Is your horse a bit too energetic and hot? Or is he too lazy and slow? There could be several reasons why your horse is like this. Nutrition could certainly play a part. But before looking at the diet, it is important to exclude other causes.
There are a number of circumstances that could affect your horse’s behaviour. Firstly, the amount of (free) movement the horse gets. If the horse does not get enough (free) movement, the horse can get bored, develop stereotypical behaviour or simply has no outlet for his energy.
A lack of social interaction can also influence behaviour. It is important for horses to have sufficient social contact with peers. A lack of social interaction could cause them to react apathetically (numb). Sometimes sufficient social contact can also have a negative effect, for example if the horse does not get along well with its neighbour. This could lead to restlessness, food aggression and other aggressive behaviour.
Is the horse slow whilst all the conditions mentioned above are in order? Then it may be wise to have its general health checked by a vet. Think of heart rate, breathing, temperature, teeth and possible blood analysis. Results could indicate, for example, a disease, condition or a shortage of certain nutrients or minerals. Pay close attention to your horse’s weight as well. Both under and overweight can make your horse slow. Is your horse healthy but still slow? Then take a look at your training regime. Maybe your horse does not like his job and some variation in your training could help. For example, hack out or add some poles and cones to your training.
Are your horse’s living conditions good and is he generally healthy? Then you can look at the influence of the horse’s diet. Always make sure that the basis of your ration is good. So feed your horse plenty of fibrous roughage. If your horse is not getting enough roughage, it could lead to boredom, restlessness, stomach ulcers and stereotypical behaviours such as wind sucking and cribbing.
When composing your horse’s ration, also take into account your horse’s character and temperament. Temperament often reflects a horse’s genetic makeup and environment. Some horses are more ‘hot’ by nature, while others can be a bit more laid back. For example, just look at the difference in temperament between the different breeds.
If horses are too energetic, it is wise to take a good look at the type and amount of concentrates you are feeding. You may subconsciously be feeding your horse concentrates with a lot of fast energy, such as a lot of sugars or oats. Would you like to feed your horse concentrates without making him ‘hot’? Then you could feed oil-rich concentrates. These give the horse energy, but it does not make them too temperamental. There are also certain herbal supplements that can have a calming effect on your horse.
With a slow horse you can opt for concentrates with fast energy, such as sugars. In addition, oats are known for their energy-enhancing effect. This is because the rapid energy from oats can cause certain hormone levels to rise, which can make the horse hotter. The starch from oats is also easily digestible, which gives horses immediate energy. Feeding oats does have one point of attention. The calcium-phosphorus ratio in oats is very unfavorable for horses. When feeding (more than 1kg of) oats, make sure that you balance this ratio with, for example, a supplement or special concentrates.
Before determining which type and how much concentrates to feed and whether to add any supplements to your ration, it is advisable to have your roughage analyzed. This test shows whether it contains enough nutrients, vitamins and minerals. This is something you cannot see or smell in your roughage. Based on the analysis, you can supplement your horse’s ration with the proper concentrate or supplements. This way you can compose the most optimal ration for your horse.