Reduced Workloads for Thoroughbreds

Reduced Workloads for Thoroughbreds with Nicole Groyer, Nutritionist at Connolly’s Red Mills


Adjusting your feed options will depend on each individual circumstance. You may be adjusting the amount of hard feed your horse receives because of a reduced workload, your horse requires a lower energy ration or you have acquired a thoroughbred straight out of training and you are adjusting to new feeding practices.


Maintaining Fitness

A short break from exercise will have minimal impact on overall fitness. However, limited exercise over a longer period will reduce both cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. This will mean that a longer period of reconditioning is needed once the horse returns to work. To preserve the strength and suppleness of the musculoskeletal tissues exercise at least three times a week is recommended. However, depending on your horse’s current fitness, higher levels of work may be required to maintain cardiovascular fitness.

Photo by Edward Whitaker




Adjusting Hard Feed

If you decide to reduce your horse’s workload you will need to adjust their calorie intake, and reduce their feed accordingly.

In the case that you reduce your hard feed and find you are feeding less than the recommended intake, you can top-dress the diet with a nutrient-dense balancer such as Connolly’s RED MILLS PerformaCare Balancer to ensure your horse is receiving its micronutrient requirements.

For poorer doers, reduced workload or living out provides the challenge of how to supply “calories” without supplying excessive energy intake. Choosing a low starch feed that contains oil is recommended. Connolly’s RED MILLS Define & Shine is a high calorie conditioning top dress pellet which is specifically formulated to support weight gain whilst keeping meal size small. The high levels of omega-3 rich oils increase the calorie density of meals while also supporting coat condition and overall well-being.

After heavy sweating or strenuous work, continue to supplement with electrolytes as appropriate.




During periods of reduced exercise, maintaining an even temperament can be challenging, particularly if the horse is already fit and used to daily work. To avoid excessive excitability, if not already doing so, consider switching a diet that is lower in starch and instead uses digestible fibres and oil as alternative energy sources. Fibre is a source of ‘slow-release’ energy, fermented gradually in the horse’s hindgut and so the energy is released over a long period of time.

Horse Care Ultra Cubes it is cereal grain free, ultra-low in starch and contain highly digestible fibres and oils, therefore making it an ideal feed for your racehorse in retraining who needs a non-heating feed. Horse Care Ultra Cubes also contains the added benefits of our unique RED MILLS Nutrition Care package.

The inclusion of a calmer in the diet may also be warranted for highly-strung individuals and those that become excitable with a reduced workload. While there is an abundance of calmers available on the market ranging from those containing herbal blends to the more commonly formulated B-vitamin, magnesium and L-Tryptophan combinations, it is an exercise in finding one which works best for the individual in question.

Foran Equine Nutri-Calm Gel and Syrup contains B-vitamins, which play an important role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, magnesium for muscle relaxation, regulating cardiac rhythm and nerve signaling and L-Tryptophan an essential amino acid and the precursor to serotonin. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, is commonly referred to as the ‘happy hormone’. It is associated with the inhibition of fear or stress and plays a vital role in tempering anxiety and nervous tension.


Digestive Health

If your horse will be spending more time in his stable it’s important that you keep him occupied and his digestive system healthy by feeding plenty of forage. As trickle feeders, good levels of dietary fibre are essential for maintaining digestive health – In the wild horses will graze up to 18 hours a day. Ideally forage should be provided ad lib but if this isn’t possible intake should not be restricted to less than 1.5% of bodyweight per day (7.5kg for a 500kg horse).

The horse’s gut is naturally stimulated by movement, so if exercise is reduced and they are spending more time in their stable the risk of digestive issues increases. Lack of forage in the diet can lead to multiple issues including gastric ulcers, colic, loose droppings and stereotypic behaviours. Understanding the nutritional value and role of forage in the horse’s diet will help you make the best choice for your horse.

Keeping concentrate meals small and frequent, offering plenty of clean forage, and limiting starch intake can help to reduce acid build up and support gastric health. Our Care Range feeds are formulated to be low in starch and high in digestible oils and fibres to support gut health. The Care Package also includes a natural gastric acid buffer, prebiotics, and probiotics to support digestive function. If your horse is especially prone to digestive issues, then adding a digestive health supplement such as Foran Equine Nutri-Guard Extra to their ration can be beneficial especially at time of stress or when their diet or management is changing.


It is important to remember that any changes to your horse’s diet should be introduced gradually. Sudden changes can disrupt the delicate balance of microbes in the digestive system and potentially lead to problems such as colic. Whether you are making changes to your horse’s hard feed or introducing them to a new pasture, ideally these changes should be made slowly over a period of 4-7 days.

Whatever your situation, our team of nutritionists are on hand to offer helpful, practical advice; Get in Touch with our Team of Experts.


Nicole Groyer

Nicole is an Animal Science Equine graduate from University College Dublin. She joined Connolly’s RED MILLS Nutrition team in 2018 and has been a key member providing technical support across Ireland, Europe, and the Middle East.

Having worked in all areas of the equine industry, Nicole has an extensive understanding of performance horse nutrition, as well as the challenges owners, breeders, and trainers, may face. She has worked closely with sport horse stables, stud farms, and trainers supporting customers with nutrition advice, forage analysis, and diet planning.

Nicole has her own ex racehorse, Vartano, who she retrained, so combines her technical knowledge with a passion for retraining racehorses to help support horses and riders in their retraining journey.


Photo by Laurence Dunne


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