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Ep. 038: Have the Top Performing Horse with Nutrition Management

Co-host Katy Starr chats with equine nutritionist, Dr. Stephen Duren, PhD, MS, PAS about feeding performance horses to reach their best potential.

Episode Notes

On this episode, co-host Katy Starr chats with equine nutritionist, Dr. Stephen Duren, PhD, MS, PAS about feeding performance horses to reach their best potential, including:


• How do performance horses differ in energy requirements and how should they be fed to compete?

• Can or should we feed our horse before riding or exercise?  

• How often should we stop and take breaks when trailering to competitions?


Have any topics you want to hear more about? Let us know at


Scientific References:

~ 28:10 – Dr. Duren’s PhD dissertation about should horses be fed prior to exercise or riding – 

Duren, S.E., 1990. Blood flow distribution in fasted and fed ponies at rest and during endurance exercise. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Kentucky. (


Additional Resources:

  1. “Feeding the Performance Horse” blog post -




  • *Views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Standlee Premium Products, LLC.*

Katy Starr (00:01):

Hi, I'm Katy.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:02):

And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going beyond the barn. Come join us on this journey as we bust equine and livestock nutrition myths and interview some of the most intriguing experts in the country.


Katy Starr (00:15):

We'll go behind the scenes of how premium Western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here. Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Barn. And today we have Dr. Duren joining us to talk about nutrition management for performance horses. Thanks for being here, Dr. Duren


Dr. Stephen Duren (00:41):

Thanks for having me.


Katy Starr (00:43):

And before we get started today, as usual, any of the topics that we cover on the Beyond the Barn podcast are more generalized and not specific to any individual horse or any specific situation, be sure to always work with your veterinarian and nutritionist before making any drastic changes to your horses' feed program. Or you can always reach out to us and talk directly with Dr. Cubitt or Dr. Duren any specifics that you would like to know. And Dr. Duren, so we did talk about this a little bit in your intro episode when we first started the podcast, but today's topic is very fitting, considering that the name of your equine nutrition company is Performance Horse Nutrition. So can you tell us just a little bit about how you came to start your own nutrition consulting business?


Dr. Stephen Duren (01:35):

Yes. So 20 years ago, it's actually 20 years ago this year, Performance Horse Nutrition was founded by myself. And what I was looking to do is I had worked for another equine nutrition consulting company, and the message is very clear, taking the science that universities produce, that veterinarians produce, and distilling that down, if you will, into something that the horse person can use. So taking the science and actually putting it into the feed tub, that was the goal of Performance Horse Nutrition is to be able to bridge that nutrition gap, that knowledge gap with the scientists and the horse owners themselves.


Katy Starr (02:17):

And that's excellent, because I think a lot of people and I find that a lot of our listeners and a lot of our customers actually, they're so interested in the science behind things like why things work the way that they do. And they're always looking for ways to improve the wellbeing of their horses and their animals. And that's something that I really appreciate about working with you and Dr. Cubitt is you guys do such a wonderful job at breaking down that science into ways that any of us can just be able to understand it and put it to work in our own daily lives.


Dr. Stephen Duren (02:55):

Yes. And it's, it's very important. I mean, if the science is there yet, it's not able to be utilized, then it it's wasted science, so to speak. So we try to bring the latest technology, the things that are new, be able to explain those, to put those in a product so that you can take advantage of your, those advances in science and, and your horse will be better for it.


Katy Starr (03:17):

Yeah. That's excellent. So how did you actually come up with the name Performance Horse Nutrition when you 20 years ago, when you wanted to start this business?


Dr. Stephen Duren (03:27):

If you think about it, most horse owners have a plan for their horse and that plan typically includes some sort of performance, whether it's a racehorse that you have bred to become a champion or whether it's a jumping horse or a trail horse, ultimately you, you want some sort of performance. And so that's what most people are feeding. They're either feeding a performance horse or feeding a horse to become a performance horse. So it was kind of a natural logical choice for a name for a company.


Katy Starr (04:01):

Right. That makes sense. How would you then in fact, define performance horse?


Dr. Stephen Duren (04:08):

So a performance horse, the true definition is any horse that's given forced exercise so that forced exercise could be riding, could be driving any number of those things. So it has to be forced exercise. So that encompasses many things in many things to different people, whether it's a three-day event horse, a jumping horse, a dressage horse, a western performance horse, all of those are being asked to do forced activity, but so is the, the weekend trail horse. So in essence, that's a performance horse as well,


Katy Starr (04:43):

Right? Performance horse. Also when you think about that, there's so many different levels, right? You have your elite racehorse, elite racehorses that are just really at the top of any kind of performance level. And then you have maybe your more leisure trail horses. And so all of that encompasses difference that kind of come into play when it, when you're defining what the feed program's going to look like for each specific horse.


Dr. Stephen Duren (05:09):

Absolutely. But each and every one of those, the level of performance differs, but they are performance horses.


Katy Starr (05:16):

Right? So you gave us a few examples of the different types of performance horses. What are some more of the common ones that you and Dr. Cubitt often work with Performance Horse Nutrition?


Dr. Stephen Duren (05:28):

Boy, it, it spans the Mecca, if you will. So lots of racehorses, whether that be flat track racehorses, or standard bread Trotters or Pacers, we work a lot with those. We work a lot with English disciplines, that would be dressage, horses, jumpers, et cetera. We do a lot in that realm. And we also do a lot in the Western performance horses, anything from reiners and cutters, rope horses, all those were involved in designing diets so that they reach their genetic potential.


Katy Starr (06:02):

Excellent. So almost every time that I have a conversation with you or Dr. Cubitt, we're always talking about like what the appropriate amount of forage a horse should consume each day. And there's a range that you often share with everyone, but how would this percent differ for a performance horse as compared to maybe a lightly ridden trail horse, or maybe even just a horse that's retired out on pasture


Dr. Stephen Duren (06:30):

With all these diets for performance horse what we try to do is we try to maximize the use of good quality forage. So if we're able to get calories, protein, other nutrients from the forage component of the diet, this puts less pressure on the grain portion of the diet to deliver those extra nutrients that aren't in adequate supply in forage. So every horse requires forage and every horse requires a certain amount of forage. Then depending on the activity, the more that we ask them to run, the more that we ask them to jump, the more that we ask them to slide and spin and do all those sorts of things, the calorie requirement increases. And so you eventually get to a point where they couldn't eat enough hay and maintain their body weight, just because of the efficiency of digestion of the forage component of the diet. Then we add more grain at the expense of reducing some of the forage component of the diet.


Katy Starr (07:32):

Right? And so what is that range that you often recommend for horses to consume? Obviously it's a little bit different depending on what the horse is doing, how much fiber or forage should a horse be consuming each day?


Dr. Stephen Duren (07:45):

At the very lowest rung of the ladder. In other words, the horse that eats the smallest amount of forage, that would be something like the racehorse. Those horses will typically eat just over 1% of their body weight in dry forage a day because the rest of the diet is made up of grain to get them to run fast and to do those activities. If you go to the other end of a scale and go to a trail horse, or a lightly used performance horse, those horses would be somewhere between two and a half to even potentially 3% of their body weight in good quality forage. So basically a range of slightly over one clear till 3% of their body weight can be the range in forage intake for these performance horses.


Katy Starr (08:32):

Right? And I think most racehorse trainers, owners are working with nutritionists when they are in that field. But just kind of as a disclaimer, I do wanna just throw out there and make sure people understand that this is an area that it's very important that you be working with somebody who specializes in this, right? So any equine nutritionist like Dr. Duren or someone like that, that can make sure that we're meeting the needs of the horse for what they are specifically being used for.


Dr. Stephen Duren (09:05):

Absolutely. And, and you need to also remember when you're feeding on the lower end of that range of forages that I gave you the lower, the forage intake, the bigger, the risk for digestive upset or colic in those particular horses. So we always want to, and all the diets that I formulate and all the diets, certainly that Dr. Cubitt formulates, we try to maximize the use of good quality forage.


Katy Starr (09:31):

Right? Well, exactly. Because that's what the horse is technically designed to, to digest, right.


Dr. Stephen Duren (09:37):

Absolutely anatomically designed to digest forage.


Katy Starr (09:41):

Right. I wanna talk a little bit about body condition scoring. So when your body condition scoring horses, are there certain types of horses that are maybe okay with a particular body condition score, but maybe it wouldn't be good for other types of horses.


Dr. Stephen Duren (09:59):

Yes, absolutely. And you can certainly realize that different horses will have different builds, different muscular builds, et cetera. So when you compare the body condition of a draft horse, or a warm blood horse compared to a hot blooded horse, such as an Arabian, the amount of flesh that those particular horses carry is very different naturally. So not everyone fits into that cookie cutter body condition score. And so you need to evaluate each horse as an individual rather than put a hard number on it. Sometimes I think we need to back up and be a bit more simplistic. Is this horse fat? Is this horse thin, or is this horse just right? You know, just work with those three generalities to at least get yourself started down the right track.


Katy Starr (10:49):

Excellent. I know in my tons of conversations with Dr. Cubitt, she always says that that's the first question she asks is the horse fat or thin and then goes on from there.


Dr. Stephen Duren (11:00):

Yeah. It's a great starting point. And the other thing that you need to remember is the only dietary factor that you can actually look at with a horse and determine are you doing correctly, is the energetics of the diet. If your horse is too fat, it's your fault. If it's too thin, it's your fault because you're the one controlling the calorie intake.


Katy Starr (11:22):

Right. I think that's something important to think about. How would you actually describe the body condition of maybe a peak performance horse? What body condition score or kind of range would you like to see them at?


Dr. Stephen Duren (11:36):

Again, depends on the type of performance. So if we go to the, to the extreme, if you will, on the left hand side, that would be the competitive hundred mile endurance horses, typically on a one to nine body condition scale where the low numbers are thin horses, the high numbers are fat horses, those elite endurance horses would be in a body condition score of four to four and a half, maybe as high as five.


Katy Starr (12:03):

Okay. That's interesting


Dr. Stephen Duren (12:05):

Your racehorses. Those would be again, very fit athletes. Those would be four and a half to a five body condition, but you're very competitive dressage horse, they may have a body condition score of six and still be very competitive. So again, depends on, all elite performance, but what you're trying to accomplish.


Katy Starr (12:26):

Right. Okay. And of course, all horses need water, energy, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals in their diet. How would you compare the required water consumption for a performance horse as compared to some of our more idle horses?


Dr. Stephen Duren (12:45):

So as you exercise, as you generate heat from exercise, you have to cool that horse and that cooling is accomplished by sweating. So when a horse sweats, he loses water. So as a generality, the more horse works, the higher the water requirement because the higher, the sweat loss that occurs. So the higher level of performance that you get, the more they run, the more they jump, the more they do that in warm or hot weather, humid weather, the higher their water requirement goes.

Katy Starr (13:19):

And what would I, and I know this can be a bit of a range, but just to kind of give some ball point figure or ballpark figure, what would be kind of the range of what you would expect for horses to be drinking maybe in the summertime.


Dr. Stephen Duren (13:36):

So that mature isle horse would drink somewhere between seven to 10 gallons of water a day. Then you keep ratcheting up performance, continue to stay in that hot humid environment. That water requirement may triple, okay. So it goes from 10 gallons clear to 30 gallons of water a day. So it drastically increases again to keep that horse cool.


Katy Starr (14:00):

Right. And so if a horse wasn't consuming enough water for what it was doing, like we'll talk about this a little bit later on with horses kind of sometimes being picky with water, but what could happen to a horse, maybe if it's drinking water, but maybe it's not drinking near enough what it should be for what it's doing.


Dr. Stephen Duren (14:18):

Yeah. So then the horse becomes dehydrated. Once an animal becomes dehydrated, it becomes critical medical condition. So it will absolutely stop performance. So horses may be able to skip their breakfast, may be able to skip the occasional grain meal, but when they become water depleted or dehydrated, that is absolutely going to stop performance.


Katy Starr (14:43):

Right. And that makes sense, right? Because for humans, water is the most important nutrient for us as well.


Dr. Stephen Duren (14:50):

Yes. And, and it is for horses as well. So water is absolutely key.


Katy Starr (14:54):

Okay. And I wanna go through a few of these nutrients that we just talked about, making some comparisons, and obviously there's gonna be differences depending on what activity level we're talking about, but just kind of to get talking a little bit about this. So how do energy requirements differ? What type of forages or feeds can we actually look at in order to meet this need for performance horses versus horses that are on the lower level of activity?


Dr. Stephen Duren (15:21):

So if we start with the horses at the lower levels of activity, the calorie content of good quality forage is often enough calories given that you're providing that two to 2.5% of their body weight in that forage is often adequate calorie supply to do light performance. Those horses can be trail horses or horses that are even ridden every day, but not ridden very strenuous. So forage can fuel clear up into that light exercise without an issue at all. Then once we start going up in intensity of exercise and duration of exercise, the calorie requirement is directly correlated with what the horse is doing. The more you do the higher, the calorie requirement of that particular horse.


Katy Starr (16:15):

Okay. And this is probably gonna be a little bit dependent, but maybe you could just give us a couple examples of what would work best for which types. So if you were looking at a high-quality forage to meet as much of that energy requirement for some of those lower activity level horses, what type of forage would you see being beneficial for them again, if it, if it differs between certain what they're going through with health or anything like that, feel free to, to mention that.


Dr. Stephen Duren (16:48):

Yeah. So what I typically will do is, I will provide most of my clients' horses with two types of forage, the base forage or the forage they get the most of would be a high-quality grass forage. So that would be something like a timothy grass, an orchard grass, teff grass. Those typically are the foundation of the diet. The other thing that I try to do is I also try to put a small amount of alfalfa in the diet. Alfalfa's a great source of protein, which is good for rebuilding muscle building and rebuilding muscle and bone tissue as well. So that's, that's needed. Calcium is also supplied by alfalfa, which can help buffer some of the stomach acid, which may help prevent some of the gastric ulcers. So typically what I do is I try to free feed or provide free access to good quality grass hay, and then limit feed alfalfa hay. And again, depending on the activity somewhere between one and, and maximum of five pounds of alfalfa per horse per day.


Katy Starr (17:57):

Day. Okay. And then you would look to, for some of, like you said, those horses with that higher intensity level exercise will be leaning on some of those concentrate feeds that can kind of fuel that, especially with a racehorse, the need to be able to have that short spurt of energy.


Dr. Stephen Duren (18:15):

Absolutely. So again, once we get past or we exercise a horse to the point where forage can no longer meet his energy requirement, then we have to provide additional calories. And typically those come in the form of grain concentrates, grain concentrates that are supplemented with dietary fat, vegetable oil, canola oil, those types of diets.


Katy Starr (18:38):

Okay. And I think about when we have humans that like to participate in like marathons or, or things like that, they always talk about how, like, before a race they'll like carbload or something like that. So is this something that we can kind of make a similar comparison with for the horses that are in this higher level intensity exercise?


Dr. Stephen Duren (19:00):

Actually, it's not. We did the research on that years ago and looked at specifically carbohydrate loading horses. And in order to carbohydrate, whether it be a horse or any animal first, you have to significantly deplete through diet and exercise the carbohydrate content of the muscle. And then you have to change the diet and then super compensate the muscle glycogen or muscle sugar. With horses, it doesn't work very well because of the change in diet. Horses aren't very good at the massive change in diet. So what we do instead is we try to make sure that these horses are topped up on muscle fuel at all times, and they're rested before the exercise. So they have maximum fuel to conduct their performance activity.


Katy Starr (19:50):

Okay. That's interesting to know is the same amount of fiber required for different activity levels for the most part. I know you talked about racehorses will be consuming less forage itself, maybe not necessarily fiber, but is that generally close to the same or is there a particular fiber type that can be more beneficial for performance horses?


Dr. Stephen Duren (20:13):

Yeah. So typically they don't have, or we don't have very good estimates on actually the perfect amount of fiber. So we don't have that. What we do know is they require at least a minimum amount of fiber. If we don't provide enough fiber, then the digestive tract doesn't function properly. And then we have digestive upset and colic symptoms that can occur. So we know what that minimum is. Then what we try to do because horses are fiber digesters is provide as many of those calories that the horse needs to conduct his daily activities as the forage component of the diet. So different horses, depending on their performance discipline will eat different amounts of fiber to fuel that calorie load.


Katy Starr (21:00):

Okay. And then how about protein requirements? You talked about the importance of protein with rebuilding muscle and things like that. What type of forages or feeds can we look into to be able to meet this protein need for the two different levels of horses?


Dr. Stephen Duren (21:15):

Yeah. So the protein requirements of a horse, a mature horse are to repair and rebuild damaged muscle, damaged bone, the protein requirements for a young performance horse, something that's just beginning his performance career. There also is additional protein required for growth. So the protein requirements will differ by age of horse and then differ by activity of what's happening with that particular horse. But again, alfalfa is a great protein source for those horses that are growing that require that little bit of extra protein in their diet compared to a mature performance horse. But most of the protein needs of a performance horse if we meet the calorie needs of the performance horse and we do that with typical feeds such as additional forage, additional grain concentrates, typically the protein will come along as a natural ingredient of those. That goes out the window when we start feeding high fat diets, because as you know, fat, canola oil, doesn't contain any protein, right? So then the rest of the diet has to make up for that protein because the canola oil is an empty calorie, as far as the amount of protein that it provides.


Katy Starr (22:33):

Right. Okay. Of course there can be so many different vitamins and minerals to consider when we're building horse diets, but what are some standout ones that you find performance horses definitely need supplemented with as compared to a lower activity level horse?


Dr. Stephen Duren (22:52):

Yeah. So the vitamin that I'm, I'm very conscious of with performance horses is vitamin E. Vitamin E is a very powerful antioxidant, very necessary for the health and wellbeing of that. And performance horses have higher vitamin E requirements. The mineral that goes hand in hand with that vitamin E is selenium. So selenium would be a mineral that I certainly concentrate on with specific to the performance horse having higher requirements. But then I try to make sure that the rest of 'em, the old boring calcium and phosphorus that that's properly taken care of that copper and zinc are properly fortified in the diet so that they can continue to heal tissues. So as a nutritionist, I try to concentrate on all of them, but if I was going to pick one vitamin and one mineral that, that I would definitely make sure is accurate in performance horse diets, that would be vitamin E and selenium.


Katy Starr (23:50):

Interesting. Okay. And do you, this is more of kind of, I guess, opinion question, but for those that maybe aren't, obviously, if somebody's working with a good equine nutritionist, they're pretty set with things, but I've heard that people tend to over supplement their horses and maybe it's just trends and things like that. But do you find that to be the case, or is that an observation that you make, if they're maybe not working with a nutritionist that people tend to, which, and I'm thinking about this in terms of how much everything costs to own horses these days, and if we're spending more money where maybe it doesn't need to be spent.


Dr. Stephen Duren (24:30):

Yeah. I don't use the term over supplement as much as I use the term improper supplement.


Katy Starr (24:37):



Dr. Stephen Duren (24:38):

In other words, they don't choose the correct supplement. They don't choose a, a supplement that actually balances their forage. They don't get the total diet bounced. Instead, they, they may go with the, the latest fad and say, oh, I should add this to the diet when that may already be an appropriate amount. And then you just cause the diet to become imbalanced or not properly balanced. So rather than over supplement, inappropriate use of supplements is, is very common in the horse industry.


Katy Starr (25:09):

Okay. That makes a lot of sense. I think that just goes to show too. I mean, if you have the means to be able to do it, that just being able to work with somebody who specializes in equine nutrition, there could be a way there that they might actually be able to save you money in the long run when it comes to feeding a balanced diet for your horse.


Dr. Stephen Duren (25:30):

Certainly they can make sure the diet is properly balanced. The other thing that they can do is make sure the diet is simple,so that you have more time to actually enjoy your horse rather than feed your horse.


Katy Starr (25:41):

Doing all the things that come with it.


Dr. Stephen Duren (25:44):

Exactly. All the mixing and powders.


Katy Starr (25:46):

Right. And how are ration balancers used for you when you're working with force owners between lower level activity horse versus performance horses?


Dr. Stephen Duren (25:57):

Yeah, so the, the ration bouncers are concentrated protein vitamin and mineral supplements. They're typically in app pellet. So can a ration bouncer actually be a performance feed? Absolutely. If you feed high quality forage and you're just looking to balance the selenium and the vitamin E and, and some of the other nutrients, they can absolutely be a performance feed. So for the lower end performances, they can be the total package if you will, but they can also be used for some of the higher end performance horses as well. In other words, we can feed the recommended level of ration balancer, and then we can add additional calories with a non-fortified grain, such as oats and boost the calorie content yet still have all the vitamins and minerals from the ration balancer.


Katy Starr (26:48):

Okay. And we've talked a little bit about this already, but I, I wanted to, to ask about how starch and fat are actually utilized more in performance horse diets and, and why.


Dr. Stephen Duren (27:00):

They're both utilized in what I try to do when I formulate a diet for performance horses, to make sure that energy comes from a number of different sources rather than rely just on starch or just on fat. I try to make sure that there's energy from starch or sugar in the diet. I try to make sure that there's energy from fiber, that there's energy from fermentable fiber, such as, or highly fermentable fiber, such as a, a beat pulp type fiber. And then I also try to then utilize energy from fat. So a good diet for performance horse actually takes advantage of all these energy sources. So you don't cause an overabundance of one that can lead to a digestive upset.


Katy Starr (27:47):

Okay. Now I wanna get into some additional questions that kind of steer away from more of the nutrient side, but of course it's all usually fairly encompassing, but this is actually a myth that is out there that people don't really know quite know the answer to because they get, you know, multiple answers, but can we, or should we feed our horse before riding or exercising?


Dr. Stephen Duren (28:13):

Actually, this is what I did my PhD research on was this very topic because you know how your mother always told you, you couldn't go swimming for 30 minutes or an hour after you ate, or you'd end up on the bottom of the pool.


Katy Starr (28:25):



Dr. Stephen Duren (28:26):

Apparently, that haunted me. And so I did my PhD research on that. So the effect that feeding has on an animal, when you feed an animal, it takes and changes the blood flow distribution within the body. It redistributes blood to the digestive tissue because it's active in functioning and away from the muscular tissue. So if you feed a horse prior to exercise, he has to put more of that blood flow to his digestive system and less to working muscle. If the activity is sub maximal, if it's just a trail ride, it doesn't make any difference. He's well capable of increasing his heart rate and his cardiac output enough to cover that. But for horses that are doing sprint type activities, then it becomes very important. So there are specific times that we would feed a racehorse prior to racing. That would be a rule that we'd use that we wouldn't use for a, a low-end performance horse.


Katy Starr (29:26):

So really like a lot of things, it depends, right?


Dr. Stephen Duren (29:29):

Absolutely depends on what you're asking the, the horse to, to do. And then I think a lot of our listeners will have horses that they take to a horse show and show in multiple classes. With those horses it's very important to feed 'em the forage component of the diet, because that stimulates them to want to drink water stimulates normal digestive function. The grain portion of the diet isn't as important because the sugar and starches are already stored in the muscle and we're not relying on them to be digested absorbed into the blood and then finally get to the muscle they're already put there ahead of your show, but feeding of the forage throughout the day will stimulate those horses to want to drink and stimulate normal digestive function.


Katy Starr (30:15):

So even more so than not only does it just depend, but it depends because of maybe the general like activity of the horse, but then what type of activity it is. And maybe you might feed one thing, but not another thing.


Dr. Stephen Duren (30:30):

Absolutely, absolutely.


Katy Starr (30:32):

Interesting. What are some concerns to watch out for, with performance horses when it comes to feeding management and everything.


Dr. Stephen Duren (30:41):

We need to remember when feeding a performance horse, even though we've taken 'em out of a pasture setting, they're in a stall setting, we've taken 'em away from their natural feeding behavior of grazing. We need to try to mimic that grazing behavior, normal feeding behavior in what we do. And we find when we bring a performance horse in and we feed less forage and we feed more grain, that there are a number of conditions that these horses can get. Certainly, these horses can develop gastric ulcers. These horses can develop colic symptoms or digestive upset. These horses can develop laminitis. So a lot of these are caused because we are not feeding the proper amount of forage or we don't have proper feeding management with these particular horses.


Katy Starr (31:28):

Right. This actually makes me think about the question that we just talked about prior as well, and because you'd mentioned gastric ulcers when we're talking about feeding horses, I think there's also some something to be said for what do you see as, or think of when you're, when you're feeding horses, right? Is it actually like a meal or is it for example, like performance horses tend to have really, really high risk for gastric ulcers. So being able to what possibly offer a little bit of alfalfa to them before they, before you ride 'em or something like that can be a pre preventative measure for that acid splash.


Dr. Stephen Duren (32:10):

Exactly. Exactly. So we need to get out of thinking that horses are meal eaters, right? If you think about what a horse does in a past situation, they graze for about 17 hours a day. So they're low intake, continuous eaters. And so if we can feed, you know, the grain portion in smaller meals, but more frequently we have less ulcer issues. We have less behavioral issues. So again, try to mimic that grazing behavior in your feeding management.


Katy Starr (32:39):

Right? That's probably one of the most difficult things when it comes to modern feeding of our horses is, is that meal feeding mindset. So when we're trailing to shows or competitions, what do you recommend feed and water wise and how often should we be stopping for breaks?


Dr. Stephen Duren (33:01):

Yeah. So if you're going to some sort of a local show, and a local show is somewhere under three hours of transport, what I typically try to do is make sure that horses had his evening meal is well fed and well hydrated before he gets on the trailer. I don't necessarily worry about feeding him a breakfast before he gets on that trailer, unless I'm a hundred percent confident he's got adequate time to eat that and drink water with that. So typically in the short hauls, just make sure that they're well fed and well hydrated before they get on the horse trailer. Once you start going over a trip over three hours, what I typically will do then is then you have to start penciling in break when these horses are actually going to be offered feed and water, oftentimes those horses are unloaded. If there's a safe place to do that, letting them get their head down to consume forage and drink water is, is a great aspect of that. So longer hauls over three hours. You need to start thinking about that as well.


Katy Starr (34:05):

And I think that this, this can be a little bit of, I don't know if I wanna say hot topic necessarily, but what about feeding in the trailer? Give us some thoughts on good idea. Bad idea. Why?


Dr. Stephen Duren (34:20):

Okay. This is, this is my opinion. Oftentimes I'll see horses be offered forage in a trailer. When you put a horse in a trailer, if he's not an experienced hauler, he may be nervous and he may over consume forage. And by over consume forage, eat a lot of forage without drinking water. Remember in a moving trailer where that water would be splashing and horses are less likely to drink. So personally I'm not a big fan of feeding horses in trailers because I don't think that they get adequate water with that particular forage. The other thing that we need to be careful about if we do hang forage or put forage in a trailer is make sure that that's out of the air stream, if there's any dust or particles in that hay that go immediately up that horse's nose. So again, strictly my opinion, but I'd rather stop and provide the forage and the water in a controlled situation where I can observe the horse than simply throw a hay net and a bucket of water and let it splash and flop around in there again. But that's just my opinion.


Katy Starr (35:30):

Right? That's your opinion. But I think it's an inexperienced one too. Right? And I think it's, it's one of those things too, where people will always make, you know, the decisions with their horses in some senses, what works best for them and their, their situations and everything. But I also think that it's good for us to talk about these things. So people understand, right? So if somebody is new to owning horses and they're in this type of situation and they've only ever seen somebody feed in the trailer, what if they never heard what you just shared?  So I think it's just important for us to have these conversations and discussions. So awareness is there, right?


Dr. Stephen Duren (36:08):

Exactly. And horses are adaptive. You know, if they go on enough trips and they get experienced, then they get to be better travelers. But I guess I always err on the side of caution that I wanna make sure that I have visual assurance to the horse ate and I have visual assurance that the horse drank rather than simply putting it back there and, and hope that it worked out.


Katy Starr (36:29):

Right. Okay. And then what can horse owners do if their horse is picky about their water, especially when travelling, because you, we just have talked about so much about how important it is that a, that a horse is drinking their water. What if they don't want to drink the water at the location that you travel to?


Dr. Stephen Duren (36:48):

Couple things you can do with elite racehorses. We ship the water with them. That is certainly not the norm, but we've actually put water on airplanes and shipped to the United Arab Emirates with racehorses. So that has occurred.


Katy Starr (37:02):

That is so interesting.


Dr. Stephen Duren (37:04):

Yeah. So when there the purse money's 13 million and 10 million to the winner, there's a lot of things you can do. What you can do if you don't have a, a prize at the end of the, at the end of the competition that maybe is lucrative, right, is you can actually teach them to drink, flavored water, flavoring, water with things like Gatorade and things like that will mask tastes of water in different places. Again, all of this is teaching the horse to drink it. So all these things need to be done at home rather than just introducing something to the horse's diet when it's there. So if you have a horse in a stalled situation and you are adding Gatorade to his water and flavoring his water, and you continue to do that when the water source changes at a show, your likelihood of getting them to drink is a lot better. So you wanna practice all this stuff at home.


Katy Starr (38:00):

Yeah. Make sure that everybody's comfortable and has it all figured out before you go instead of surprise.


Dr. Stephen Duren (38:08):



Katy Starr (38:09):

And then I know it's probably not as ideal just depending on your, your situation and where you're at, but, and of course this isn't going to give the horse all of the, the water that it would need, but thinking about if you're feeding any sort of like pellet or cube or even beat pulp soaking, that is another way to get a little bit more hydration into the horse.


Dr. Stephen Duren (38:34):

Absolutely. Absolutely. The other thing is it may keep 'em from choking because again, on the trailer, they don't have normal feeding behavior. They're nervous. They may not chew as thoroughly. So if the product is hydrated or soaked, you would decrease the chances of them choking significantly.


Katy Starr (38:50):

Right. And then do you have any other tips, just tips in general for making a successful and, I don't know if I can say stress free, but at least limit the stress as much as possible on trips when traveling with horses.


Dr. Stephen Duren (39:06):

I guess a single biggest tip is plan ahead, plan your, your trip plan, your course, understand what feeds are gonna be available when you get there planning, because if you can plan and, and take care of things ahead of time, it will decrease the change in diet for the horse decrease stress that that horse is under. So planning, planning, planning is, is the key.


Katy Starr (39:29):

Excellent. I think that's a great tip. And even thinking about consistency of forage, right? A number of times you've talked about digestive upset and colic in this episode. And sometimes unless people are aware, may not realize that what if you run out of your forage or your hay on your trip, and you have to get more somewhere. If you're not getting a consistent forage type, it's not just with grains and concentrates, switching a horse over quickly from a different feed or a different forage can increase that risk of digestive upset and colic.


Dr. Stephen Duren (40:04):

Absolutely, plan ahead. Know what forages are gonna be available at that showground. If you're going to have to make a dietary switch, can you make that dietary switch before you ever go make it at home when the horse is in a stress fee environment, right? Or no, we don't have that particular hay here, he's gonna have to switch, take enough of your existing hay that you can blend that horse over. So planning, planning, planning is the key,


Katy Starr (40:32):

Right? And I wanted to mention too, since, since we're talking about this topic is if you're feeding any of the Standlee pellets or cubes generally anyway, before you go on a trip, the nice thing is, is that is in a lot of farm and ranch retail stores across the country. There's a very good chance, whatever show you're going to, if you need to, I mean, that's a consistent supply. It's coming from the same supplier. And, you know, we have a guaranteed analysis on our pellet and cube bags and chopped and everything. And so, you know what you're getting out of that forage.


Dr. Stephen Duren (41:08):

Absolutely, absolutely. So you can plan ahead. You can feed some of those packaged forages or compressed forages and know that I'm gonna be able to get those at the show or call a dealer ahead of time. And do you have this particular Standlee product and they can get the product so, right. It saves a lot of hassle on your end and a lot of stress for the horse


Katy Starr (41:31):

Right? This has been a really interesting episode for me, kind of learning a little bit more about that performance side of horses and what we should be looking at for their feed programs and everything. But as we begin to wrap up this episode, what are a few key takeaways that you would like to leave our listeners with today from our conversation?


Dr. Stephen Duren (41:52):

Probably that there's lots of different levels of performance and performance is simply defined as forced activity, forced exercise. So whether it be a trail riding horse, or an elite jumping horse, they're all performance horses, and we need to feed them appropriately. The diet for all those horses starts with good quality forage. And we try to utilize as much good quality forage as we can so we don't have to feed as much grain to those performance horses.


Katy Starr (42:22):

That's excellent. Dr. Duren thank you. This has been such a great conversation today and for our listeners, we love to hear from you. So please feel free to reach out to us. If you have any topic, ideas that you would like us to, to talk about on the podcast at Dr. Duren, thanks again for being on with us today.


Dr. Stephen Duren (42:45):

I appreciate you having me.


Katy Starr (42:49):

Thanks for listening to the Beyond the Barn podcast by Standlee Forage. We'd love for you to share our podcast with your favorite people and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform until next time, keep your cinch tight and don't forget to turn off the water.


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