Feeding For The Performance Horse

Posted by Gilly 21/11/2019 0 Comment(s) Articles,

Holly TeapeSponsored Rider Holly Teape is joining us with a series of articles on subjects she is studying whilst at Duchy College.

Holly is currently studying at Duchy Equine on a 2 year BSc (Hons) Applied Equitation Science Course. As part of this course Holly has already covered nutrition, training principles, health and rehab, equitation science, equine science and behaviour.

Now in her final year Holly is covering subjects such as equitation science (more in-depth), managing equine performance, rider performance and vet issues.

Much of the syllabus is very relevant and Holly's current dissertation is all about the new British Showjumping Whip Rule and it's affect on horse welfare.

Holly has a career within the equestrian industry particularly in producing and retraining horses, firmly in her sights. We at Barnstaple Equestrian Supplies, look forward to sharing her journey. I can see several areas where we can be working with Holly here in store and online, utilising her knowledge with training sessions, clinics and blogs.

Our Sponsorship Packages  are not just providing products and promoting a business. It is also about providing support, exposure and working together long term in helping our riders progress.

So thank you everyone who support us, by doing so we support our riders and in return they we will be able to give back to you, be it with training, advice, blogging or in the enjoyment of seeing our sponsored equestrians succeed, whatever that success might be.

We hope you enjoy Holly's  series of blogs with us.

Feeding For The Performance Horse:   Show Jumper Edition



Feeding For Performance HorsesHow are show jump horses different from other performance horses?

Show jumping is a high intensity, anaerobic workout for the horse.  A show jumping round consists of only a few minutes but is highly demanding on the horse. Many show jump horses are fed on a high starch diet because ‘Glycogen’ can be found within this type of feed. Glycogen is a main energy supply for horses with a high intensity workload as it offers the horse the energy that is needed. It is essential that the diet is balanced for the horse and therefore recommended supplying fibre, fat and electrolytes to the feed. With any horse there is possibility for disease or illness making it essential to base the diet around the horse’s individual needs.



Show jumpers have a higher demand for the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  This is because of the high energy work during a competition. Other disciplines work at a constant speed meaning they do not need this type of molecule as they do not need energy to every cell within the body.

Forage, forage and more forage. Feeding should be based around the most important part of any horse’s diet: forage.  Remember: Horses are trickle feeders and need constant access to feed and fresh clean water. Naturally, horses spend about 18 hours of the day grazing. In a performance horse such as the show jumper it may not be possible to have access to turnout. It is therefore important to feed a balance diet such a high fibre. With limited turnout of competition horses and therefore it may cause a lack of fibre in their diet it is often seen that gastric ulcers occur. Behaviours such as being ‘girthy’ and biting may be a sign of gastric ulcers meaning you may have to supply a supplement for gastric ulsers



Behavioural issue that may occur with feeding high energy diets


When feeding a diet that is full of energy it’s not surprising when your horses becomes a bit ‘fresh’. ‘Freshness’ may result in issues such as becoming too much to handle and can become difficult for the owner or rider. When feeding for performance horses, they need a big energy supply to be able to perform in disciplines such as show jumping. Most behaviours are a result of incorrect diet or routine. It has been said that stereotypic behaviours in horses especially competition horses can be a result of high energy cereals.  This is a disadvantage of high energy source in feed and once a horse has a stereotypy, there is no proof that it will ever be reversed. Some horse result in bucking or ‘taking off’ when ridden because of all the energy that it has in its diet and the horse does not know how to control its energy. It is essential that when feeding a high energy diet that the horse is receiving appropriate work and the correct amount of food for its workload. Many show jump horses have a work load between moderate and hard. It is important to use the nutrition calculations to develop the most accurate feed amount for your horse to limit your horse from having too much energy and fat that may result in illness such as Azoturia (tying up) or laminitis. Many owners believe that protein in the diet can cause excitable behaviour, but this is a common misconception.


What else do I need to supply in my competition horses’ diet?

With every horse, not just competition horses it is essential that the following nutrients are within your horses’ diet:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Fats
  • Vitamins and Minerals
  • Electrolytes
  • Water

Most companies supply a concentrate feed range with the appropriate nutrients in it. You should always check on the packaging what the feed contains and the amount that is within it. By doing this you ensure that your horse is having a balanced diet and receiving the correct amount of nutrients. Fats can be added to the diet by using oils such as vegetable oil. This is a cheap alternative to branded oils. Electrolytes are advertised by many companies in lots of different shapes and forms. You buy these products in a solid or liquid form or you can use a cheaper alternative by using normal salt. Horses must have unlimited access to fresh and clean water.

Most show jumpers are between the age of 4-16 years old. It is essential to keep the horses age in mind when feeding horses. For example, a young horse may not be fully grown, and supplements may be needed to help with bone growth. Whereas a senior horse may need joint supplements added to their feed to help with longevity of the horse and keeping them healthy.



Rules Of Feeding Your Horse

  • Provide plenty of forage
  • Feed concentrate in small amounts and often
  • Change feed and feed schedules gradually
  • Measure feed accurately and feed consistently
  • Don't feed immediately before or after exercise
  • Stick to a routine

Why is it important to use the rules of feeding as a baseline to my horses’ diet?


Horses are very sensitive to feed and are not designed to be eating concentrate foods however through domestication humans have chosen a less natural way of providing the appropriate requirements to feed because of performance purposes. If you do not feed horses little and often it can cause illness such as colic. This is the biggest equine killer. Horses are also likely to colic if food is changed too sudden. Sticking to these rules as a guideline will help limit unnecessary harm to your horse.


Holly Teape
Keep an eye out for more blogs from Holly




  1. English, R. (2019). Feeding for Temperament | Feeding Fact Sheets | Nutrition | Nutrition. [online] Saracenhorsefeeds.com. Available at: https://www.saracenhorsefeeds.com/feeding-fact-sheets/feeding-horses-with-excitable-temperaments [Accessed 15 May 2019].
  2. English, R. (2019). Feeding The Performance Horse | Feeding Fact Sheets | Nutrition | Nutrition. [online] Saracenhorsefeeds.com. Available at: https://www.saracenhorsefeeds.com/feeding-fact-sheets/feeding-the-performance-horse-from-riding-club-to-international-level [Accessed 15 May 2019].
  3. 3- Naf-equine.eu. (2019). NAF UK Products. [online] Available at: https://www.naf-equine.eu/uk/digestion/gastriaid [Accessed 15 May 2019].
  4. NICOL, C. (2010). Understanding equine stereotypies. Equine Veterinary Journal, 31(S28), pp.20-25.
  5. Research, K. (2014). Study: Show-Jumper Diets Vary from Recommendations - Kentucky Equine Research. [online] Kentucky Equine Research. Available at: https://ker.com/equinews/study-show-jumper-diets-vary-recommendations/ [Accessed 3 May 2019].
  6. The Humane Society of the United States. (2019). The rules of feeding your horse. [online] Available at: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/rules-feeding-your-horse [Accessed 15 May 2019].
  7. Young, K. (2017). Fueling the Sporthorse. [online] Expert how-to for English Riders. Available at: https://practicalhorsemanmag.com/health-archive/


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