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Conditioning for The Yearling Sales

Preparing a yearling for sale is an important event in the stud calendar for both Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds and involves a carefully tailored balance between correct nutrition, conditioning, growth and fitness. Properly prepared yearlings will be fit, sound and well grown, with shiny coats and little body fat. When preparing a yearling for sale it is important to understand the nutrient requirements of the horse and the critical balance between feed intake and exercise as they impact on condition and soundness.

Forage should always be the first consideration in any horse’s diet, and some amount of pasture along with a high quality/high energy hay is important for yearlings. Higher energy hays such as lucerne and clover blends will contribute to energy requirements and work to decrease the amount of starch in the yearling’s diet. Also, using a high quality, early cut hay minimises the appearance of gut-fill that is often associated with a mature hay of high lignin content. Including additional fibre sources through chaff, ensiled forages and super fibres such as beet pulp and soy hulls is often highly beneficial for reducing the amount of hard feed or grain the horse requires, which can in turn reduce symptoms of starch overload including diarrhea, colic, laminitis and behaviour problems.

Yearlings do best on a 14-17% protein ration balanced for macro and micro-minerals, and fat and water soluble vitamins. Feeding rates of hard feeds for yearlings are extremely variable depending on choice of feed, growth history, skeletal size, individual metabolism, actual age and quantity and quality of forage. It is essential that all yearlings are fed as individuals, paying careful attention to body weight, weekly weight gain and body condition score and adjust feed intake appropriately. Selecting a muesli style textured hard feed is often beneficial as the high palatability encourages consistent intake of feed through somewhat stressful times of increased workload, travel to sales complexes and new surroundings.

To avoid hindgut disturbances and digestive conditions in yearlings it is also important to consider feeds that contain grains that have been processed to enhance digestion. Heat processed feeds such as pelleted or feeds containing steam flaked grains ensure most of the digestion takes place in the small intestine thus reducing the risk of unprocessed starch entering the hindgut and causing acidosis. NRM Assett or NRM Prepare are great options of well balanced textured feeds containing steam flaked grains that are ideal for sales preparation.

While there is an over-whelming array of supplements that claim to enhance coat quality and condition, including a fat source is always one of the best ways to achieve that sale ring shine. Suitable fat sources include vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, or a stabilised rice bran such as KER Equi-Jewel. Equi-Jewel is a high fat low starch conditioning supplement that is highly beneficial for improving topline and coat quality.

For more information and diet advice on preparing a yearling for sale, contact a reputable equine nutrition advisor.