Common Nutritional Deficiencies in Racehorses 

There are many factors to consider when feeding a racehorse, with the main priority to have them fit, healthy, shiny, happy, and conditioned to the type of racing they perform. 

Racehorses require a balance of Carbohydrates, Protein, Fibre, Vitamins and Minerals and electrolytes to perform, and despite our best intentions, and care, the following indicate some of the deficiencies that may arise: 

Energy Deficiency 

This is generally associated with not providing enough calories for the type of work the horse is doing. Calories provide the horse with energy and power to perform. Racehorses have a higher demand for energy as they have a higher workload and are often put under stress to complete training programs. 

Generally, racehorses have a diet that incorporates raw starch, oil, good quality protein, roughage at 1% of body weight, supplementary vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. 

Ranvet provides a nutritional analysis service based on NRC (National research Council) specifications, whereby the daily ration is analysed, considering the type of exercise performed. 

A lack of energy can results in: 

  • Underperforming 
  • Losing weight, both muscle mass and fat 
  • Lethargic 
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Dull coat 
  • Cracked feet or slow foot growth 
  • Underdeveloped 

Protein Deficiency 

Another factor to consider is feeding good quality protein that provides a good amount of amino acidsAmino Acids build and maintain muscle mass, which allows the horse to continueflourish and recover well after workouts and provide support to connective tissue, bones, and muscles. 

Ranvet’s Power Formula supplies a great quality protein, with a unique amino acid profile, specifically designed to meet these requirements within a racehorse ration. 

Indicators of Protein Deficiency include: 

  • Lack of muscle mass 
  • Inability to perform 
  • Dull coat 
  • Cracked feet 
  • Diminished immune function 
  • Underperformance 

Electrolyte deficiency 

Racehorse require a good source of electrolytes to complete their exercise proficiently. Horses cannot synthesise electrolytes within the body, and therefore require them to be supplemented in their diet.  

Electrolytes are electronically charged IONS. Their positive and negative charges help to control the body’s PH (acid/base) balance as well as facilitating the transport of nutrients into, and waste products out of the cell. 

The major Electrolytes for all horses, and particularly racehorses are as follows with their main roles within the body: 

  • Sodium (Na+)and Chloride (Cl), both needed to regulate horses body fluids and maintain hydration status. They also assist in conduction of electronic impulses to fire both nerves and muscles. These are the primary electrolytes contained in extracellular fluid and blood plasma, whilst potassium is sequestered at high concentrations within the cell. 
  • Potassium (K+), needed for PH balance as well as muscle and nerve function, and cellular osmotic pressure which ensures hydration. Potassium assumes the role as the major positively charged electrolytes. 
  • Calcium (Ca ++), is also an important electrolyte and critical to normal functioning of muscles and nerves. Very important to formation and maintaining integrity of bone and teeth. 
  • Magnesium (Mg), is very important and sometimes overlooked. Its vital role is as a co factor for reactions that involve the burning of glucose in the presence of oxygen (power for aerobic exercise). It is also a co factor for over 300 enzyme reactions within the body. It helps with the metabolism of fats and proteins, as well as being essential for DNA to send messages to the cells. It is also essential to the normal relaxing function of muscle. 

Indicators of Electrolyte Deficiency include: 

  • Dehydration
  • Poor recovery 
  • Lack of energy 
  • Tying up and cramping 
  • Various other problems associated with dehydration 

Ranvet’s Salkavite and Electro Paste are great sources of electrolyte for racehorses. These both supply and help to correct electrolyte losses and imbalances by providing a comprehensive source of electrolytes in the correct quantity for this type of exercise. 

Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies 

Racehorses require a good balance of Vitamins and Minerals to function at their optimum capacity. Vitamins are required for growth, bodily functions, maintenance of tissues and athletic performance.  

There are two types of vitamins, Fat soluble (A,D,E,K) and Water soluble vitamins (B Groups and Vit C). These water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and need to be replaced daily for optimal performance. 

Clinical and field studies conducted by our founder DR. Percy Sykes, showed that quite often racehorse diets appear to be deficient in B Group Vitamins. 

Ranvet manufacture very good replacements for both fat soluble and water -soluble vitamins and minerals with Aminovite Plus and Ration Balancer pellets. These products were born out of DR. Percy’s research, have withstood the passage of time and are very prevalent within successful racing stables. 

Fibre/Roughage Deficiencies 

Racehorses as with all other horses need at least 1% of their body weight in roughage to maintain gastrointestinal tract health, delivering nutrients that pass through this GIT to maintain the horse’s overall health and wellbeing. 

Roughage is a feed that contains a lot of crude fibre. Two common roughages for racehorses are hay and chaff. The unique structure and function of the horse’s digestive system is designed for the utilization of forage. Horses are herbivores (plant eaters) that evolved on a high fibre diet, spending 16 to 18 hours a day grazing. Fibre is the plant cell wall material which consists of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin and pectin. Fibre is largely indigestible as animals lack the necessary enzymes to break down fibrous material.

However, the microbial population in the horse’s hindgut (large intestine) can break down (ferment) fibre, converting it into utilizable energy. Although lignin is completely indigestible, these microorganisms can partially digest cellulose and hemicellulose, and digest practically all pectin, mainly producing energy yielding compounds called volatile fatty acids (VFAs). The horse’s hindgut is the largest area of the digestive system making up over 65% of the digestive capacity. With a gastrointestinal tract designed to digest fibre, it is easy to see why forage is critical to the health of all horses. Roughage also help to act as a reservoir for water in the horses long GIT, thus helps to maintain hydration status 

Horses that are deficient in roughage often develop ulcers, have difficulty maintaining appetite and as a result performance is compromised. 


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Every product in the Ranvet range has been developed to meet a horse’s most specific need at any given time, be it in a training environment or on a breeding farm. Having pioneered the formulation of specific medications and dietary supplements for horses, the company is now recognised as a leader in the areas of equine health and nutrition.

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