Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-747cfc64b6-zm8ws Total loading time: 0.422 Render date: 2021-06-13T17:32:20.231Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true }

Article contents

Growth, training response and health in Standardbred yearlings fed a forage-only diet

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2012

S. Ringmark
Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
L. Roepstorff
Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
B. Essén-Gustavsson
Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
T. Revold
Department of Companion Animal Clinical Sciences, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Norway
A. Lindholm
Helgestabodarna 163, 193 91 Sigtuna, Sweden
U. Hedenström
National Centre for Trotting Education, Wången, Sweden
M. Rundgren
Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
G. Ögren
Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
E-mail address:
Get access


The aim of this study was to, from a holistic perspective, describe the effects of a forage-only feeding system and a conventional training program on young Standardbred horses and compare data with similar observations from the literature. Sixteen Standardbred colts fed a forage-only diet for 4 months from breaking (August to December) and with the goal to vigorously trot 5 to 7 km at a speed of 5.6 m/s (3 min/km) were studied. The horses were fed grass haylage (56 to 61% dry matter (DM), 2.80 to 3.02 Mcal DE/kg DM and 130 to 152 g CP/kg DM) ad libitum, 1 kg of a lucerne product and minerals. The amount of training and number of training sessions were documented daily, and feed intake and body development were measured once every month. Heart rate (HR) was measured during and after a standardized exercise test in October and December. In December, a postexercise venous blood sample was collected and analyzed for plasma lactate concentration. Muscle biopsies (m. gluteus medius) were taken and analyzed for glycogen and fiber composition. Health was assessed in October and November by an independent veterinarian using a standardized health scoring protocol. BW and height at withers increased from 402 to 453 kg (root mean square error (RMSE) 6) and from 148.7 to 154.1 cm (RMSE 0.7), respectively, and the body condition score was 4.9 (RMSE 0.2) at the end of the study. Muscle glycogen content was 532 mmol/kg dry weight (s.d. 56). There was a significant decrease in postexercise HR (81 v. 73 bpm, RMSE 8), and the individual amount of training was negatively correlated with HR during and after exercise. Health scores were high and similar at both assessments (8.4 and 8.4 (RMSE 1.0) out of 10; P > 0.05), and the number of lost training days per month due to health problems was <0.9, with the exception of November (5.3 days). It is concluded that yearlings in training fed high-energy forage ad libitum can reach a conventional training goal and grow at least as well as earlier observations on yearlings of other light breeds.

Copyright © The Animal Consortium 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


Bigot, G, Trillaud-Geyl, C, Jussiaux, M, Martin-Rosset, W 1987. Elevage du cheval de selle du sevrage au débourrage: alimentation hivernale, croissance et développement. Bull Tech CRCV Theix, INRA 69, 4553.Google Scholar
Connysson, M, Muhonen, S, Lindberg, JE, Essen-Gustavsson, B, Nyman, G, Nostell, K, Jansson, A 2006. Effects on exercise response, fluid and acid-base balance of protein intake from forage-only diets in Standardbred horses. Equine Veterinary Journal 38, 648653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cymbaluk, NF, Christison, GI, Leach, DH 1989. Energy uptake and utilization by limit-fed and ad libitum-fed growing horses. Journal of Animal Science 67, 403413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Darenius, A, Philipsson, J, Fredricson, I, Thafvelin, B, Bergsten, G, Rådberg, L, Elowson-Anda, E 1983. Kvalitetesbedömning av unga ridhästars hälsotillstånd, exteriör och ridegenskaper. Svensk Veterinärtidning 35, 4248.Google Scholar
Dionne, RM, Vrins, A, Doucet, MY, Pare, J 2003. Gastric ulcers in standardbred racehorses: prevalence, lesion description, and risk factors. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 17, 218222.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dyson, PK, Jackson, BF, Pfeiffer, DU, Price, JS 2008. Days lost from training by two- and three-year-old Thoroughbred horses: a survey of seven UK training yards. Equine Veterinary Journal 40, 650657.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Essen-Gustavsson, B, Connysson, M, Jansson, A 2010. Effects of crude protein intake from forage-only diets on muscle amino acids and glycogen levels in horses in training. Equine Veterinary Journal 42, 341346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Essen-Gustavsson, B, Lindholm, A, McMiken, D, Persson, SGB, Thornton, J 1983. Skeletal muscle characteristics of young Standardbreds in relation to growth and early training. In Equine exercise physiology. Proceedings of the 1st international conference (ed. DH Snow, SGB Persson and RJ Rose), pp. 200–210. Burlington Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
Gallagher, K, Leech, J, Stowe, H 1992. Protein, energy and dry-matter consumption by racing standardbreds – a field survey. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 12, 382388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glade, MJ, Belling, TH 1984. Growth plate cartilage metabolism, morphology and biochemical-composition in overfed and underfed horses. Growth 48, 473482.Google ScholarPubMed
Henneke, DR, Potter, GD, Kreider, JL, Yeates, BF 1983. Relationship between condition score, physical measurements and body-fat percentage in mares. Equine Veterinary Journal 15, 371372.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Isgren, CM, Upjohn, MM, Fernandez-Fuente, M, Massey, C, Pollott, G, Verheyen, KLP, Piercy, RJ 2010. Epidemiology of exertional rhabdomyolysis susceptibility in Standardbred horses reveals associated risk factors and underlying enhanced performance. PLoS One 5, e11594.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jansson, A, Lindberg, J 2012. A forage-only diet alters the metabolic response of horses in training. Animal 6, 19391946.Google Scholar
Jansson, A, Nyman, S, Lindholm, A, Lindberg, JE 2002. Effects on exercise metabolism of varying dietary starch and sugar proportions. Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement 34, 1721.Google ScholarPubMed
Kane, RA, Fisher, M, Parret, D, Lawrence, LM 1987. Estimating fatness in horses. Proceedings of the 10th Equine Nutrition and Physiology Symposium, June 11–13, 1987, Fort Collins, Colorado, pp. 127–131.Google Scholar
Kearns, CF, McKeever, KH, Kumagai, K, Abe, T 2002. Fat-free mass is related to one-mile race performance in elite standardbred horses. Veterinary Journal 163, 260266.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Knight, PK, Sinha, AK, Rose, RJ 1991. Effects of training intensity on maximum oxygen uptake. In Equine exercise physiology (ed. S Persson, A Lindholm and L Jeffcoff), pp. 7782. ICEEP Publications, Davis, California.Google Scholar
Leleu, C, Cotrel, C 2006. Body composition in young Standardbreds in training: relationships to body condition score, physiological and locomotor variables during exercise. Equine Veterinary Journal 38, 98101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lindholm, A, Piehl, K 1974. Fiber composition, enzyme-activity and concentrations of metabolites and electrolytes in muscles of standard-bred horses. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 15, 287309.Google Scholar
Lowry, OH, Passonneau, JV 1973. A flexible system of enzymatic analysis. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
Luthersson, N, Nielsen, KH, Harris, P, Parkin, TDH 2009. Risk factors associated with equine gastric ulceration syndrome (EGUS) in 201 horses in Denmark. Equine Veterinary Journal 41, 625630.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
MacLeay, JM, Valberg, SJ, Pagan, JD, Xue, JLL, De la Corte, FD, Roberts, J 2000. Effect of ration and exercise on plasma creatine kinase activity and lactate concentration in Thoroughbred horses with recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis. American Journal of Veterinary Research 61, 13901395.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Martin-Rosset, W, Vernet, J, Dubroeucq, H, Arnaud, G, Picard, A, Vermorel, M 2008. Variation of fatness and energy content of the body with body conditon score in sport horses and its prediction. In Proceedings of the 4th European Workshop on Equine Nutrition, July 23–25, Forssa, Finland (ed. MT Saastamoinen and W Martin-Rosset). EAAP Publication No 125, Wageningen Academic Publishers, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
Murray, MJ, Schusser, GF, Pipers, FS, Gross, SJ 1996. Factors associated with gastric lesions in Thoroughbred racehorses. Equine Veterinary Journal 28, 368374.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
NRC – NAoS/NRC (National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council) 1978. Nutrient requirements of domestic animals. 6. Nutrient requirements of horses. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
Redbo, I, Redbo-Torstensson, P, Odberg, FO, Hedendahl, A, Holm, J 1998. Factors affecting behavioural disturbances in race-horses. Animal Science 66, 475481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roneus, N, Essen-Gustavsson, B, Johnston, C, Drevemo, S, Persson, S 1995. Lactate response to maximal exercise on the track: relation to muscle characteristics and kinematic variables. Equine Veterinary Journal 27, 191194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sandgren, B, Dalin, G, Carlsten, J, Lundeheim, N 1993. Development of osteochondrosis in the tarsocrural joint and osteochondral fragments in the fetlock joints of Standardbred trotters. II. Body measurements and clinical findings. Equine Veterinary Journal 25 (suppl. 16), 4853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thompson, KN 1995. Skeletal growth-rates of weanling and yearling thoroughbred horses. Journal of Animal Science 73, 25132517.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tinker, MK, White, NA, Lessard, P, Thatcher, CD, Pelzer, KD, Davis, B, Carmel, DK 1997. Prospective study of equine colic risk factors. Equine Veterinary Journal 29, 454458.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Traub-Dargatz, JL, Kopral, CA, Seitzinger, AH, Garber, LP, Forde, K, White, NA 2001. Estimate of the national incidence of and operation-level risk factors for colic among horses in the United States, spring 1998 to spring 1999. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 219, 6771.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Trillaud-Geyl, C, Bigot, G, Jurquet, V, Bayle, M, Arnaud, G, Dubroeucq, H, Jussiaux, M, Martin-Rosset, W 1992. Influence du niveau de croissance pondérale sur le développement squelettique du cheval de selle. In Proceeding 18e Journée Recherche Equine, March 4, pp. 162–168.Google Scholar
Valberg, S 1998. Exertional rhabdomyolysis in the horse. Australian Equine Veterinarian 16, 1820.Google Scholar
Valette, JR, Robert, C, Denoix, JM 2008. Use of linear and non-linear functions to describe the growth of young sport- and race-horses born in Normandy. Animal 2, 560565.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wallin, L, Strandberg, E, Philipsson, J 2001. Phenotypic relationship between test results of Swedish Warmblood horses as 4-year-olds and longevity. Livestock Production Science 68, 97105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Westervelt, RG, Stouffer, JR, Hintz, HF, Schryver, HF 1976. Estimating fatness in horses and ponies. Journal of Animal Science 43, 781785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vigre, H, Chriel, M, Hesselholt, M, Falk-Ronne, J, Ersboll, AK 2002. Risk factors for the hazard of lameness in Danish Standardbred trotters. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 56, 105117.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Growth, training response and health in Standardbred yearlings fed a forage-only diet
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Growth, training response and health in Standardbred yearlings fed a forage-only diet
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Growth, training response and health in Standardbred yearlings fed a forage-only diet
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *