Kate Hore RNutr(Animal), R.Anim.Technol. Nutritionist at NAF
It’s been a long, cold winter, and – more than ever – we’re looking forward to getting out and about with our horses this spring and summer. However, after a year like no other in 2020, many horse and rider combinations are facing bigger challenges than normal. Whether your aim is to return to competition, get back to that favourite fun ride, or simply enjoy hacking with friends again, our horses and ponies may find it a bigger step up than usual.
So how can nutrition help you and your horse face the season ahead?
Firstly, remember to keep it fibre focused. Feeding a high fibre and forage based diet ensures we are feeding our horses naturally. Fibre feeding is good for both their condition and their brain, as digestive health and behaviour are directly linked via the ‘gut brain axis’. At this time of year many of us welcome the growth of new grass, after a winter of relying on preserved forage; but remember spring grass should come with a health warning! High in sugars, grazing and intake may have to be monitored for the good do-er, and as spring grass is fast growing with a high water content, it is often lacking in vital nutrients, such as magnesium.
Magnesium is one of the hardest working elements in the diet, being involved in over 300 different metabolic pathways, but one area where it is particularly recognized is for behaviour and learning. However, research and experience tells us that supplementary magnesium alone is unlikely to be the answer. Equine behaviour is a complex issue, and so requires a complex solution.
Independent research at the Royal Agricultural University, under the guidance of equine cognition expert, Dr Andrew Hemmings, showed that when magnesium is combined with a unique blend of herbs for calming and confidence, the result is horses that are more focused, and better able to learn. Crucially, the research showed good behaviour was supported with no evidence of sedation. This research was carried out on NAF Five Star Magic, and is peer reviewed and published.
Therefore, if you’re looking forward to making up for lost time, but you feel your horse may need a little support with focus and concentration, why not try a little Magic?
As Dr Andy Hemmings says, ‘Still your horse, just more trainable.’
Roberts H, Stevenson A & Hemmings A (2018) Effect of three magnesium based feed supplements on inferred measures of dopamine activity and cognition: a pilot study. International Society for Equitation Science, Proceedings of 14th International Conference.