The Importance of Feed Management in Race Horses: Achieving Optimal Performance and Health

Estimated read time 3 min read

When developing a feeding plan for your horse, there are a few factors to consider to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive. A horse’s diet should be based on age, breed, weight, and levels of work – which is why feed management is essential when it comes to a racehorse. Training and racing horses need additional energy to help them perform at their best and having access to a range of horse feeds that can provide the nutrients they need is crucial. We’ll take a closer look at this below.

Why is feed management important for a racehorse?

Racehorses take part in rigorous training regimes and competitions, so one of the main and most important reasons for feed management is so that they can benefit from the energy they need to perform at their best. When a racehorse performs, molecules called ATP are used for muscle contraction. ATP is generated from different types of energy and some are more efficient than others. In the presence of oxygen energy metabolism is known as aerobic respiration and in the absence of oxygen it is known as anaerobic respiration. The horse can only perform anaerobically for a relatively short period of time

Dietary requirements for your racehorse

High-fibre diet


Every horse’s diet should be built upon fibre, and that includes the racehorse. When fibre is consumed, it ferments in the hindgut, which provides an energy source for horses throughout the day. The heat produced also helps to keep the horse warm from the inside. Fiber-rich forage is essential as a way of maintaining the health of the digestive system too, so although racehorse trainers often worry about filling the gut with too much fibre, it is generally accepted that it is necessary to do so to find the balance between health and performance.


This nutrient comes from cereals which are often used to increase the overall dietary energy intake. It is often mistakenly thought to be essential to use cereal grains for racehorse but several studies have shown horses can run on a fibre based diet without compromising their performance.  Starch is stored as glycogen if it isn’t used immediately for energy. However, when introducing starch into a racehorse’s diet, considerations need to be taken to ensure the recommended amount is not exceeded, as this can cause changes in pH in the hindgut, resulting in colic, stereotypical behaviours and the very common problem for racehorses, of gastric ulcers


Fat, like starch, can be added to a racehorse’s diet as a way of adding concentrated calories. Vegetable oil is an example of a fat that can be added easily to a racehorses diet – not only does it mean concentrated energy, but you also don’t have to worry about it causing issues if it escapes digestion as it should not cause any issue when it comes to the balance in the hindgut.


When sufficient energy is provided in other forms, protein is rarely used as an energy source. It is however needed in higher quantities for the racehorse as they turnover more  muscle tissue in response to exercise and training.

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