By Jyme Nichols, Director of Nutrition, sponsored by Bluebonnet Feeds
Barrel racing is a physically demanding sport, not only for the horse but for the rider as well. I like to use analogies and stories to help people relate to what is going on with their horse. For a moment let’s consider all the times you have heard someone tell you that barrel racers don’t do anything; they just sit up there and the horse does all the work. Have you ever wondered why you come out of the arena breathing as hard as your horse after a run? Maybe you have implemented a new workout program and better eating habits and have seen the changes it has made in your core strength, balance and ability to keep up with your horse leaving the barrels.
I think we can all agree that barrel racing requires a degree of physicality and fitness from jockey. Now, let’s imagine how much more physically demanding it is for your horse who is running, gathering, turning, balancing, and trying to pay attention and react correctly to your body position and physical cues, not to mention the subtle adjustments your horse must make in every run to account for varying pattern sizes and changing ground conditions. Oh, and then let us not forget that many horses do this multiple times per week or weekend, so there is little opportunity for full musculoskeletal recovery.
Muscle tone, or muscle strength, is an important component to both you and your horse. When muscles are toned, they react more quickly to changing situations within a run, they fire harder and longer before fatigue sets in, and they recover faster between races.
Building muscle tone is something that requires an intentional and consistent conditioning routine—often referred to as having your horse “legged up.” This is the process of physically preparing the musculoskeletal system for the speed, impact and duration of a barrel run. However, physical training can only go so far, and for the advanced barrel racer looking to gain those few extra tenths, there are some natural biologically active aids that can be fed to a horse to help them achieve that next level.
Bovine colostrum has been shown to increase power and improve sprint time in human athletes. This nutritional aid may therefore help a barrel horse power all the way through the end of the run.
Leucine is a branched chain amino acid that has a direct impact in supporting muscle structure and muscle recovery time. Feeding this natural biological aid may help your horse bounce back quicker between runs and be more refreshed when they step off the trailer.
Beta-Alanine is a functional amino acid which acts as a precursor to carnosine production, which is responsible for maintaining pH levels within the muscle. Researchers have found that beta-alanine supplementation results in nearly 3 percent improvement in performance.
Carnitine is another valuable amino acid which has biological benefits. Carnitine helps move fatty acids into cellular mitochondria. The mitochondria act like the engines within the cell—they burn fat to produce energy for the body. Researchers show carnitine helps speed recovery time after exercise and lower the extent of muscle damage.
These research-backed ingredients, and others, can be found in The Difference, a powdered supplement by Stride Animal Health. In addition to the muscle-related benefits described earlier, The Difference may also help increase assertiveness and “fire” in otherwise dull or lazy horses.
The Difference is show-safe and contains no drugs. A specialized nitric oxide delivery mechanism helps the body process these ingredients in a way that supports maximum effectiveness. To achieve the full benefit of The Difference, it should be fed daily for approximately two weeks while exercising your horse. The level of muscle tone and definition supported by The Difference is dose-dependent, therefore the amount of The Difference fed to your horse may need to be adjusted up or down depending upon your horse’s response. Begin by feeding 2 scoops per day and adjusting as desired after 10–14 days. The Difference also supports libido in breeding stallions.
Need help choosing the right feed or supplement? Visit the Bluebonnet Feeds website for a free nutrition consult.