Barrel horses have high energy demands, so most people feed popular sweet or complete feeds with the idea that these will help them to maintain weight and obtain the energy they need. However, most of these common grain feeds are too high in “sugar,” or what’s more technically known as NSC (non-structural carbohydrates). It’s the equivalent of feeding an athlete large bowls of sugar cereal for breakfast and dinner, and then expecting them to be at peak health and nutrition to perform. 

Large grain-based meals or those too high in NSC can contribute to problems including, but not limited to:

  • Sugar highs and crashes that negatively impact focus and behavior
  • Undigested sugars and starches in the hindgut interfere with the natural fermentation processes required for a healthy pH, microbial balance and more
  • Inflammation in the body, and even tying up in horses

Different Feed for Different Types of Equine Athletes

Feeding a short-distance sprinter like a barrel horse is not the same as feeding one that typically does longer and slower aerobic movement. However, a barrel horse still needs the proper fuel and strong slow-twitch muscles for long warm-ups and training sessions. 

Most performance horses’ caloric needs can be met with a combination of hay and grain. However, it is often better to replace grain with fat wherever possible, as grain can cause a litany of problems from an excess of carbohydrates. Fat is more energy dense than carbs, therefore the horse will have more energy with less feed. Fat is particularly beneficial in the summer, as it helps to keep the horse cool because it does not produce as much heat while being digested.

Fueling Anaerobic (Fast-Twitch) Exercise

When it comes to the dietary needs required to fuel anaerobic (fast-twitch) exercise, there are three main nutrients of focus: protein, glycogen, and healthy fats.


For the most part, anaerobic exercise is fueled by the burning of glycogen, which is stored in muscle. Glycogen is produced naturally within the horse when they eat forage. However, they are often given supplements or “high glucose” feeds to help get their glycogen levels back after competition. The intention is to get them back to their base levels and ready for the next competition.


Protein plays an important role in getting your horse ready to compete as well. It serves to grow, build, and repair muscles. A high protein diet will help to give your horse a rounded, muscular appearance that is a hallmark of a good competition horse. Having sufficient protein levels also serves to prevent the horse’s body from tearing down its own muscles in order to utilize the amino acid stores. 

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats can be used as a primary source of energy for slow-twitch exercise, but only after your horse has adjusted to using them as such. Typically, this process takes about 12 weeks. Once adjusted, horses are able to utilize fat to provide the energy needed for a workout. This is important because it saves glycogen from being used for less strenuous activities so that it is saved for when it is needed most.

Get Your Horse Feeling Its Best on SUCCEED®

succeed supplement

SUCCEED® Digestive Conditioning Program supports good digestive health in horses, ensuring they get the full nutrition available from your carefully designed feed program. Some of the benefits of using SUCCEED® include:

  • Keeping horses eating well and performing consistently
  • Maintaining stomach and hindgut health
  • Supporting nutrient absorption to get the most from feed
  • Moderating the release of sugars in feed to prevent sugar highs and crashes

SUCCEED® is a daily program, not a treatment. It takes time to establish optimal digestive tract health in horses. SUCCEED® fed daily will right the GI Tract and maintain GI health long-term.

Digestive health is a constant in the battle to keep your horse performing at its best.

Haven’t tried SUCCEED® yet? First-time customers in the U.S. can purchase through the SUCCEED® Challenge to try it risk-free. See results in 60 days, or get your money back.


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