Image: Jeni on Alfie. Credit West End Photography
Variety Is The Spice of Life For Alfie
INCLUDED: Top Tips on Feeding
Ballydoolagh Alfie, owned by Huddersfield-based endurance rider, Jeni Gilbert, is proof that variety is the spice of life for this 11-year-old Connemara.
Alfie is making his mark in the sport of endurance with Jeni, a former Novice Champion, Endurance GB Senior and Supreme Champion (2007, 2011) and winner of several other titles. He has now completed more than 2300km in 48 competitions in his five year endurance career – an impressive feat for a native breed in a discipline that is dominated with Arab horses.
Jeni believes that competing in endurance gives an important advantage over other horse sports. As well as improving the fitness of your horse and regularly assessing his soundness, endurance also helps to develop a horse’s confidence and manners, and gives him great experience in learning to balance and cope with different types of terrain.
Over the past few winters Jeni has expanded on Alfie’s experiences by competing him in Winter Trec, which takes place indoors and so is very different to endurance. It provides obstacles and questions for horse and rider and, although the instant obedience to change of pace proved to be a bit of a challenge for Alfie at first, Jeni is working on improving it! The pair were placed 11th in the National Trec Winter Series last season.
Alfie has also enjoyed turning his hooves to show jumping and cross country classes at riding club level and this summer Jeni looked at other sports as the ground was so hard. He tried eventing, although Jeni handed over the reins for this to Emma Martin, a friend who enjoys jumping. He competed in three BE80 classes and a couple of British Riding Club Area qualifiers, and in the latest one he was placed second with the Ackworth & District RC team out of 75 entrants.
Said Jeni: “He loved the eventing and did fairly well in the dressage, but we were so pleased when he finished on his dressage score with a placing. We do need to work a bit more on his movements as they are slightly different to Trec and endurance. I would say to other riders to make sure your horse is fit and then go ahead and try some other disciplines and see what you and your horse can do!”
Jeni is sponsored by HorseHage and has a wealth of experience. She enjoys endurance riding as a hobby rather than a career. Here are her top feeding tips:
Jeni’s Feeding Tips
Feed little and often if possible – Horses are natural ‘trickle’ feeders which means they spend most of their time eating – up to 70%.
Feed a high fibre diet – Horses have evolved to utilise a high fibre diet, using bacterial fermentation in a highly developed large intestine. Low levels of fibre or poor quality fibre in the diet can put them at serious risk of problems such as colic and gastric ulcers. A fibre-based diet is a much more natural way to feed compared to cereals.
Use oil for energy and don’t forget the vitamins and minerals – Oil is a great way to provide slow release, non-heating energy to promote stamina, which is essential in endurance riding, but oil can also be a useful way to increase condition. For the vitamins and minerals feed either a complete feed or use a good balancer/supplement. I feed Mollichaff Hoofkind Complete which is high fibre and low in starch and sugar and contains soya oil and a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement and it helps keep my horse on an even keel.
Feed for the work done – It’s important to feed according to the work you horse has done. For example, a horse that has done a long endurance ride will need more calories than a horse that has been on rest all day.
Don’t overfeed – Assess the level of work you do as you may not need any additional feed. Don’t feel guilty and overfeed as this may lead to behavioural problems. Many horse owners that feed HorseHage as their forage find they can reduce their horse’s hard feed by up to a third.
Monitor your horse’s weight – The best way to check your horse’s weight is using a weigh bridge but this isn’t always possible so alternatively, use a weigh tape to keep it monitored. You can also gauge whether your horse is putting on weight by any changes you notice when girthing up.
Be sure of what you are feeding – If you are competing you must be sure you know what you are feeding to avoid any naturally occurring prohibited substances. Ensure your feed and forage is BETA NOPS certified. All products from the HorseHage and Mollichaff ranges produced in England have BETA NOPS certification.
Seek proper nutritional advice if you need to –If you’re not sure of anything, contact your feed manufacturer or an equine nutritionist for expert advice.
Call HorseHage for equine feeding advice on 01803 527274 or visit www.horsehage.co.uk