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Dear Dana: Did spring grass ‘freshen up’ my show horse?

By DANA HOKANA / Horsetrader columnist - June 2nd, 2010 - Q&A Dear Dana

DEAR DANA: My trainer had been feeding my horse feed with a high sugar content. I continued to feed it to him. I noticed when I took him to a show he started out fine and laid back, but as the day went on he would get hyper. Last July, after I started feeding whole oats, the problem was solved. Recently I took him to the first show of the year, and we had the same problem — he even bucked in equitation! Do you think that SPRING grass could have had the same effect that the sugary feed did? He gets turned out for several hours a day. There has been quite a lot of rain and the grass is really growing. It didn”t seem to bother him in the summer, but the spring grass is really lush. Help!
–Sharon LeClair, Lawrence, Kansas

DEAR SHARON: That is a very good question — and it addresses some common problems that all of us who show horses have to deal with. First of all, as you have found out, feed can definitely affect your horse’s energy level. I live on the West Coast and I don’t have grass pastures, but my experience with grass is that it usually would not make your horse really high. In my opinion, it was probably the first show of the year and he was just fresh and full of energy. I have found that even older, experienced show horses will be fresher at the first few shows of the year.

It sounds like the answer to your problems involves developing the strategy that works for you and your horse. I can tell you as a trainer that some of my horses are more easily affected by variables such as weather, feed and new environments than others. With one of my mares, I always went to a major show a day early just so that she could “settle in.” Later in her career, I was able to leave on schedule with that mare, and she was good the first day of the show. She needed time, and I gave her the time she needed.

I have also found that if I have a horse settled in and ready to show early in the day, some horses will “freshen up” later in the day and my need to be re-lunged. You will need to experiment with a lower protein, lower sugar feed program and pay attention to your horse’s energy level. Keep in mind many horses will re-energize throughout the day. My guess is that after a few shows, your horse will settle in and be back to his old self.

Dana

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