Reprinted from www.ofhorse.com by Cristin Kyle
Nutritional preparation for equines, in general, should always be consulted by your veterinarian; however, knowing your own horse well and paying attention to the changes made by their diet is important. Hydration is key, and I would even say it is the most important factor!
The diet of your horse impacts everything, the same as it would for us - from the inside out it can make them feel top-notch or sluggish. We want our horses performing their best, looking their best and acting their best, and all of that can be altered by their diet alone. When we start preparing our horses physically, we watch their weight closely, coat quality, hooves, attitude, and much more.
When we travel, we take extra steps to make sure our horses are hydrated prior to leaving and throughout the duration of our trip. We test out different electrolytes including ones made specifically for equines and ones such as Gatorade, the powder to be specific.
We always offer at least one plain bucket of water as well because many horses prefer it. This way, if we travel somewhere with a horse that is a picky drinker, we can make the water flavor they have previously enjoyed and encourage continued proper hydration. We take notes as to what mix they like, if they prefer it to be a stronger or weaker flavor, which one, and so much more. As we travel, we can keep the horses hydrated, which will keep them looking and feeling great, and we also have sealed travel containers for on the road.
Part of the hydration process includes soaking their feed. Most grains for horses can be soaked – some just take longer to soak than others and often even need more water. We will even soak grain, or any pellets we are feeding 12 hours prior. My preference is to feed alfalfa or alfalfa mixed pellets rather than cubes because they are faster with water absorption and break up a bit easier in my experience, especially in warm water in a pinch or for in winter.
They also help add fiber and additionally natural protein for energy and body condition as they travel. We make sure to try these changes slowly and prior to travel or any trips so as not to cause diarrhea or other unexpected changes.
As far as grain and supplements go, I would suggest finding a vet who will work with you. Ask your farrier what he/she thinks of your horses hooves and watch your horse closely for health changes if you change grains. Do not change them often or willy nilly as you will cause more problems than good.
I do suggest doing research and finding what is accessible in your area as far as a best option. My top suggestion however is invest in the best forage option you can find. I would personally invest more in higher quality forage that they need more of (and I am a free choice feeder) than grain.
We feed free choice hay, especially while we travel to help prevent ulcers and to keep our horses energy up as well as maintain their weight. We also introduce extra alfalfa in this way to again help with ulcers, maintain weight and energy because travel—especially far travel—can take quite a bit out of the horses.
The type of hay you feed also varies based on the region you live in, so consult with your veterinarian about the best options for your equine partner. Hopefully, all of this will help you consider options as you prepare your equine partners for larger horse shows and the travel they may consist of.