Carey Williams, Ph.D., an associate equine specialist at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, described the nutritional management of elite equine athletes in her talk titled, "Feeding Management of the Three-Day Event Horse."
After a general introduction that detailed basic nutrition for sport horses, Williams spoke specifically about feeding practices and supplement use in top-level horses. She and her coworkers compared actual practices against research-driven recommendations by using data collected at a two- and three-star event over two consecutive years.
Feeding frequency was surveyed. Most three-day event horses are fed two or three times. If fed three times a day, a noontime feeding was given. Horses were fed approximately 1.5% of body weight in forage daily, primarily grass hay. In terms of concentrate, horses were being fed about 1% of body weight. Some of the riders, however, were feeding too much concentrate in a single meal. Generally, horses should not consume more than 2.5 kg (5 lb) of concentrate in a single meal. Pasture access was about half the day, nearly 12 hours.
Supplement use was monitored. On average, horses were given four supplements per day. Some received less, some received more. Most received electrolytes and generally more than half were given salt daily (block, top-dressed on feed, or both). Joint supplements were popular with more than half of the horses receiving one kind or more. Several of the caretakers were administering joint supplements as a preventive. Injectable joint products were also administered to nearly all horses. Many of the horses were also given supplemental fat.
Horses in the study were obtaining their nutritional requirements from the diets, though certain horses were at risk for oversupplementation.