Horses are usually able to get all the nutrition they need from good quality pasture, hay and grain, but top performance horses are athletes who require additional nutrition. These talented equines may include thoroughbred racehorses, stock type horses that are trained for reining, team penning and ranch work. Sport horses that compete in dressage and cross-country also require equine performance supplements that will support the energy and muscle strength needed to compete successfully.
Young horses that are destined for the show ring or a high energy sport should be fed a diet high in extra nutrition at the beginning of their training. Although knowledgeable trainers will always start a young horse slowly, race or reining prospects are expected to perform at their full potential as two-year-olds. These youngsters need extra nutrition and supplementation to build the strong bone and muscle their sport requires.
Performance horses work hard and time takes a toll on their physical ability as they age. Arthritis is very common in equine athletes by the time they are 10 or 12 years old. The stiff and sore arthritic joints can greatly affect how well the horse is able to perform, but there are supplements that can alleviate some of the pain. Even though the owners and trainers of equine athletes make sure their animals are getting all the nutrients needed, wear and tear will still occur in their joints over time.
Dressage is a sport that does not rush a young horse to perform beyond his physical ability. Training in this sport begins with basic movements that align with how the horse moves naturally in a free state. Dressage trainers do not expect a youngster to perform at the top level for several years, and the most talented horses competing at national and international levels may be in their teens.
It is unfortunate that the show and racing industry requires horses that are physically immature to perform at a level that will shorten the usable lifespan of these beautiful animals. Fortunately, proper supplementation will extend their usability and comfort level.