Dressage and Event Horse Nutrition Survey: What Supplements Do You Feed Your Sport Horses? British Researchers Begin Study with Online Survey

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What do you add to your sport horse's feed? We all tend to peek over each other's shoulders--or, in my case, poke around other people's feed rooms--to get some insight into what our friends and competitors may be feeding their horses. There's no question that virtually all competitors do add things to their horses' feed buckets, and our friends at SmartPak are often generous in sharing what their most popular supplements are. And why.

Horsemen have always been intrigued by what their competitors might or might not be feeding their horses. A new survey of dressage and eventing horse owners might shed a little light on the subject. ©This is a favorite old Herring print from the mid-1800s.

Horsemen have always been intrigued by what their competitors might or might not be feeding their horses. A new survey of dressage and eventing horse owners might shed a little light on the subject. ©This is a favorite old Herring print from the mid-1800s.

There are supplements that claim to calm the fizzy ones, grow hooves on the weak-footed ones, stimulate the immune systems of the allergic ones, lubricate joints and protect the tender stomach linings of all.

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A research team at Britain's The University of Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science is appealing for horse riders and owners to take part in a unique new study into equine nutritional supplements. I'll look forward to reporting the results on this study!

The research will focus on nutritional supplements for horses competing in dressage and eventing and will aim to discover what supplements are currently used, what riders and owners would like to see available and the best ways of passing on information about them.

The researchers hope to improve understanding of the key health and performance issues in these disciplines and how nutritional supplementation could be improved to support this.

Dr Sarah Freeman, Associate Professor and European Specialist in Large Animal Surgery at the university, is supervising the study. She said: "Nutritional supplements are commonly used for health and performance in horses and there are a large range of them available on the market. Despite their widespread use, there is little information available about which supplements are used and why.

"Research in human athletes has helped to understand what type of supplements athletes want and the best ways of passing on information and advice. However, this is the first time that this type of research has been done in horses."

The study is being undertaken by two third-year veterinary students, Charlotte Agar and Rachael Gemmill, in collaboration with Dr Teresa Hollands at Dodson & Horrell Limited, a leading manufacturer of horse feeds, including nutritional supplements.

Riders and owners are being asked to fill in an online survey available at

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NutritionalSupplementation

The researchers will then follow up with selected volunteers who will be interviewed to explore some of the issues in greater depth.

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Teresa Hollands, BSc(Hons) MSc(Nutrition)?PhD R.Nutr,?nutritionist at Dodson & Horrell and a specialist lecturer in animal nutrition at Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: "Nutritional guidelines for horses are designed to support a healthy gut, to decrease chronic disease risk and improve overall performance. However as the research with human athletes has shown, there is often a discrepancy between awareness, understanding and use of food and supplements.

"With the Olympics on the horizon this research is particularly timely; not only do we want to use the results to support our elite horses but also to provide an information legacy for all horse owners and riders."

About the vet school: The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at The University of Nottingham is the first new vet school to be established in the UK for more than 50 years, having taken its first intake of students in September 2006.?In July, the school celebrated its first year of graduating veterinary surgeons and has established a reputation for outstanding success in veterinary education and research, demonstrating strengths in areas including evidence-based medicine and knowledge transfer.

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