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Subpar Performance and Recovery in Horses

How do I prevent subpar performance and recovery in my horse?

Ever feel like your horse is “just a little off” or “not quite right?” You’re not alone. While exercise is a critical part of overall horse health, it can simultaneously create physiological stress. While some stress is positive, too much of anything is not ideal. Exercise-related stress may result in the overproduction of free radicals, which can become troublesome if not handled appropriately by the body. Selenium, copper, zinc and manganese all account for small percentages of the horse’s overall diet but pack a big punch in terms of antioxidant abilities, joint health, hair coat, hoof growth and even immune function. While the amount needed in the horse’s diet may seem trivial, these micronutrients are vital in supporting performance.

How do horses normally obtain minerals in their diet?

If not in training, horses typically receive adequate vitamins and minerals through forage consumption. However, horses that are regularly exercised require increased levels of vitamins and minerals. As such, their needs cannot typically be met by forage alone. Feeding grains and supplements is not just meant to add calories but also to help fill any nutrient gaps. The “catch” is that human-made minerals in grain and supplements are not always offered in a form that horses can absorb and use.

What’s the difference between inorganic and organic trace minerals?

Organic trace minerals are found naturally in plants, while synthetically produced minerals are classified as inorganic. You can think of these like rocks: horses will absorb plant matter at much higher levels than they would absorb nutrients presented in a rock-like form. This allows crucial nutrients to be better utilized by the body and leads to improved performance through lower supplementation levels.

How can organic minerals improve my horse’s performance?

Minerals are considered the building blocks of virtually every body system. For example, selenium is a key component in multiple antioxidant pathways, promoting cellular function and regeneration. Copper, zinc and manganese support the immune system, contribute to the synthesis of collagen in the joints, promote hair and hoof health and more! It is important that all of these minerals are being offered to your horse in a more bioavailable organic form, which will better allow them to fulfill their performance potential.

Signs of subpar performance and recovery in horses:

  • Elevated heart and respiratory rates that take too long to return to normal
  • Reduced feed intake
  • Weight loss
  • Unwillingness to work
  • Tying up and/or “Monday morning disease”
  • Dull hair coat
  • Cracked hooves
  • Impaired breathing

Preventing subpar performance and recovery in horses

Utilize the following tips to keep your horse performing at its best:

  • Have your hay tested. Forages differ based on soil quality, region, year, fertilizer and more! Sending hay samples for regular nutrient analysis will help you determine what is missing from your individual horse’s diet and will give you the information you need to implement a more appropriate supplementation strategy.
  • Learn to measure vital signs. While you don’t necessarily need to measure a horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration every time you visit the barn, it’s a good idea to know your horse’s normal ranges so that you can be aware if things start to shift.
  • Allow your horse sufficient time to recover and rest. Be careful of overtraining or undertraining. Pushing a horse too hard not only causes it to become sour, but it could also put excessive stress on their muscles and joints. Additionally, if you are only able to ride once per week, consider that your horse is likely not in the best shape — be careful not to overdo it.
  • Choose quality nutrition. Provide your horse with high-quality antioxidants and minerals, which support recovery in muscles, bones and connective tissue. Nutrition plays a large role in injury prevention.
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