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Feeding Horses for Sales Preparation

Nutrition has an important role in sales preparation for all horses.  If you want to maximize the value of the horse, it is essential to have the horse looking its best at sale time.

There are a number of key elements including the following:

  • Size and body condition – Young horses being prepped for sale should be on a smooth growth curve to avoid growth spurts and to reach optimum height at sale time.  Size for appropriate age is a plus for most disciplines.  The sale horse should normally have a body condition score at 5 or slightly higher.
  • Muscle, not fat – The modern sale ring rewards horses that have well developed muscles rather than just being fat.  Thin is not good, but obese is not desired. 
  • Hair coat – Slick and shiny is always good.  This will require a combination of grooming, health care and nutrition.
  • Hoof quality – High quality feet with no growth or fever rings are essential.

Sale preparation is an ongoing process for young horses.  If they are weaned properly and maintained at a Body Condition Score of about 5, there will not be as much pressure for a sudden feeding change when they are being prepared for a sale. Solid sale preparation takes a minimum of 90 to 120 days of exercise, proper nutrition and grooming. 

Having a quality feed program is essential to have horses looking and feeling thier best. Here are a few keys to developing the optimum program:

  • Have a good quality forage or pasture available to help develop body condition. 
  • A grain product should contain added vegetable oil to provide a safe energy source as well as to help hair coat.
    • Depending on the forage, a 12 or 14% protein feed that is fortified with amino acids (lysine, methionine, threonine) to develop muscle mass should be used. 
    • The feed should contain balanced macro minerals and trace minerals to support bone remodeling and develop bone strength. 
    • The feed should also contain added vitamins A, D, E and Biotin for proper metabolism as well as hair coat and hoof quality. 
  • Fresh clean water and free choice salt should also be available.

Feeding rate will depend on current body condition, desired body condition at the time of the sale, and the amount of exercise that the horse will be getting.  If the sale is in 90 days and the horse needs to gain 90 lbs, the horse needs to be fed for maintenance, work and weight gain.  Weight gain of 1 pound per day will require an additional 3+ pounds of feed per day in addition to maintenance and work.  No more than 0.5% BW in feed should be given at any meal and meals should be spaced at equal intervals.