Bigger is seen as better in the horse show ring, but overfeeding brings health problems
Now that the showing season is in full swing horse owners across the country are going to great lengths to get their animals in peak condition, but at what cost?
Scientific evidence over the years has shown that when young horses are being prepared for the show ring there is a tendency to maximise feed, particularly protein, to create rapid growth and to maximise size.
This is far from ideal, but show horse owners and producers so often feel compelled to have their animal looking bigger and better than everyone else's, even if it means having a yearling looking more like a two-year-old, and a two-year-old looking more like a three-year-old.
The general consensus is that show horses need to display musculature and appropriate flesh to win classes, and sale horses need to stand out in the crowd to bring in the money.
Smaller animals with excellent conformation are often overlooked in favour of larger animals with fewer attributes.
What people fail to realise is that optimal growth would be far more beneficial to the long-term prospect of the horse, as it will still reach its genetically determined size regardless.
Overdoing the amount of feed - particularly if it is unbalanced in the ratio of fat, carbohydrates and protein - will have detrimental effects on the physiology of the horse.
High-energy diets without the full nutrient support may result in horses gaining weight faster, but the risk is that the bones are not developing at the same rate and so result in bone developmental problems that will affect the usefulness of the horse.