When to adjust hard feed?

For most studs ‘sale preparation’ starts between 90-120 days before the sale. Although, prior to this, many individuals will have already been accustomed to regular handling and perhaps even been introduced to a horse walker. This gives enough time for smaller, less developed youngsters to build up muscle tone, without having to put too much pressure on them. A typical feed intake in the first few weeks prep for a yearling would be around 2-4kg per day. As exercise increases the quantity fed can then be gradually increased according to the horse’s individual requirements.

Feeding the yearling during a shorter sales prep period

In some cases, the prep period may be much shorter, as little as six weeks. Whilst there is usually a justified reason for this, it can put immense pressure on the individual to gain weight and condition quickly and, unfortunately, this can increase the risk of problems such as Development Orthopedic Disease (DOD) and digestive disorders such as colic.

You may want to consider a low starch, specialist ration such as Horse Care 14 Cubes or Mix or Horse Care Ultra Cubes, with the benefit that it will condition the horse without exacerbating excitability. It also provides a package of ingredients to help maintain healthy digestive function and may be beneficial in reducing the risk of certain developmental issues.

Alternatively, consider adding a high calorie element to the diet to increase the calorie density without necessarily increasing the total feed volume. Define & Shine is a high-fat conditioning pellet designed to be fed on top of a balanced diet and is an ideal conditioning horse feed for young horses for Sales Prep. Adding 200-400g of Define & Shine to the daily ration can help horses achieve the desired body condition and topline in a short period of time.

How much should you feed?

The amount of hard feed youngsters being prepared for sale will require is extremely variable depending on their age, size, growth history, individual metabolism, amount of exercise they undertake and quantity and quality of forage.

As a guide, yearlings in full prep will usually require between 4-6½ kg a day, whereas intakes of 2-4kg would be typical for a foal prep. However, these are guidelines only and you should always feed according to the young horse’s individual condition. The daily ration should be divided into several small meals, ideally no more than 2kg/ meal for a yearling and 1.5kg/meal for a foal.

A balancer for young horses is ideal for weaker yearlings

It is worth bearing in mind that if you are feeding less than the recommended level of hard feed, for instance if you have an individual suffering from epipysitis, you will need to top-up the horse’s micronutrient intake by adding a nutrient-dense horse feed balancer such as Connolly’s Red Mills GroCare Balancer to the ration. GroCare Balancer is also a very useful inclusion for weak or backward horses that require a higher level of nutritional support.

Which hard feed is best to choose?

Many youngsters being prepared for sale are fed a stud cube/mix (e.g. Connolly’s Red Mills Stud Cubes or Mix) or a specifically formulated foal and youngstock feed (e.g. Connolly’s Red Mills Foal and Yearling Cooked Mix or Premier Yearling Cubes). As well as providing an excellent source of calories and high quality protein to support growth, condition and muscle development, these feeds are fully fortified with all the essential vitamins and mineral needed for overall health and sound skeletal development.

While some consignors chose to use a multi-purpose stud feed for sales preparation, many others opt for lower starch option such as our Horse Care 14 Mix or Cubes.

In certain situations, a low starch or specialist diet may be required for horses during sales preparations, for example, those prone to anxiety/excitability or digestive disturbances. In these cases we recommend Connolly’s Red Mills Horse Care 14 Cubes or Mix or Horse Care Ultra Cubes. They also contain our unique Care Package which includes pure protected yeast and two prebiotics (MOS and FOS) to aid hindgut health and help maximise forage digestibility.

Which is better: mix or cubes?

This is very much down to personal choice and several studs/consignors solely use cubes, whereas others prefer a muesli ration. There are advantages to both; with cubes; the horse cannot sift through and leave any ingredients they dislike, on the other hand, some horses prefer a muesli ration, plus mixes tend to have a higher oil inclusion compared to cubes. Regardless of which type of feed you prefer you should always ensure that it contains high quality ingredients.

The main ingredients should include full fat soya, an excellent source of quality protein, high digestible super fibres such as sugar beet or alfalfa and wholegrain cereals. The feed should also contain good levels of essential vitamins and minerals, including the antioxidants Vitamin E and selenium, which will help to support immune function.

For youngsters prone to anxiety, stress or digestive problems feeds containing added yeast, prebiotics and long-lasting gastric buffers, such as Connolly’s Red Mills Horse Care Mix and Cubes, can be immensely beneficial.

It’s important not to make any sudden changes to the horse’s diet when they are at the sales. However, the stress of the sales environment can mean that some horse will back off their feed slightly. Therefore, it can be useful to split their daily ration into four or more small feeds. This can also help to maintain a youngsters concentration levels, particularly if they are being pulled out of their box frequently. Plus the thought of few tasty mouthful of feed can help encourage the horse to go back into their box willingly and without fuss.

When preparing youngstock for sale it’s important to plan carefully, considering all aspects of feeding (forage, hard feed and supplements).

Obviously, over the course of an individual’s prep modifications may be necessary to suit their needs or address any concerns. Undoubtedly, taking time and paying attention to detail will pay dividends in the ring.