What Do Racehorses Eat

Racehorses are elite athletes, and just like any athlete, their diet plays a crucial role in their performance. The right nutrition can make all the difference between a winning race and a lackluster performance. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about the diet of racehorses. From the essential components of their diet, including high-quality hay, grains, and concentrates, to the importance of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fats, we will delve into the intricacies of creating a balanced and effective diet for racehorses. We will uncover what racehorses should avoid consuming and how often and how much they should eat. Whether you are a racehorse owner, trainer, or simply an enthusiast, this article will provide you with valuable insights into the dietary needs of these magnificent creatures.

Key Takeaways:

  • Racehorses need a high-quality hay, grains and concentrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, and supplements in their diet for optimal performance.
  • The amount and frequency of food intake for racehorses varies depending on their age, weight, and activity level.
  • A balanced diet for racehorses should include protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals, while avoiding sugary treats, moldy or spoiled feed, and toxic foods.
  • What Do Racehorses Eat?

    What Do Racehorses Eat? - What Do Racehorses Eat

    Credits: Horselife.Org – Vincent Flores

    Racehorses require a well-balanced diet to support their energy, training, and performance. Their diet typically includes a combination of high-quality hay, grains, concentrates, fresh fruits, vegetables, and supplements.

    High-quality hay forms the foundation of the racehorse’s diet, providing essential fiber for digestion and overall gut health. Grains and concentrates deliver the necessary carbohydrates and proteins to fuel their intense training and performance. Equally important are the fresh fruits and vegetables, which supply vital micronutrients and antioxidants, aiding in the maintenance of a strong immune system and overall well-being. Targeted supplements, such as electrolytes and omega-3 fatty acids, further enhance the racehorse’s energy metabolism, joint health, and muscle recovery, thereby optimizing their athletic performance.

    High-Quality Hay

    High-quality hay forms a crucial part of a racehorse’s diet, providing essential fiber for digestion and nourishment. Kentucky Equine Research suggests that Timothy hay is particularly beneficial for racehorses due to its nutritional profile and digestibility.

    Timothy hay is known for its low sugar and starch content, making it suitable for horses prone to metabolic issues. Its long stem and leafy structure not only encourage chewing and saliva production but also supports gut motility. The provision of structural fiber from hay such as Timothy aids in maintaining healthy hindgut function, reducing the risk of colic and other digestive upsets.

    Grains and Concentrates

    Grains and concentrates are essential sources of energy for racehorses, with options such as oats, corn, and barley being commonly included in their feeding regimen. University Minnesota’s equine nutrition research provides valuable insights into the optimal utilization of grains for racehorse diets.

    Racehorses have high energy requirements due to their rigorous training and exercise routines, and grains and concentrates play a crucial role in meeting these needs. Oats, for instance, are a popular choice for racehorses as they are high in fiber and low in starch, providing sustained energy levels without causing digestive disturbances. Corn, on the other hand, offers a dense source of calories, but should be used cautiously due to its higher starch content.

    Barley, another commonly used grain, provides a balance of energy and fiber, making it suitable for racehorses with specific dietary needs. The equine nutrition research conducted at the University of Minnesota emphasizes the importance of carefully formulating the proportions of these grains and concentrates to ensure optimal energy provision and overall health for racehorses.

    Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

    Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into a racehorse’s diet can provide essential vitamins, minerals, and performance-enhancing nutrients. Options such as carrots, apples, and leafy greens contribute to the overall nutritional balance of a racehorse’s feeding program.

    These natural additions to the diet deliver a spectrum of vital nutrients crucial for a racehorse’s health and performance. Carrots, for instance, are rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which supports vision and immune function. Apples offer key antioxidants and soluble fiber, aiding digestion and providing a refreshing hydration source. Meanwhile, leafy greens like spinach and kale bring a wealth of vitamins, including A, C, and K, boosting overall well-being. The inclusion of these fresh and vibrant plant-based foods underscores the importance of balanced nutrition in supporting a racehorse’s optimal function and vitality.


    Supplements play a crucial role in supporting the energy, growth, and overall well-being of racehorses. Trusted products like EquiShure, Re-Leve, and FERAMO from Virbac are known to provide targeted support for racehorses, with notable success stories such as Guinness, Smarty Jones, and other esteemed champions.

    These top-notch supplements have been instrumental in optimizing the performance of racehorses, aiding in muscle development, weight management, and overall vitality.

    The incredible journey of Guinness, a magnificent racehorse, exemplifies the impact of EquiShure in supporting digestive health and enhancing nutrient absorption, ultimately leading to improved stamina and endurance.

    Similarly, the remarkable comeback of Smarty Jones, the renowned Thoroughbred racehorse, showcased the remarkable benefits of Re-Leve, contributing to enhanced joint mobility and flexibility, allowing him to continue delivering outstanding performances on the track.

    Focusing on FERAMO, this advanced supplement has demonstrated exceptional results in enhancing metabolic function, promoting coat shine, hoof integrity, and overall well-being, propelling racehorses to peak physical condition.

    How Much Do Racehorses Eat?

    The amount of food a racehorse consumes depends on several factors, including its energy needs, training intensity, and feeding regimen. Proper portion control and monitoring are essential to maintain the racehorse’s optimal condition and performance.

    Energy needs play a crucial role in determining the quantity of food required by a racehorse. During intense training, the horse’s energy requirements increase significantly. Therefore, the feeding regimen needs to be adjusted accordingly to ensure that the horse receives sufficient fuel for its activities.

    Training intensity is another influential factor. Horses engaged in rigorous, high-intensity training programs will require more food to sustain their energy levels and support muscle recovery. Proper portion control is vital in such cases to prevent overeating or undernourishment.

    Monitoring food intake is imperative to assess the racehorse’s overall condition and performance. It allows trainers and caretakers to make informed adjustments to the feeding regimen, ensuring that the horse receives optimal nutrition without excess or deficiency.

    How Often Do Racehorses Eat?

    Racehorses typically follow a feeding schedule that includes multiple small meals throughout the day. This frequent feeding pattern accommodates their digestive system and ensures a steady supply of nutrients from hay, grains, and other dietary components.

    By spreading out their meals, racehorses can better digest and absorb the essential nutrients. It regulates their energy levels, which is crucial for their performance. The small, frequent meals also prevent issues such as colic and gastric ulcers.

    This feeding schedule optimizes the utilization of hay and grains, allowing the horses to maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass. It’s not just about the quantity but also the timing and quality of the meals that contribute to the horses’ overall well-being.

    What Nutrients Do Racehorses Need?

    What Nutrients Do Racehorses Need? - What Do Racehorses Eat

    Credits: Horselife.Org – Christopher Miller

    Racehorses require a balanced intake of nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals, to support their training, performance, and overall well-being. Each of these nutrients plays a vital role in sustaining their athletic capabilities and maintaining optimal health.

    Protein is essential for racehorses as it supports muscle development and repair, crucial for their strength and endurance during training and races.

    Carbohydrates serve as the primary energy source, providing the fuel necessary for high-intensity workouts and sustained performance.

    Fats play a significant role in providing a concentrated energy source, especially during endurance events. These nutrients also aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, which are essential for various bodily functions and overall health.

    Moreover, minerals are crucial for bone health, muscle function, and overall metabolic processes, ensuring the racehorses remain in top physical condition for their demanding activities.


    Protein is a crucial component of a racehorse’s diet, supporting muscle development, growth, and overall performance. Nutritional supplements like CAL-PLUS® and BIOTIN are known for their targeted protein support, contributing to the success and well-being of racehorses.

    Racehorses require a well-balanced diet to meet their high energy and performance demands, and protein plays a fundamental role in this aspect. The amino acids derived from dietary protein are essential for maintaining and repairing muscle tissues, crucial for the rigorous demands of racehorse training and competition.

    CAL-PLUS®, a specialized nutritional supplement, provides a concentrated source of high-quality protein, aiding in efficient muscle recovery and promoting overall muscle health. Similarly, BIOTIN, known for its benefits in hoof and coat health, also supports protein synthesis, further contributing to the racehorse’s physical condition and performance.


    Carbohydrates are a primary source of energy for racehorses, with grains like oats and corn serving as essential carbohydrate sources in their diet.

    The efficient utilization of carbohydrates plays a crucial role in meeting the high energy demands of racehorses during their rigorous training and intense performance. Carbohydrates provide the necessary fuel for sustained physical exertion and are particularly important for racehorses due to their high-intensity activities on the tracks. Grains like oats and corn are especially valuable as they offer a rich source of carbohydrates, which are efficiently converted into energy for the equine athletes.


    Dietary fats contribute to the energy requirements of racehorses, supporting endurance, digestion, and overall training efficiency. Proper incorporation of fats in the diet plays a crucial role in optimizing the racehorse’s performance and metabolic balance.

    For racehorses, fats serve as an essential energy source, yielding more than twice the energy as carbohydrates and proteins. This is particularly vital for prolonged physical activities, such as long-distance races, where sustained endurance is essential. The digestion of fats also aids in maintaining a balanced metabolic state for racehorses, which is pivotal for their overall health and well-being.

    Integrating omega-3 fatty acids into the diet can significantly contribute to reducing inflammatory responses and improving cardiovascular function in racehorses, enhancing their training efficiency and recovery. The right balance of fats ensures the proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, which play crucial roles in various physiological processes.

    Vitamins and Minerals

    Vitamins and minerals are essential for the overall performance and growth of racehorses, contributing to various metabolic functions and physiological processes. Proper supplementation of key vitamins and minerals ensures that racehorses maintain peak health and athletic capabilities.

    The presence of adequate levels of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E is crucial for vision, bone development, and immune function in racehorses. Similarly, minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium are integral for bone strength, muscle contraction, and nerve function.

    These nutrients play a fundamental role in energy metabolism, protein synthesis, and cellular repair, directly affecting the stamina and recovery of racehorses. Without adequate levels of vitamins and minerals, racehorses may experience lowered performance, increased susceptibility to injuries, and compromised immune function.

    What Should Racehorses Not Eat?

    Racehorses should avoid consuming sugary treats, moldy or spoiled feed, and foods that are toxic to horses. These items can have adverse effects on their health, digestion, and overall well-being, potentially affecting their performance and vitality.

    Sugary treats can lead to gastrointestinal issues and an imbalance in their energy levels. Moldy or spoiled feed can cause digestive disturbances and may result in serious health complications. Similarly, toxic foods can lead to poisoning, which can have severe consequences on a horse’s well-being and performance.

    Sugary Treats

    Sugary treats should be restricted in a racehorse’s diet to prevent potential health issues and performance-related concerns. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to digestive disturbances and metabolic imbalances, impacting the overall well-being of racehorses.

    When racehorses consume excessive sugar, it can lead to a disruption in their gut flora and the development of conditions like colic and laminitis. This not only affects their physical health but also hampers their performance on the track. High sugar intake can disrupt the insulin response in racehorses, increasing the risk of developing conditions like insulin resistance and equine metabolic syndrome.

    Moldy or Spoiled Feed

    Racehorses should never consume moldy or spoiled feed, as it can pose significant health risks and digestive complications. Proper storage and monitoring of feed quality are essential to safeguard the racehorse’s well-being and nutritional intake.

    Moldy or spoiled feed can lead to various health issues for racehorses, including respiratory problems, gastrointestinal distress, and reduced immunity. Ingesting such feed may result in mold spores entering the horse’s respiratory system, leading to coughing, nasal discharge, and breathing difficulties. Digestive complications can manifest as colic, diarrhea, or ulcers, disrupting the horse’s overall well-being and performance.

    Foods Toxic to Horses

    Racehorses should be kept away from foods that are toxic to horses, as these items can have severe repercussions on their health and overall condition. Awareness of toxic foods and proactive measures to prevent access to such items are crucial for the well-being of racehorses.

    Among the dangerous substances, some plants commonly found in pastures or barn surroundings can pose a significant threat to racehorses. Certain plants like ragwort, buttercups, and yew contain toxic compounds that can cause liver damage, digestive issues, or even be fatal if ingested by horses. Moreover, moldy or spoiled feeds can also be harmful, as they may contain mycotoxins, affecting the horse’s overall health. Grains contaminated with pesticides or herbicides can have detrimental effects.

    How to Create a Balanced Diet for Racehorses?

    How to Create a Balanced Diet for Racehorses? - What Do Racehorses Eat

    Credits: Horselife.Org – Jose Lopez

    Crafting a balanced diet for racehorses requires careful consideration of their nutritional needs, energy requirements, and performance goals. Collaborating with equine nutrition experts and utilizing proven nutritional products like Re-Leve® can contribute to the creation of a diet that optimally supports the racehorse’s well-being and athletic endeavors.

    Considering the nutritional needs of racehorses involves analyzing the essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber necessary for muscle development, energy production, and overall health. Energy requirements vary based on the horse’s activity level, and this should be factored into the diet plan. Performance goals must be aligned with the dietary strategy, aiming to enhance stamina, speed, and recovery post-exercise.

    Strategic collaboration with equine nutrition experts can ensure a comprehensive understanding of the racehorse’s dietary demands. By integrating Re-Leve®, a trusted and research-backed nutritional product, one can optimize the diet to support the horse’s muscle function, digestive health, and immune system, ultimately contributing to peak performance.


    The diet of a racehorse plays a pivotal role in its overall nutrition, energy levels, and performance capabilities. By prioritizing high-quality hay, grains, essential nutrients, and strategic supplementation, a well-crafted diet can contribute to the continued success and well-being of racehorses.

    High-quality hay, such as Timothy or Alfalfa, provides essential fiber, vitamins, and minerals necessary to support digestive health and optimal functioning of the digestive system in racehorses. Incorporating a balanced mix of grains, including oats, barley, and corn, can supply the necessary carbohydrates and proteins for sustained energy levels and muscle development.

    Essential nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals are vital components of a racehorse’s diet that promote muscle strength, endurance, and overall health. Strategic supplementation with specialized products, tailored to meet the individual horse’s needs, ensures that any nutritional gaps are effectively addressed.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What do racehorses eat?

    Racehorses typically have a specialized diet that is high in protein and energy to support their intense training and racing schedule.

    Do racehorses eat grass?

    Yes, racehorses do eat grass as part of their diet. However, it is not their main source of nutrition as they require a higher amount of protein and energy.

    What type of hay do racehorses eat?

    Racehorses usually eat alfalfa hay, which is high in protein and provides them with the necessary nutrients for their performance.

    Do racehorses eat grains?

    Yes, grains are an important part of a racehorse’s diet as they provide them with energy and essential nutrients. Oats, barley, and corn are commonly fed to racehorses.

    Can racehorses eat treats?

    While treats may seem like a fun reward for racehorses, they should be given in moderation and only as part of a healthy diet. Too many treats can lead to weight gain and health issues.

    Do racehorses need supplements?

    Supplements are often used to provide racehorses with additional vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that may be lacking in their diet. However, it is important to consult with a veterinarian before adding any supplements to a horse’s diet.

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