Nutrition for Injured Horses
If your working horse or competition horse picks up an injury and requires a period of rest and recuperation then you may have to adjust their diet. The correct diet could play an important role in aiding recovering and will prevent your horse from gaining weight.
A highly active horse which is suddenly confined to its stable will require less energy from their diet. You should manage their rations to reduce the calorie intake or weight gain could quickly ensue. Feeds for working horses such as Alfa-A Original by Dengie Horse Feeds or Spillers Competition Mix for competing horses may need be reduced by up to 50% or replaced with lower energy options. High energy intakes could also cause excitability or bad behaviour both of which carry the risk of making any injury worse.
Horse feeds which are low in starch and sugar are good choices for resting horses and excellent options are available from many ranges including Hi-Fi from Dengie Horse Feeds, Spillers Essentials and Allen & Page Fast Fibre. However, new feeds should be introduced gradually as they can cause upset stomachs. A digestive enhancer can help to smooth the transition.
For Horses on Antibiotics
If your horse is prescribed antibiotics or other drugs, then probiotics can help reduce negative impacts on the gut and strengthen the immune system.
As horses only produce saliva when they chew it is important to include forage in the recovering horse’s diet. Saliva helps to neutralise stomach acid so it helps if you provide plenty of hay or haylage. Do keep an eye on your horse’s respiratory health though as being stabled can cause issues. If you are feeding hay it can help to soak the hay to reduce the number of airborne spores. Chewing forage will also help your horse to settle in the stable. Licks can also provide a useful distraction if your horse is bored.
Proteins, Vitamins and Minerals
Ensure that your horse’s diet contains the right amount of protein, vitamins and minerals as these are vital to soft tissue repair. You may need to add a balancer to provide all the nutrients that your horse requires.
If your horse remains restless or excitable then . Calmers are available as a supplements or can be delivered orally from a syringe. Calmers contain magnesium and L-tryptophan which promote the production of serotonin, a hormone which keeps horses relaxed.
When your horse has recovered sufficiently to return to work or training for competition then they should be reverted to their normal diet gradually. Any excess weight which has been gained must be shed as it will put more strain on the injured area of the body. Amino acids are very important at this time as they help to rebuild muscles and to strengthen tendons and ligaments. A high quality balancer or performance feed will provide what your horse needs but must be introduced slowly.
An injured horse can represent a real challenge and its nutrition must be carefully considered. You should establish what nutrients feature in your horse’s usual feed and the feed’s calorific value and then make the appropriate adjustments.
If you are unsure about your horse's feed requirements then it is advisable to contact an Equine Nutritionist. Many of the feed companies, such as Dengie Horse Feeds, also have their own helpful nutritionist teams that can advise on your individual case.