Feeding Your Racehorse for Top Performance

Feeding Your Racehorse for Top Performance

The nutritional requirements of racehorses are highly specific. Broodmares require large quantities of good quality protein and minerals to produce a large healthy foal during gestation and to produce the nutrient-rich milk for daily lactation. Young horses need a good amount of protein and minerals to add hundreds of kilograms of muscle and bone during their 1st year of life, and racehorses must generate high performance which requires huge amounts of energy. While racehorses certainly have other nutritional requirements from their feed, but their diet formulation has to begin and end with energy production.

As such, here is a breakdown of what your racehorse requires for top performance.


Fibre as a source of energy is often overlooked in the diet of horses. However, thanks to a highly developed hindgut with billions of bacteria and protozoa capable of fermenting huge quantities of fibre, the end product of fibre fermentation can be used as a source of energy throughout the day as fermentation continues long after eating. As such, racehorses should eat 7-9kgs of clean grass hay such as oaten hay or timothy per day.


Starch is the best option for glycogen synthesis as the digestion of starch results in a direct rise in blood glucose and insulin which are the two most important factors required for glycogen synthesis. However, there is a limit to how much starch a racehorse should consume on a daily basis as an excess of starch could lead to hindgut acidosis, a condition which could develop into anorexia and colic. These conditions will greatly impact on their ability to perform, and by turn affect their popularity on online betting NZ. As such, it’s important to never feed more than 2.2kg of gain in a single meal.


Fat is a very safe source of energy thanks to its highly-digestible qualities and fat supplies a large amount of calories in a very concentrated form. Vegetable oil are the best option as they contain long-chain unsaturated fats and horses can digest over 90% of the vegetable oil in a ration, even if fed at levels as high as 500-600ml per day. However, high-level oil intake should be achieved slowly as switching to a high-fat diet too quickly could lead to loose, greasy faeces.


It’s important to remember that protein is also a great source of energy as if the protein content of a racehorse’s diet exceeds its requirement the excess protein will be used as a source of energy. The amino acids of excess protein are broken down by the liver and the nitrogen is excreted as ammonia. The remnants of carbon that are left behind can be oxidised to produce ATP or used to produce glucose or fat.

Horse pellets to feed racing horses

Ready-Made Racehorse Feeds

Over the last 15 years there has been a shift from feeding straight cereal grains towards the use of commercial products specifically formulated for feeding racehorses. These commercial feeds make use of alternative energy sources such as fat and fermentable fibre such as beet pulp to reduce the proportion of energy supplied by starch. They are also formulated to meet all the nutritional requirements of racehorses.

About Doreen Cohen