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Dietary Soluble Carbohydrates for Performance Horses


Martin W. Adams, PhD, PAS - Equine Nutritionist for Southern States Steve Meadows walking his horse

Dr. Marty Adams – Equine Nutritionist for Southern States

Soluble carbohydrates are starches and sugars that are present in forages, cereal grains, and grain concentrates that are provided to the horse. These soluble carbohydrates are most commonly referred to as nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) in the equine diet. Equine nutrition research has shown that horses involved in speed-related events, such as racing and 3-day-eventing, will benefit from a higher level of NSC in the concentrate portion of the diet. As the horse increases speed it utilizes different muscle fibers. The horse switches from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism as speed or muscular contractions increase. Aerobic metabolism uses two types of muscle fibers that utilize glucose and fat to provide contractile energy. Anaerobic metabolism uses another muscle fiber type that utilizes mainly glucose. The amount of glucose storage in the horse is much more limited than fat storage. So horses doing a great deal of speed work can become limited in their glucose supply, resulting in decreased stamina. Feeding a horse feed or concentrate with a greater NSC content will result in more glucose storage in the horse’s muscle and liver tissue, this process is called glycogen storage. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose used in muscle and liver tissue. Increased glycogen stores will provide more stamina for horses involved in speed-related events. The Legends line has three horse feeds with enhanced NSC levels to provide increased stamina for performance horses involved in speed-related events. These feeds are Legends Race & Compete, Legends Sport Horse and Legends Sport Horse Plus.

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