties building stamina. Trace elements, antioxidants and B vitamins support energy metabolism and stamina.
Good basic fitness means better resilience and a higher level of performance from the horse. Conscious training means crossing the fitness threshold. Overall condition can be greatly improved by alternating regularly between strength and endurance training. Building condition requires a mindful choice of feed and a conscious approach to training.
Our feed experts will be happy to help you select the right feed for your horse’s needs
Different horses have different energy requirements. Even building condition won’t be the same for every horse. Some do it easily – they seem to improve with no problems whatsoever. Others must first get accustomed to the higher intensity of training and the work requested of them. Building condition requires a conscious approach to training. This approach can be supported through a mindful choice of feed.
The basis for this feed should be plenty of high-energy roughage. We recommend supplementing this with Cavalor Endurix. Cavalor Endurix is a sport mix that’s high in fats to provide slow-release energy and help your horse get in better shape. It also contains puffed cereals for fast digestion and pre- and probiotics for optimum bowel function and a strong immune system.
Sometimes horses need a little extra help, in developing good basic condition, for periods of intense training, or for a race. Cavalor Pow’Red Performance contains vitamins and minerals to support optimum energy metabolism. Give your horse a regimen of Pow’Red Performance over a period of 40 days.
Want to know more about the right feed for your horse? At MyCavalor.com you can easily configure your horse’s feed ration to meet its requirements. Would you rather ask us directly? No problem, you can! Send us an email at [email protected] or call our Consumer Line at + 32 9 220 25 25.