The Equine Experts
Epol Equine


Feeding the POLOCROSSE pony

Polo and polocrosse require bursts of intense speed and athletic agility. Workload involves both low intensity (aerobic) as well as phases in which energy demands require anaerobic energy production. Polocrosse ponies are even more energy taxed as they play multiple chukkas per day, and are therefore even more prone to fatigue caused by energy depletion and heat build-up.

Diet management increasing blood glucose and muscle glycogen stores and minimising metabolic heat production can assist in delaying the onset of fatigue and allowing horses to perform at top speed for longer.

These horses need a combination of high energy diets combined with adding oil to the diet, as oil benefits temperament (calm, slow release energy), decreases heat load and promotes steady long lasting performance. During sprint work, polo and polocrosse ponies rely on energy generated from blood glucose and liver and muscle glycogen. Feeding oil spares blood glucose for use during high intensity work, postponing fatigue.

Oils further offer the benefit of a reduction in the amount of concentrate feed required (1 cup of oil = 1 kg of oats in energy value without the risk of starch overload to the hindgut). In addition omega 3 oils such as linseed and canola assists circulation, oxygen delivery and immune function.

Protein is digested in the small intestine, and excess is fermented in the large intestine to yield ammonia which increases urination and can possibly cause dehydration in the competing horse. Protein should therefore be lower (12-13%), but high quality and highly digestible containing the essential amino acids for muscle development, recovery and repair to rebuild muscles after work and replace protein losses in sweat.

During season:

During the season when appetite loss and weight loss can occur, fine-tuning the feeding routine can offer important benefits. A fat supplemented diet should be fed for at least 28 days prior to an event. Small intestinal digestion needs to be enhanced, as hindgut fermentation generates heat and adds to the heat load in the exercising horse.

This can be achieved by feeding a nutrient dense, highly digestible, high grain, high oil (or topdressing oil to the ration), lower protein ration to lower heat produced during digestion; e.g. Epol Mdk SpeedMax / Endurance cubes / Race muesli / Rider muesli or cubes top-dressed with an oil source.

Diet can assist in reducing muscle damage and improve recovery from strenuous work or competition. During polocrosse events horses damage muscle tissue through production of high levels of lactic acid and oxidants. Epol MdK SpeedMax and Race and Rider Muesli additionally contain anti-oxidants vitamins E and C and selenium to mop up damaging free radicals alleviating stiffness and soreness.

Polocrosse ponies require adequate good quality roughage to prevent dehydration, as electrolytes are trapped with water and fibre as reservoir in the hindgut. Therefore feeding less of a nutrient-energy-dense concentrate ensures that good quality roughage intake for additional energy and hindgut health can be maintained. Too much poor quality, low digestible roughage can however increase weight handicap as dead weight carried by the horse.

When hay is fed with concentrates, starch digestion in the small intestine is reduced, and starch flowing to the hindgut is fermented causing gas, heat and acid production. Roughage is best fed either 2 hours before or 2 hours after the concentrate meal to improve nutrient uptake and absorption.

Concentrate ration is best fed no less than 4 hours before competition, as blood glucose levels are lowest 90 minutes after feeding, and exercising at this time will lead to fatigue.

Muscle should be repaired rapidly to reduce soreness and stiffness and get horse ready for next competition. Feeding 0.5-1.0 kg of MdK SpeedMax no more than 2 hours before OR 1 hour after hard work will utilize the window of opportunity when increased muscle blood flow circulates high levels of hormones required to fuel muscles, and will enhance glycogen synthesis and aid muscle recovery by supplying anti-oxidants, carbohydrates and essential amino acids.

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