A team roping horse is an athlete. Athleticism is the only term to describe going from a standstill to a full sprint, all the while reacting to two other creatures-the steer and the rider-then pulling a 450-pound steer in a direction it doesn't want to go, and then stopping the entire movement as suddenly as it started, usually in under 10 seconds. Practice this repeatedly on a daily basis over the course of a roping season and your horse will begin to develop more specialized nutritional needs.
Poor Animal extremely emaciated; spinous processes, ribs, tailhead, tuber coxae (hip joints), and ischia (lower pelvic bones) projecting prominently; bone structure of withers, shoulders, and neck easily notice-able; no fatty tissue can be felt.
Very Thin Animal emaciated; slight fat covering over base of spinous processes, transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae feel rounded; spinous processes, ribs, tailhead, tuber coxae (hip joints) and ischia (lower pelvic bones) prominent; withers, shoulders, and neck structure faintly discernable.
Thin Fat buildup about halfway on spinous processes; transverse processes cannot be felt; slight fat cover over ribs; spinous processes and ribs easily discernable; tailhead prominent, but individual vertebrae cannot be identified visually; tuber coxae (hip joints), appear rounded but easily discernable; tuber ischia (lower pelvic bones) not distinguishable; withers, shoulders and neck accentuated.
Moderately Thin Slight ridge along back; faint outline of ribs discernible; tailhead prominence depends on conformation, fat can be felt around it; tuber coxae (hip joints) not discernable; withers, shoulders and neck not obviously thin.
Moderate Back is flat (no crease or ridge); ribs not visually distinguishable but easily felt; fat around tailhead beginning to feel spongy; withers appear rounded over spinous processes; shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body.
Moderately Fleshy May have slight crease down back; fat over ribs spongy; fat around tailhead soft; fat beginning to be deposited along the side of withers, behind shoulders, and along sides of neck.
Fleshy May have slight crease down back; individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat; fat around tailhead soft; fat deposited along withers, behind shoulders,and along neck.
Fat Crease down back; difficult to feel ribs, fat around tailhead very soft; fat area along withers filled with fat, area behind shoulder filled with fat, noticeable thickening of neck; fat deposited along inner thighs.
Extremely Fat Obvious crease down back; patchy fat appearing over ribs, bulging fat around tailhead; along withers, behind shoulders and along neck, fat along inner thighs may rub together; flank filled with fat.In general, a horse can be effectively maintained with 20 pounds of good-quality grass hay. When moving to performance horse, however, that is probably merely a good start.
Carbohydrates and Fats for Energy
For the performance horse, forage provides about 60-70 percent of necessary energy while fats provide 20-40 percent and grains, or carbohydrates, provide 0-10 percent. Consider that many horses involved in an intense work level require around 35,000 (shown in the chart on page 52 in thousands) calories each day. The chart on page 52 shows approximate amounts of different feed sources that can give your horse the necessary energy. Remember that too much grain and legume hay can put extra stress on a horse's digestive system. Consider fat supplements and fermentable fibers as an alternative to excessive grain and legume hay since they are usually well tolerated by horses' digestive tracts. Usually no more that six pounds of grain should be fed per day.
Many pellet feeds will contain the basic energy requirements. Learn to read the labels, know what your looking for and a pellet feed might make the balancing process easier. If your horse has special nutritional needs beyond what the pellet feed brand you choose provides, consider supplements. Beyond nutritional value, pellet feeds must be palatable. Consider a fat or fiber supplement as dressing if you choose a pellet feed.
Protein requirements are almost always met in the course of a feeding regimen. At maintenance level, horses require protein in about 10-12 percent of their feed, easily met by good quality grass or alfalfa hay. A performance horse may require slightly more protein, 14-15 percent, but feeding protein for energy is a waste, will not enhance your horse's ability and may actually cause harm.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are utilized differently in the high-performance horse. As a horse eats more, as he will when he is worked harder, his rate of passage of nutrients increases and his utilization of those nutrients decreases. So the more he eats, the less he will utilize nutrients. You should make sure he is supplemented every day, he is correctly balanced, and that some of the supplementation comes from inorganic sources. Too much supplementation is also detrimental to your horse. Vitamin A, copper and selenium can all be potentially toxic. Keep things balanced, and ask for help. You have a huge financial and emotional investment in your horse; both of you deserve some correct answers and help.
By themselves, vitamins will not provide energy to a horse, but they are necessary for the horse to properly utilize feed products. Vitamin supplements are not a cure-all for problems and many necessary vitamins are obtained by the horse through a balanced feed ration. However, for a horse in intense training, vitamins such as A, D and E and many of the B vitamins have either direct or indirect involvement in the metabolism. Vitamin E, thiamine and folic acid may have special roles in the metabolism of performance horses.
All of the vitamins are required for the general health and physical condition of horses and also have other important effects such as appetite stimulation and blood building. However, if overfed, these often cause toxicity problems and impair growth. Even though much of the requirement for vitamins will be supplied by natural ingredients in the diet or by synthesis by bacteria in the large intestine, their adequacy in the diets of performance horses should be assured by addition through a balanced feed or by nutritional supplements. It is important to realize that once the requirement for a vitamin is met, nothing is gained by adding more and can in fact be a detriment to your horse.
Minerals form the basis for the skeletal system, many hormones and enzymes, and are necessary for normal metabolic functions. As a rule, minerals are supplied in varying quantities by feed products and will depend on the soil and growing conditions, maturity of the plant when harvested, digestibility and availability of minerals and their interactions within the ration.Minerals such as calcium,phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and salt, as well as trace minerals such as iron, copper and selenium, all have either direct or indirect involvement in physiological pro-cesses taking place in performance horses. They should all be supplied in the diet as part of a balanced grain feed or as supplements added to the grain ration. Generally, a calcium-phosphorus source and trace mineral salt will satisfy most horses' mineral requirements if they receive a well balanced ration of good quality feedstuffs. How-ever, there are areas of the country that have deficiencies of some minerals and excesses of others, so consult your local nutritionist about potential shortages or toxic influences.
Water is an extremely important nutrient to consider in feeding athletic horses; an adult horse will consume 10-20 gallons of water per day. The total amount of water needed increases dramatically when horses sweat due to high temperatures and humidity, especially when combined with hard work. In addition, horses consuming feeds such as alfalfa hay with high levels of protein and minerals also will have increased digestive water losses. The extra urination and sweating connected with ingesting such feeds may be detrimental to performance, especially when horses are already under heat stress. Therefore many trainers prefer to feed hays with low alfalfa content or only grass hay.
Also, in the winter, ice-free water sources can help you avoid unnecessary colic problems. If you frequently travel with your horses, you may consider adding a flavor to the water both at home and on the road to disguise differences in water quality.
Developing a feed ration is a complex chore, often varying greatly by region, the amount of work required of your horse and other factors. Below is a listing of nationally marketed feeds to help get you started. However, you should consult a local nutritionist as you develop your feeding program. This article is not designed to replace competent professional advisors; instead, it should be used as a means to encourage owners to ask questions and seek competent advice.