Entries in How to feed a Racehorse (2)



stratos winning the empress club stakes 

Stratos winning the Empress Club Stakes

Food for Thought 

In a study, "Motivation for hay: Effects of a pelleted diet on behavior and physiology of horses," scheduled to be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Physiology & Behavior, Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVB, a professor emeritus of Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine and and co-author Jaime Elia, determined if horses' welfare, in addition to their health, was compromised when denied fiber.  

The abstract is currently available:


The natural diet of free-ranging horses is grass, which is typically high in fiber and calorically dilute, however diets for high performance domestic horses are often low in fiber and calorically dense. The aim of the study was to determine the motivation of horses for hay when fed a low roughage diet. Their motivation could be used to determine if low roughage diets compromise the welfare of horses. Eight mares were fed two different diets in counterbalanced order: ad libitum orchard grass hay; a complete pelleted feed (pellets). Each trial lasted three weeks, with a one-week transition period between diets. To determine the motivation of horses for fiber they were taught to press a panel to obtain a food reward. The fixed ratio (FR) was increased using a progressive ratio ((1,2,4,7,11…) technique. When fed pellets, the horses worked for a median FR of 1 (Range=1-497) to attain pellets, and when fed hay, they worked for a median FR of 25.5 (4-497) to attain pellets. When fed hay, the horses worked for a median FR of 0 (0-0) to attain hay, and when fed pellets, they worked for a FR of 13 (2-79) to attain hay. These results indicate a greater motivation for hay, a high fiber diet, when fed a low fiber diet. The horses spent 10 (5-19.4)% of their time during a 24-hour period eating pellets compared to 61.5 (29-76) % of their time eating hay. Horses spent 58% of their time standing when fed the pellets and only 37% of their time standing when fed hay. Searching behavior (i.e. sifting through wood shaving bedding for food particles) took up 11.5 (1.4-32) % of the horse's day when fed pellets, but only 1.2 (0-3.5) % of the daily time budget when fed hay. Horses chew more times when eating a hay diet (43,476chews/day) than when eating a pellet diet (10,036chews/day). Fecal pH was lower in horses fed the pelleted diet.

In addition, the researchers also found that:

  • Horses fed hay, spent 61.5% of their time (throughout a 24-hour period) eating, while horses fed pellets spent only 10% of their time eating,
  • Horses fed pellets spent 58% of their time standing while horses fed hay, spent 37% of their time standing, and
  • Horses fed pellets spent 11.5% of the their time sifting through the bedding of their stall looking for food whereas horses fed hay only spent 1.2% of their time practicing this "searching behavior."

The authors concluded that a reduction in dietary fiber has a major impact on the behavior and physiology of horses. They recommend feeding at least half a bale of first cutting hay per day, or offering free choice hay.

As horsemen we know that when horses are denied access to pasture to partake in their natural grazing habits of eating small amounts for up to 16 hours a day, health and behaviour issues arise, such as the development of gastric ulcers and chewing of wood fences and stall walls. Eating bedding, box-walking and weaving are also negative effects of horses not having sufficient “chewing -time”

As trainers it is not always easy to balance energy levels, race recovery and race-readiness with a high-fibre diet particularly when the focus is on a calorie-dense diet for maximum energy output and muscle repair. 

Vuma Horse Feeds has always believed in providing nutrient dense, whole grain rations with processed maize for maximum digestibility. The whole grains include oats, sunflower and barley and apart from providing starch and some protein, as well as fat in the case of sunflower, the different whole grains provide a certain amount of roughage (tough outer hulls) while also fulfilling some of the searching behaviour of horses by allowing them to pick through the different grains. More roughage and different shaped grains, also allow for slower eating.

Coarse muesli mixes not only have a lower density than pellets but they are harder to pick up and furthermore, the horse cannot grip so much in one mouthful. Thus the format of the concentrate assists in controlling the rate of concentrate intake which is probably as important as controlling that of forage intake. If feed is eaten rapidly, less saliva is produced and the sudden flow of concentrated feed into the stomach causes a rapid secretion in acid. This is exacerbated if a horse has stood for a prolonged period with no access to feed.

It is possible to try to further reduce the rate of concentrate consumption of horses by mixing chaffs into the feed. The idea is that the forage requires a lot of chewing and cannot be swallowed until it is properly macerated. Thus, feeding time is prolonged. However, horses vary their rate of feed consumption during a meal, eating more quickly at the outset and many are also very adept at tossing the hay out of the manger, if it is not chaffed small enough!

Chewing movement in horses produces saliva which, due to its high bicarbonate and mucous content, buffers acid in the stomach. Thus reduced “chewing time” will lead to increased stomach acid which may lead to the urge to chew bedding and wood. 

The main objective with race-horse nutrition is to provide optimal energy while ensuring optimal health. This can be achieved by feeding a range of feeds like the nutrient dense range of muesli feeds from Vuma, by ensuring that the horses’ meals are spread into as many small meals as practically possible, and by providing sufficient roughage in the form of good quality hay and Lucerne, also spread throughout the day. 

High volumes of grain, without roughage, also lead to increased fermentation in the stomach which leads to an increase in the bacteria that produce lactic acid and gas. 

The Vuma range of products is a starting point to achieving optimum health and performance.

Vuma Upstart 14%, Vuma Racer12%, Vuma V812% and Strike R8.



summerhill stud - photo by michael nefdt

Custodianship of the brand...
(Photo : Summerhill Stud) 

"South Africa's trailblazer in Horse Nutrition"

On a daily basis Summerhill Stud is receiving now, enquiries from around the world, prompted no doubt by the stream of pamphlets, brochures etc which fill your mailboxes with stallion propaganda at this time of year, as to when the Summerhill Sires Brochure will be on the street. It seems it has become coffee table material and archive stuff for many, but as always, it will be out at the beginning of August, and those attending the Summmerhill Stallion Day will be the first recipients.

Following is an insert from the brochure; a piece on Vuma Horsefeeds :

"When we first invested in the horsefeeds business twenty years ago, we made a solemn promise. For as long as it was within our means, our horses would be the best fed in the world.

That we've been true to that promise is plain from the record. A small country mill, hundreds of kilometres from racing’s action, has sustained the yards of seven of the last ten Champion Trainers. In a lifetime, you’d have to say you’d settle for that, but that’s only half the story.

Feeding racehorses is a process. At Vuma it starts long before the foal is born; in its perfect manifestation, it should go on to the grave. Any horse that's known the taste of Vuma, would feel deprived by anything less.

Ask the Champion Breeders. The lads in Mooi River will tell you that Vuma has been central to their six consecutive Equus Awards as the nations' Number One stud farm. The statistics tell us that their horses are healthier, that they run more often, for longer, and that when it comes to big race victories, there are no equals.

Our toughest competition will tell you that Vuma has been South Africa’s trailblazer in horse nutrition. That the loyalties it inspires are unbendable. And that as a brand, it is the envy of the industry.

Another promise we made, was that we would never entrust Vuma’s manufature to anyone else. Unless they make it better than us. That the custodianship of the brand would never be placed in the hands of anyone who did not share our values.

Technology has moved on since we made our first bag of Vuma in a concrete mixer in 1990. Our competitors have worked tirelessly in closing the gap. In the end, in the best interests of the best range of horsefeeds in the world, we’ve handed the torch to the people who’ve earned it. Who’ve worked hardest to compete, and who’ve made the investment to take Vuma to where it’s never been before.

And rest assured : they’ve made the same promises."

vuma horsefeed africa

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