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The recipe for a Happy Horse
Some might consider the term "happy athlete" as a cliché, however there is a lot to be said for keeping your horse happy. After all, a happy horse shows less stress and therefore performs better. One doesn't only get a happy sport horse by excellent riding skills, good management is at least as important. One aspect of good management is horse feed.
Lex Wolffers and Irene van Laar actively participate in horse racing. In comparison to many other sport horses, their three horses spend several hours per day out at pastures. In addition, they get some high quality hay four times a day. Wolffers: "A racehorse carrying a lot of weight becomes slow. It goes without saying that we therefore don't want to see overweight horses.
„With regards to rough feed, I rather feed hay than grass since we can't measure the consumption of grass very well," says Irene van Laar, partner of Wolffers. "As our horses are working rather hard, they receive a lot of hard feed during the racing season. We feed them approximately 3 to 5 kilos of pellets, muesli and grain per day. Recently, we started to mix all our hard feed with the new Pavo product and we are really enthusiastic. The horses need longer to eat their rations and they really like it very much."
To feed big quantities of hard feed in one meal to a horse is extremely bad. Its digestion is not at all built for it. It chews much less on hard feed than on hay. Nutritionist and member of the Pavo GroomingTeam, Vincent Hinnen: "Sport horses, whether they compete in eventing, dressage or racing, have to perform. Often, the energy from rough feed alone is not enough to compete. A slim, athletic body is important for sport performances. Therefore, a lot of sport horses are kept in stables, also to avoid injuries, they only get a limited amount of rough feed but a lot of hard feed. Lex and Irene always want to keep their horses as best as possible and therefore, we asked them to test our new feeding concept."
Balanced rough feed for chewing
This new way of feeding is based on a carefully balanced mix of rough feed with the energy level of high-quality hay. It is mixed with the standard hard feed. Therefore, the horse needs much more time for eating and makes two to three times as many chewing movements. The mix consists of alfalfa, chaffed oats stalks and barley straw. It contains extremely little protein. Balanced mineral pellets were added to these materials rich in fibres. On purpose, of course. There are already several other rough feed mixtures on the market, such as for example alfalfa. However, these mixtures have high protein and calcium levels but are scoring poorly on phosphor and magnesium. Therefore, they are not suited for young horses and foals as they unbalance their natural system. Hinnen explains: "It's especially the mineral pellets that make our product so balanced and therefore, it's very suitable for all horses, regardless of their age. Especially also for sport horses as they benefit the most from chewing."
Chewing creates saliva
Saliva ensures the protection of the stomach wall against stomach acids as it balances the acid level. In reality, it neutralizes the acids and protects the horse against stomach ulcers. Moreover, saliva is important for the healthy digestion which stimulates the absorption of energy from hard feed. Hence, you need less hard feed. The fibres ensure a better working of the bowels which also benefits horses that are prone to colic.
Hinnen: ,,If we think of something delicious, our mouth starts watering. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like this with horses. Horses only can produce saliva when chewing. In order to eat one kilogram of muesli, the horse needs 900 chewing movements but it only needs 600 chewing movements for one kilogram of pellets. It's eaten up within 10 minutes and only produces approximately one litre of saliva. In comparison: in order to eat one kilogram of hay, a horse produces three to four litre of saliva because it has to chew much longer!"
It has been scientifically proven that chewing minimizes stress in horses. Horses that are being fed too little rough feed and too much hard feed, can get health problems not to mention develop stereotypes that are being called "stable vices" colloquially. However, the term isn't correct as the behaviour hasn't got anything to do with vices but with the way we keep our horses. The horse is searching for anything in order to satisfy its need to chew as well as to get rid of the disgustingly empty feeling in his stomach. Boredom also plays an important role.
For all horses
Peter and Gerrie Maatman from s'Heerenberg also participated in the test. They jokingly say that they have got three and a half horses, that is a 4 year old gelding by Farmer, another 4 year old gelding by Casco and an 18 year old mare by Candyboy as well as a pony for company. Peter and Gerrie intend to start competing in show jumping with their geldings this winter. The couple takes a lot of time for the schooling of their horses. "We rather build them up slowly so that we are still able to enjoy them for the next 25 years", Peter explains. He bought the two geldings as foals as he prefers to bring them up himself. "They are used to anything and everything. If I drive the tractor onto their pasture, they start eating the lamps, that's how used they are to everything."
The way the couple keeps their horses corresponds exactly to the recommendations of behaviourists. The horses are turned out every day, in summer they even stay outside all the time and have a shelter. In addition, they are being fed additional hay. Since recently, their hard feed is being mixed with Pavo DailyPlus. "I am extremely satisfied with Pavo DailyPlus", says Peter who noticed that his horses need considerably longer to eat their food. He was even able to reduce the amount of hard feed as it's absorption is much better. "I especially see that it's also great for the pony. The pony already gets laminitis if I give it a handful of pellets but now it receives two handfuls of this mixture and it is doing absolutely great."
Should you have questions with regards to the health and feeding of your horse, please don't hesitate to ask them to the Grooming Team. The experts from the Pavo GroomingTeam are all specialists in their area of expertise and are happy to assist you. You can reach the GroomingTeam here