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Equine Vet J Suppl. 2010 Nov;(38):370-4. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.2010.00233.x.

Nutrition-associated problems facing elite level three-day eventing horses.

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1
Department of Animal Science, Rutgers, the State University, New Jersey, USA.

Abstract

REASONS FOR PERFORMING STUDY:

The main goal of feeding elite 3-day event horses is to deliver nutrients in optimal amounts to allow the horse to maximize its health and performance. However, improper nutritional management and/or physiological stressors related to intense training and competition may increase the risk of nutrition-associated disorders in these horses. An understanding of the nutrition-associated problems contributing to poor performance is critical to the health and welfare of the horse.

OBJECTIVES:

To characterize the nutrition-associated problems affecting top level 3-day event horses during 2008.

METHODS:

Contact information for riders competing in the 2 highest levels of 3-day eventing in 2008 was obtained from the United States Eventing Association. A survey containing 10 questions pertaining to participant demographics and nutrition-associated problems experienced by their horses was mailed and e-mailed to the 81 individuals fitting our criteria of living in USA and Canada. Data was collected in April and May 2009.

RESULTS:

Twenty-nine of 81 riders completed the survey (35.8%). Respondents rode a total of 45 horses in top level 3-day events in 2008. The top 5 nutrition-associated problems that horses faced at a significantly higher level than the other problems (P < 0.0001) were gastric ulcers (42.2%), joint problems (37.7%), decreased appetite (31.1%), weight loss (31.1%) and hyperexcitability (22.2%). There was no significant difference in frequency of problems between home and competition (P = 0.22).

CONCLUSIONS:

Horses competing at a high level of 3-day eventing in 2008 were at risk of reduced performance given the significant rate of gastric ulcers, decreased appetite and weight loss. Research addressing specific causes of and/or feeding management changes that would reduce the incidence of these problems in these horses is needed to ensure optimal health and performance.

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