As winter is approaching, the grass was in abundance, but this isn’t always a good thing for some horses and ponies. With obesity rates to be high as 70% in ponies, it’s weight loss rather than weight gain that’s needed to keep most of our horses healthy and this means cutting back on the availability of grass to them.
Here are 10 tips to help take control of your horse’s weight:
- Use winter wisely every year and allow your horse to lose weight naturally. Being able to see your horse’s ribs is healthy as you enter spring and will give some scope for natural weight gain when the grass starts to grow.
- Restrict grazing because grass in its growing stages is highly calorific.
- Assess faecal output daily to check for changes in pasture intake when you have restricted the grazing. The latest research suggests you need to see a decrease of around half to result in weight loss if the horse previously had unrestricted access to pasture.
- allow your horse to naturally shake off a few pounds by keeping warm and without using a drying rug, as nature intended.
- Feed alternative forage to horses and ponies at very high risk of laminitis. Feed a suitable forgae/short chopped fibre.
- Invest in forage analysis to make sure you know the nutrient and WSC content of the hay you plan to use for your weight loss programme.
- Weigh forage before feeding having first discussed with your vet the appropriate percentage bodyweight rations your horse needs to promote weight loss.
- Increase exercise to a minimum of 25 minutes (15 minutes at brisk trot) five times a week to help keep your horse’s waistline in check and support a healthy metabolism.
- Provide nutritional support to ensure your horse has a balanced diet. The latest research recommends that a low calorie, protein, vitamin and mineral balancer should always be included in the diet of horses on restricted forage.
- Monitor your horse’s weight by regularly reviewing your weight loss programme with your vet. Use a weighbridge for accuracy and then assess and record weight weekly using body condition scoring and a weigh tape.
Extracted from: Horse & Hound. 10 tips to help you take control of your horse’s weight. 2 July, 2019. https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/features/obese-horse-tips-690687