Tag Archive for: horse in work

Why Salty Water Might Help Keep Your Endurance Horse Hydrated

Keeping endurance horses hydrated is a massive challenge. And a big part of the challenge is that horses have a tricky (I call it just plain annoying) thirst response trigger.

For horses to ‘feel thirsty’ they need a certain level of sodium in their blood. BUT when they drink fresh water, it dilutes their blood sodium and that can switch off their thirst response, even if they are still dehydrated!

Which means you can have a thirsty (i.e. dehydrated) horse that isn’t actually ‘thirsty’! See … told you it is annoying.

But since we can’t magically rewire this system, we need to work with it.

And there is a really simple, very cheap workaround to get your horses drinking more and rehydrating faster.

And that is…

To offer their first drink of water when coming into a vet check as salty water!

To be specific… 0.9% salty water!

To make 0.9% salty water, mix 90 grams of salt (sodium chloride, also known as table salt) into 10 litres of water.

Using 0.9% salty water has been shown by research to increase water intake

Research (Butudom et al 2002) showed that horses who were offered 0.9% salt water as their first water offering after being dehydrated drank 18.5 litres of water in total (of salty and then fresh water) in the first hour after finishing exercise.

Compared to…

Horses that were offered just plain water as the first and all subsequent water offerings after finishing exercise, who only drank 11.4 litres of water.

The reason the salt water ‘works’ is because when given salty water it maintains blood sodium levels and therefore maintains a thirst response which means horses will keep drinking.

How to put this into practice (& get your horse to drink more water)

Here is how to do this properly:

  1. Make up your salt water solution by adding 90 grams of salt (sodium chloride) per 10 litres of water.
  2. Offer this salty water as the first water your horse has access to when coming into a vet check.
  3. Let them drink as much of the salty water as they like during their first drink. The horses in the study drank close to 12 litres of this water on their first post-exercise drink.
  4. THEN, give them access to fresh water (no salt) for the rest of the time they are ‘in camp’. What should happen is they will still feel thirsty and drink more of the fresh water. The horses in the study drank close to an additional 7 litres of fresh water.

It is REALLY IMPORTANT to get your horses used to drinking the salty water at home during training! Once they get used to it, you should find they will very happily drink it.

Happy training! Hope this helps keep your horse hydrated and you less worried!

 

 

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Our 3 Best Tips for Feeding The Endurance Horse Between Loops

What you feed and how you feed it will have a big influence on how well your horse will do on its next loop!

We hope you have had a chance to watch the ‘Feeding the 100-Mile Endurance Horse’ Masterclass with Tarsha Walsh! If you haven’t yet you can catch it here.

A HUGE part of completing a successful 100-Mile race is what your horse eats between the loops. There is little time as you know, and it is super important to get something into that stomach to protect it from ulcers AND to get some high calorie feed into your horse to top up their fuel for the next loop.

So here are Tarsha’s top tips for feeding during the loops:

  1. Give your horse some grazing time or hay first. The hay will help to put some buffering saliva in the stomach and give it some level of protection from ulceration and reduce the potential negative impact of just putting grains into the stomach; and
  2. Then, feed your ‘grain’. If your horse is happy to eat it, feed your horse’s normal grain between the loops, but keep the amount to 500 – 700 grams (for a 450 kg/990 lb horse). Don’t let them have more grain than this per loop.
    Keep any ‘sweetfeeds’ with the high-sugar, rapidly digested molasses until just before the last loop and only use it then if you need to to get your horse to eat!
  3. Give your electrolyte paste as late as possible (and if your horse has had a good drink, it is OK to give it right before you head out again) because the last thing you want to do is give your horse a paste that then stops them eating!

Tarsha and I discuss this a lot more during the Masterclass starting at time stamp 52minutes, 50 seconds.

If you want more detail on ‘grains’ for endurance horses, head over to ‘5 Tips for Feeding The Endurance Horse’

 

 

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Choosing a Quality Electrolyte for Your Horse

I don’t know if you have noticed, but there are LOTS of different electrolyte supplements on the market! Pastes, powders, liquids – and they are all so different… making it really hard to know which ones are best.

The job of an electrolyte supplement is to replace the electrolytes lost in your horse’s sweat… namely sodium, chloride and potassium (the three major ones) as well as magnesium and calcium.

Quick Tip: Forages are usually high in potassium. So when your horse is being fed a forage based diet, there is normally plenty of potassium in the diet to meet requirements during normal training periods. Which means the two main electrolytes your horse needs added to the diet are sodium and chloride. And together, these electrolytes are ordinary table salt… so topping up electrolytes is often as simple and inexpensive as adding salt to your horse’s diet!


For an electrolyte to do a good job of replacing the electrolyte minerals your horse loses when sweating, it should be at least 80% ‘salts’ and 20% or less glucose or other base or filler.

Specifically, these high quality products should be 20 – 25% sodium, 43 – 48% chloride, 10 – 12% potassium and also have smaller amounts of magnesium and calcium (normally 1 to 2%).

If you put one of these high quality products into FeedXL, for a 450 kg (990 lb) horse in very heavy work, at a dose of 60 grams per day, this is how it should look (with JUST it in the diet):

High Quality Electrolyte

This product is 22.5% sodium, 45.1% chloride, 12.1% potassium, 1% magnesium and 1.5% calcium.

To give you a comparison, here is another product, also added in FeedXL at a 60 gram dose for a 450 kg (990 lb) horse in Very Heavy Work … look how much less mineral you are getting at the same dose rate!

Low Quality Electrolyte

If the mineral levels are much lower like this, you’re probably paying a lot for a lot of filler and it might be time to consider a new supplement!

It can be a little tricky to read labels because everyone presents their label information a little differently (just to keep us on our toes!)… so if you want to check how good your electrolyte is, create a diet in FeedXL like this, for a 450 kg (990 lb) horse in Very Heavy Work, add 60 grams of your chosen electrolyte and see how it compares to these ones… the one at the top being good, the one at the bottom being a waste of money!

We hope that helps you to find the best electrolyte supplements! If you haven’t yet got started with FeedXL you can join us here.

P.S. Be really careful not to overfeed salt and electrolytes because they will make your horse’s feed taste yuk and your horse will stop eating. If your horse is not eating well, try reducing or even for a short period removing any salt or electrolyte from the feed and see if this helps. For more on keeping your horse eating, you can read this post.

 

 

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Feeding before and during competition

We had one of our wonderful FeedXL members contact us recently about the best way to feed during multi-day competitions to reduce the risk of ulcers, maintain appetite and ensure an appropriate calorie intake for the duration of the competition.

Here are a few tips:

1. Try to keep your horse’s ration (and water!) as close to what he has at home while you are away from home.

Some things you should be able to keep exactly the same (i.e. any hard feed you give) but some things will also change, especially if your horse is normally out grazing. In this case, try to keep the hay you will use when you are away as close to what his pasture is like. For example, if your horse grazes a grass pasture don’t suddenly change to alfalfa/lucerne hay while you are away.

2. Try to change your horse’s total ration to what he will be eating during the time at the competition as far ahead of time while you are still home as you can.

This particularly applies to hay, feed at least some of what he will be eating while away before you leave.

3. Travel your horse as much as possible on a full stomach to reduce the risk of ulcers.

Provide access to damped down hay while on the road (dampening reduces the risk of dust and other airborne particles ending up in the lungs) and stop at regular intervals (at least every 4 hours) to allow some grazing time and access to hay and/or his normal feed (eaten at ground level).

4. Talk to your veterinarian about medication to reduce or stop gastric acid production.

If your horse gets really stressed while traveling and away from home and is prone to ulcers you should speak with your veterinarian about using either a ranitidine or omeprazole based medication to reduce or stop gastric acid production during travel and competition to reduce the risk of ulcers forming.

This should also help with appetite and general attitude while you are away too.

5. Go easy on salt and electrolytes in your horse’s feeds!

Sometimes we tend to get carried away with wanting to add a lot more salt and electrolytes when we are on the road… BUT, too much and they will make your horse’s feed unpalatable (have you ever tried to politely eat something served to you that is way too salty? It’s not easy!). It will also aggravate any ulcers that may be present because salt on open wounds hurts!

Be mindful of the fact that horses sweating very heavily will need to have extra salt and electrolytes (e.g. polo and polocrosse horses, endurance horses, eventers etc) so chat with either your Vet or an experienced Nutritionist on the FeedXL team to work out how to best administer them.

6. Don’t forget to feed enough forage.

I often find people traveling for long periods at a time often underestimate how much hay they should feed and as a consequence the horses lose condition while away from home.

For horses who do struggle to hold weight while they are away, feed as much hay as they want to eat (within reason, if they start eating more than 2.5 kg per 100 kg/ 2.5 lb/100 lb of bodyweight you may need to limit it) and always try to have hay they really like to eat. They get a massive amount of nutrition from hay and it keeps their entire gut and their mind in balance with the overall effect being better appetites and performance at a level you would expect.

Never restrict hay intake in an attempt to make them eat their hard feeds, it will likely have the opposite effect.

I will leave it there for now, I am sure many of you will have other tips you can add here, things you have found do (or don’t!) work.

 

 

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Black horse on brown pasture

How Things Have Changed Since 1940

Here at FeedXL our tagline is ‘Nutrition makes a difference’… we say it because nutrition really does make a difference.

I read a book many years ago called ‘Jackson’s Track’. A true account of life running a timber business in the early to mid-1900’s.

The business used horses to pull the (giant) trees out of the forest and they were also the main form of transport. I have never forgotten these two paragraphs!

“Some people say it is impossible to go a hundred miles a day on a horse, but I say they’re wrong. Of course, the horse has to be hardened so he’s up to the journey, you can’t just take him out of the paddock and expect him to do it…

Of course, you work a horse day after day like that, you have to get rid of him after five hundred miles.”
Daryl Tonkin, speaking of working horses around 1940.

Back then of course there was no such thing as horse nutrition (or much in the way of farriery and vet care, and I daresay nothing in the way of dentistry).

Horses were fed whatever was available and would largely have existed in this area on hay and pasture, which as we know is critically low in MANY essential nutrients, particularly if a horse is in hard work!

Compare this ‘500 mile’ expiry on a horse back then to today’s modern day endurance horses who must cover thousands of miles in a lifetime… it just shows how much difference modern veterinary, farriery, dentistry AND of course nutrition make to how much work a horse can do!

This is also a good answer to people like some members of my farming family who used to say ‘why do horses need all this special feed, we never used to feed them like that’…

Well, maybe not, but back then, those ‘never used to feed them like that’ horses were considered old in their late teens and rarely lived beyond their early twenties.

So my reply to them? Nutrition makes a difference.

 

 

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Iron for Horses: Could Forage Be Enough?

Comparison of equine dietary iron requirements to iron concentrations of 5,837 hay samples

N. Richards and B.D. Nielsen, 2018

Introduction

Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells. According to the 2007 Horse NRC, Fe requirements are 50 ppm for growing foals, lactating and pregnant mares, and 40 ppm for all other classes of horses. The 2005 NRC suggested a maximum tolerable Fe concentration of 500 ppm using data from other species. It is claimed that excess dietary Fe is causative of horses becoming insulin resistant.

Athletic horses, and particularly those in Thoroughbred racing, are often supplemented with Fe in an attempt to improve performance. Supplementation is commonly carried out without any formal analysis of the diet to determine if additional iron is required. Forages are typically high in iron and supply a majority of iron in all equine diets.

This study looks at the iron concentration in forages typically fed to equines and whether iron from forage is enough to meet the iron requirement of an athletic horse.

Methods

Nutrient concentrations from hay samples submitted for analysis in 2017 and for which Fe was measured were obtained from Equi-Analytical, representing 3,060 grass, 1,193 legume, and 1,584 mixed hay samples.

Iron concentration was measured using inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP). Analysis methodology is available from dairyone.com Statistical analysis was performed using Proc MEANS of SAS.

Results

Iron was highest in Legume and Mixed Mainly Legume Hays and lowest in Grass Hay (Table 1). All hay types had a mean iron concentration more than five times that required by athletic horses and a median iron concentration more than three times.

From all hay samples (n = 5,837), 707 contained Fe at or above the suggested tolerable threshold of 500 ppm, while only 81 contained Fe at less than 50 ppm. Further, only 15 contained Fe at less than 40 ppm.

Discussion

A 500 kg horse in heavy work has an iron requirement of 500 mg/day (NRC 2007; based on a daily feed intake of 2.5% bodyweight and a requirement of 40 ppm). Forage intake is often restricted by Thoroughbred trainers. But even when fed at 1% of bodyweight to a 500 kg horse, these hays will supply an average 1,060 mg to 2,230 mg of iron per day, supplying more than 200% of daily iron requirements in the forage component of the diet alone.

Fortified grain concentrates are fed at an average 2.5 kg/horse per day in Australian Thoroughbred racing stables (Richards 2003). These concentrates have an average iron concentration of 190 ppm (FeedXL.com), adding an additional 475 mg/day of iron to the diet of these horses. Almost 60% of Australian Thoroughbred trainers then add an iron supplement to their horses’ diets (Richards 2003). It is expected similar trends would be found in the USA.

Based on this broad diet analysis, forage is able to meet the daily iron requirement of athletic horses. When iron from fortified feeds and supplements is added, there would be few racehorses receiving less than 300% of their daily iron requirement. It’s not unexpected that many horses would be receiving in excess of 500% of their daily iron requirement

What About Insulin Resistance

Given the dearth of Thoroughbred racehorses that are insulin resistant, despite Fe supplementation in combination with diets that can easily supply amounts beyond requirements, it seems unlikely excess Fe causes insulin resistance. However, it is recognized insulin resistant horses may have elevated serum ferritin.

References

Council NR. Nutrient Requirements of Horses: Sixth Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.

Richards N, Hinch G, Rowe J. The effect of current grain feeding practices on hindgut starch fermentation and acidosis in the Australian racing Thoroughbred. Aust Vet J 2006;84:402-407.

FeedXL Nutrition Software, https://feedxl.com/, 2018.

HUGE THANKS to Equi-Analytical for providing the data to write this paper, which was presented as a poster at the recent International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology (ICEEP).

 

 

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How Much Should You Feed Your Horse in a Day?

Sometimes feeding more gives your horse less.

When we exceed about 2.5 to 3% of a horse’s bodyweight in feed per day (so 12.5 to 15 kg for a 500 kg horse) the feed starts to move really quickly through the gut. Problem is, digestion, and particularly fiber digestion takes time. Fiber is digested via fermentation in the hindgut (more on how that works here) and fiber fermentation is a slow process. So feed needs to just have the time to hang about in the hindgut for a fair while (like 24 to 48 hours).

When we feed too much, feed gets pushed through the gut really quickly (essentially as it comes in the front end it gets shoved out the back) and it will only be partially digested… so you may be feeding a lot, but your horse doesn’t have full opportunity to digest it.

Think about it like this…

If I gave you a pool noodle, one of the ones with a hole in it, and told you to keep it perfectly flat/horizontal and then gave you a small bucket of marbles to push through the noodle… you would poke them in one end (and assuming it’s flat so they don’t just roll out) they would only start coming out the other end once the entire noodle was full and as you pushed one in, one should come out… make sense?

Now suppose I told you you had to take 10 minutes to put all of the marbles through the noodle… you would need to take your time in poking one in so they didn’t come out too fast.

Now, if I gave you a bucket of marbles 3 times the size of the original bucket and told you to also push all of these through the pool noodle in 10 minutes you would have to do it three times as fast to get them all done in time. When you feed too much this is what happens, feed goes in one end and comes out the other too fast and only partially digested.

In a lot of cases, less is more!

Feeding less gives the feed time to sit around and move slowly through the gut, allowing it to be fully digested. Not much sense making expensive manure right?!

Take a look at your feed program and feed amounts and see if this might apply… often when we try to push for weight gain we get stuck in this trap of feeding too much and it doesn’t seem logical to feed less to get more weight gain. But trust me on this one, it really does work this way!

 

 

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Hay and horse in the background

Adjusting the Amount of Feed You Give Your Horse From Day to Day

Did you know it’s perfectly ok to adjust the amount of feed you give your horse from day to day??

In fact it’s something we recommend you do, for a couple of reasons. First is that it helps keep behavior level and calm. Horses are funny creatures in that they will express the amount of calories/energy in their diet in their behavior. Which means if you feed more than they need, you may cause a change in behavior, with potentially more hyperactivity than you might want.

To help prevent this, you can simply adjust how much you feed according to how much work is being done. Using FeedXL, you can create balanced diets for rest days, light work days and harder work days, with less calories in the diet for rest days and increasing calories for light and harder work days. Then feed each diet according to the work your horse does on any particular day. That way you will be matching you horse’s calorie intake with his requirements and should see lovely level behavior, regardless of days off.

The second reason we recommend you adjust feed according to work is for weight control… because if you feed excess calories to a horse or pony you will potentially also get weight gain, particularly in easy keepers!

So while we advocate keeping feed consistent and not making sudden changes in WHAT is fed, don’t be afraid to adjust AMOUNT fed!

For more detail have a read of our article ‘Feeding For Behaviour‘.

 

 

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Do You Have a Horse in Work That Goes Off Its Feed?

It might be the salt…

We all know horses need salt, but you can feed too much of a good thing. And the thing with salt is, when a horse needs it, it tastes really good. But when they are getting too much, their ‘sodium intake regulation system’ (I just made that up, sounds about right though hey!) makes it taste bad.

The result being they will reduce their feed intake… or they might completely stop eating feed with salt in it so they don’t eat too much salt. Which is a problem if you have a performance horse that NEEDS to eat so he can work to the best of his ability for you!

If you suspect this might be happening, the easiest solution is to stop adding any salt or electrolyte to your horse’s feed. If too much salt was the cause of your horse going off his feed, appetite should return really quickly once his feed is no longer salty.

The other possibility is that your horse has ulcers. Have you ever put salt on an open wound? It hurts… a lot! So imagine if your horse has ulcers (i.e. open wounds in his stomach) and you feed him something salty… it could be reasonably expected to cause pain. And if something hurts you when you eat it, chances are you would stop eating it pretty quick.
So if your horse has ulcers you may need to moderate salt intake.

Trick is you still need to meet his sodium and chloride requirements.

Here is where FeedXL can really help. FeedXL will show you how much sodium and chloride is in your horse’s diet and how much salt (if any) you should be adding. So with FeedXL you add just enough to meet requirements, but no so much you will put your horse off his feed.

If you would like more information on the role salt plays in your horse’s diet read our article Does Your Horse Need Electrolytes.

 

 

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Using Heart Rates to Measure Fitness

Daily heart rate measurements should be a fundamental part of the day-to-day management of equine athletes. In this newsletter we will discuss the fitness of the horse, with “fitness” referring to the aerobic fitness of a horse and how fitness can be determined using measurements of heart rate at the trot. Aerobic fitness refers to the capacity of a horse to transport oxygen from the air, through the lungs and then be pumped by the heart through the blood to provide the muscle cells with the oxygen to support metabolism of fuels such as glucose and fat. Aerobic fitness is relevant to every equine competition, except perhaps Quarter Horse races, which are all over in less than 20 seconds.

Heart rates at rest

Heart rates (HRs) in a resting horse cannot be used to reliably assess fitness, as they are in human athletes. In human athletes, the resting heart rate, usually recorded first thing in the morning, gradually decreases with improved fitness. However, this technique is not reliable in horses because the resting HR can vary so quickly with the slightest disturbance to a horse’s relaxed state. For example, a very relaxed horse might give a heat rate of 30 beats per minute (bpm), but a few minutes the later the HR can be over 100 bpm, due to fear, sudden noise, excitement, or even anticipation of exercise.

This does not mean that resting HRs should not be recorded. In very relaxed horses, such as some endurance horses, a sudden increase in resting HR at rest can alert the trainer to a potential problem, such as a fever, pain, or other disturbance to the horse’s normal state.

Heart rates during exercise

The best way to simply assess fitness is to use HR measurements during exercise. The key is to measure HR and speed in the horse. This is best done by using a heart rate monitoring system like the Polar RS800G3 for ridden horses that combines HR measurement with speed measurement by global positioning system. I am happy to provide advice concerning the best system for your particular circumstances. Good systems can be purchased for less than $1000.

It is important to measure speed, because not all horses trot at the same speed, and it is possible for the trot speed to differ a little from one day to the next. So the first fundamental measurement is speed, and then to assess the HR at a steady speed. Steady speed means a speed that is constant, not varying more than 1-2 kph, for at least 30 seconds.

Luckily, with the heart rate monitoring systems now available it is possible for riders and trainers to measure heart rate and speed during exercise in ridden (or driven) horses whenever they desire. The Polar RS800G3 for ridden horses measures HR and speed frequently, and the results can be easily downloaded to a computer for closer inspection.

When to measure heart rates

HRs at the start of trotting should be ignored for a few minutes because there is usually unstable HRs, due to excitement and the sudden disturbance to the cardiovascular system. In these first few minutes, HRs are usually higher than their true steady state HR. After a few minutes, the HR settles down. For example, HR might vary from 140-160 bpm in the first few minutes, and then settle down to a steady value in the range of 125-128 bpm, even though the horse has been trotting at 16 kph all the time.

If the HR does not settle down to a steady value, it probably means that the horse is excited. HRs on a day after the horse has not been exercised are often a little higher and more variable, due to excitement. These emotional disturbances are what make fitness testing of horses so challenging, but it is possible to measure fitness reliably if these factors are accounted for. It is always important to watch the horse carefully during the trotting HR test.  Is it jumping around abnormally, or is there a new rider on-board? Anything that might disturb the horse from its normal state needs to be accounted for.

HRs during trotting can also be affected (usually abnormally increased) by different ground conditions, the use of a different saddle, riding hills, and so on. So it is very easy to record a false high value. When I examine heart rate data I look at the speed and HR record and look for the lowest HRs at the steady speed. I also test the horse several times before expressing confidence about the true result for each horse.

Signs of improving fitness

If a horse’s HR relationship to its trotting speed is regularly monitored it will be easy to observe trends over time, or even sudden changes. A gradual decline in HR at the same speed means that the horse is responding to training – it is getting fitter. An alternative might be that the horse is slimming down, and so it does not have to increase its HR so much to provide the oxygen needed for the trotting exercise!

What does it mean if heart rates increase over time?

A gradual increase in heart rate over time in a horse in training would be an unusual finding, but it could be explained by increased fatness of the horse. A gradually worsening respiratory problem could also cause HRs to increase.

A sudden increase in HR from one day to the next when trotting could mean that the horse was overly excited on that day, had developed a problem causing pain (such as a bruised foot), or had new gear that was not comfortable. Monitoring HRs regularly helps a trainer know when the problem occurs, and when it is resolved.

Measuring the trot HRs in the days after racing or competition is also a valuable method of assessing the recovery after a race. They should be the same as before the event or race. Higher HRs compared to before the race or competition could mean that the horse has a problem that needs investigation by a veterinary surgeon.

Conclusion

The technology is now available for all horse riders and trainers to regularly monitor HR during trotting. Each day of trotting offers an opportunity to make sure that the horse is responding to training as expected, has not developed any new problems, or has suitably recovered after competition or racing.

Comprehensive tests of fitness for intensive competitions, such as racing and eventing, should include assessments of the HR responses during trotting, as well as measurements of HR and speed during faster workouts. However, day-to-day assessments during trotting are fundamental to the day-to-day monitoring of all athletic horses.

Written by David Evans PhD BVSc

https://evansscience.com/david-evans/

Dr David Evans graduated BVSc (Hons) in 1975 and spent seven years in veterinary practice prior to completing a PhD in equine exercise physiology at the University of Sydney in 1987. His current consultancy activities include university teaching and research in aspects of equine science. Dr Evans has contributed to 11 book chapters on aspects of equine exercise physiology, and to more than 80 refereed research publications. Many of these reports are concerned with aspects of fitness testing and scientific aspects of training and performance.  As well, he continues work in Australia and overseas as a consultant to horse owners and trainers, with a focus on practical applications of the science of equine fitness measurement and training.

 

 

Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?

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