What do horses eat and drink?

All horses are biologically warm-blooded, so require food for energy and self-regulating biological processes, such as maintaining constant body temperature, collectively known as ‘homeostasis’. Racehorses, in particular, can be considered elite athletes, who require the right combination of foodstuffs, in the right amounts, to maintain their fitness, health and performance levels.

Typically, their diet is based on highly nutritional, premier forage, such as grass or hay, which is supplemented with grains, such as barley, corn and oats. The latter foodstuffs provide soluble carbohydrates, which are converted to molecules of glucose, and hence to energy, immediately or at some time in the future. If not required immediately, glucose is stored in the liver and muscles in a long chain, or ‘polymeric’, form, known as glycogen. When required, glycogen is converted back into glucose molecules, which are circulated via the bloodstream to boost cell metabolism.

Like all elite athletes, racehorses sweat profusely while exercising or racing, so must drink up to twenty gallons of clean water every day to remain adequately hydrated, healthy and performing to the best of their abilities. Stories of legendary racehorses, such as Arkle and Nijinsky, having their diets supplemented by pints of Irish stout beer are not as fanciful as they may first appear. Irish stout is a traditional treatment for sweating disorders, such as anhidrosis, and is a source of B-complex vitamins, which have a direct impact on energy levels, cardiovascular health, muscle tone and overall well-being.