Offering a life to a retired racehorse can be a challenging but rewarding task. If your horse has just recently come out of full training you may need to take the time to ‘rough’ him or her off. Thoroughbred racehorses are finely tuned equine athletes and even those who never compete at the highest level are used to a stringent training regime from an early age. In Ireland racehorses are often rugged up 12 months of the year and are predominantly stabled all the time, some may have no access to ‘turn out ‘while in training. The first job therefore is to gradually reintroduce the horse to grass with the ultimate goal being 24 hour turnout without a rug (an exception to this may be in very severe weather conditions).
Racehorses in full training are accustomed to eating large quantities of high energy feed on a daily basis, however once their workload has been reduced they do not have a requirement for this type of feeding programme. It is also useful to find out the horses nutritional history from the trainer e.g. what type of feeding programme it had, was it prone to any digestive disorders such as gastric ulcers, acidosis of the hindgut, tying up etc. as this will influence how you proceed with its care. It is important to make any changes gradually, allowing several days for their digestive system to adjust. Once this changeover has been complete their diet can primarily be based around good quality pasture if possible or hay/haylage where there is a shortage of good quality grass.
In Spring/Summer months a low calorie, high trace mineral and vitamin balancer such as Gain Opti-Gro cubes is ideal to ensure nutritional requirements are being met without providing excess calories. During winter months it may be necessary to feed forage outside in addition to a moderate energy feed such as Gain Equestrian Cubes or Horse and Pony Muesli to ensure they maintain condition and stay healthy over the winter months.
If your ex-racehorse has a complicated nutritional history or you have any queries about their feeding programme it is worthwhile to seek the advice of a professional such as a Vet and a Nutritionist who can help you to tailor a feeding programme for your horse.
Joanne Hurley is a nutrition specialist with Gain Horse Feeds. She holds a Masters in Animal Nutrition and Production from UCD. She is based at Gain Horse Feeds Office in Bridge Street, Portlaoise, Co Laois and can be contacted on 087-7958573 or by email at email@example.com