Appropriate nutrition during sales preparation helps to ensure your foals achieve their maximum potential in the ring.
One of the most important aspects when preparing the foal for sale is to support correct bone and limb development. This is a critical growth period for foals. Overfeeding calories or under-feeding micronutrients may put them at increased risk of developmental orthopaedic diseases, which will not only affect sales price but may also influence future potential on the track. The introduction of exercise during prep should be gradual and adjusted to suit each foal’s physical ability as excessively overloading the joints, especially the knees, can result in physitis.
Nutrition plays an essential role in bone and cartilage development. Correct intake of calcium and phosphorus is essential and should be provided in the ratio of 2:1 to optimise bone mineralisation and promote good bone formation. Similarly, optimal intake of trace minerals such as copper, zinc and manganese are necessary to promote a healthy environment within tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Quality protein intake is also key for ensuring appropriate skeletal and soft tissue development. Historically excessive protein was blamed as a cause of bone problems in youngsters, but this connection has long since been disproven and in fact a protein deficient diet is likely to have a greater detrimental impact on bone health.
The most appropriate diet for your foals during prep will depend on the individual. It is important that diet allows a gradual increase in body condition for foals that are not already well covered. However, it is imperative that this is not overdone as it can lead to orthopaedic problems or obesity; for example, overfeeding a foal with straight limbs may cause them to go ‘upright’. For most individuals we recommend our Foal & Yearling Mix. This highly palatable muesli has been specifically formulated to ensure optimum skeletal growth while also developing muscle and topline and maintaining a healthy coat to shine in the sales ring. Foal & Yearling Mix contains high quality protein sources, plus elevated levels of RED MILLS Pro Balance Vitamin and mineral package to support the growth, development, and overall health.
For foals that are ‘overtopped’ or showing signs of developmental problems it may be necessary to restrict energy intake by reducing the amount of feed they receive. Bear in mind that a decrease in feed quantity will also result in a reduced micronutrient intake. Similarly, later born foals can often experience periods of ‘compensatory’ growth during prep and their growth plates are clearly going to be more open than those of a foal born early in the year. Consequently, it’s essential that calorie intake in not excessive, but that the diet remains fully balanced. Both these situations can be easily addressed by adding a small amount of our nutrient-dense GroCare Balancer to the individual’s ration.
On the other hand, some foals find the added workload taxing and begin to lose weight during the sales prep. RED MILLS Define & Shine can be added in small quantities to an already balanced diet to increase the calorie density of each meal. This high fat pellet will support condition, topline and coat and skin health. It should be introduced slowly to allow the foal to adapt to the taste and the increased oil content.
Supplements can be incredibly useful during foal prep; allowing you to tailor the dietary support to the individual foal’s need or address any areas of concern. Oil is undoubtedly the most widely used supplement during sales prep and with good reason as it provides another useful source of extra calories. However, not all oils are equal! Foran Equine’s Kentucky Karron Oil is an emulsified linseed oil rich in omega 3 fatty acids. The benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are widely reported and include positive effects on the immune and respiratory systems, as well as providing a healthy, shiny coat for the sales ring.
Another exceptionally useful supplement during the prep period is Foran Equine’s Coppervit. Coppervit combines chelated copper and manganese to support skeletal and cartilage development, vitamin E to support immune function and vitamin B12 to help maintain appetite. Generally, we recommend feeding Coppervit for the first and last 2 weeks of sales prep.
Finally, do consider using a calming supplement. Sales complexes are busy places and foals can find travelling to and settling into this new environment overwhelming. This in turn can negatively affect their behaviour, something we obviously want to avoid as a foal that is ‘playing up’ is unlikely to show themselves in the best light to potential vendors. Foran Equine Nutri-Calm Gel is ideal. These handy syringes contain L-tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, to inhibit fear and stress, magnesium a key mineral for nerve function and B-vitamins to support the nervous system are also included. Nutri-Calm is also available in a liquid, which can be fed daily throughout prep to any individual that’s struggling to cope with the stress of sales prep.
While there is no magic formula to producing the ideal foal for the sales ring, the key to a successful preparation is to produce a foal that buyers want. The use of appropriate nutrition to meet requirements and support physiological adaptation alongside the use of supplements to benefit immune function and reduce the stress of sales preparation for foals can help produce that foal to catch the buyer’s eye and benefit your sales success.