The energy requirements of performance horses in training

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The aim of this study was to estimate the energy requirements of performance horses in active, variable training in the field. Sixty horses in England and Switzerland were measured over 2-wk periods and, for 15 of these, the measurement period was extended, ranging from 21 to 42 wk. Energy intake was estimated by measuring daily feed consumption. Energy output was measured using heart rate (HR) monitors during 608 training sessions, relating HR to volume of oxygen (VO₂) and converting VO₂ to energy. Field maintenance requirements were calculated by deducting the marginal energy cost of training from energy input. The mean field maintenance expenditure for performance horses with a normal temperament was found to be 0.118 MJ of metabolizable energy (ME) per kilogram of body weight (BW) per day (SD = 0.008, CI = 0.005, n = 60 horses). This result is between 1.9% (P = 0.086) and 20.9% (P < 0.001) greater than the official guidance found in the United States, France, Germany, and Holland. Heart rate monitoring of training revealed a mean energy expenditure (EE) per ridden session of 0.023 MJ ME (SD = 0.001, CI = 0.001, n = 175 training sessions). The mean daily EE for exercise based on a full week's training was 0.018 MJ ME/kg BW/d (SD = 0.005, CI = 0.001, n = 60 horses), representing a multiple of maintenance of 15.3%. This implies that the official guidance in the United States and France may overstate expenditure for exercise by 111% and 15%, respectively (P < 0.01). Daily EE between countries and within disciplines was consistent, allowing for the creation of user-friendly tables that can be used in budgeting the energy component of diets.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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