Winter weight loss - FOR THE GOOD of your overweight pony or horse
The British Equestrian Veterinary Association's (BEVA) ethics and welfare committee reported earlier this year that approximately 1/2 of all UK horses are overweight. Further research from The Royal Veterinary College states as many as 70% of native breeds are obese.
Horses have evolved to lose weight in the winter, but modern horse care practices can lead to halting this natural regulation, with horses then entering the spring months carrying more weight than they should.
Do we hinder winter weight loss?
- Over rugging those who are unclipped
- Over feeding high calorie high sugar and high starch diets
- Not recognising a healthy weight for our horses
- Not keeping regular records of general weight gain/loss via weigh taping or condition scoring
- Improved winter grazing
- Lack of exercise
Overweight ponies and horses are more prone to developing conditions such as Laminitis, but with a winter weight loss programme in place we could help combat the obesity epidemic head on, without compromising the daily vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need in their diet.
What can we do to be proactive now?
- Be careful not to over rug unclipped ponies and horses, allowing them to burn calories to keep warm
- Feed little and often, choosing a low calorie, low sugar and low starch balancer alongside their high fibre diet
- Weight tape on a regular basis to record your horses general weight trend, as seeing daily changes can be tricky. Feel confident that your overweight pony or horse can afford to lose weight over the winter, it will do them good
- Beware of winter grass growth, grass will continue to grow above 4 degrees
- On a mild day horses may ingest more sugar than you realise
- Keep a low sugar forage as the base of the diet, 30% of the hay ration can be supplemented by straw, when introduced gradually
- Avoid too many treats such as apples and carrots and choose low sugar fibre based options instead
- Limit winter grazing (to 4 hours per day) and feed low sugar forage during time stabled
- Try to exercise your pony/horse as much as possible. Even if you can't ride a brisk walk in hand can help
Good Luck with your winter weight loss programme, supported by a low calorie diet balancer such as Blue Chip Lami Light, ensuring your dieting pony or horse is well supported in their health by feeding the correct levels of daily vitamins, minerals and nutrients, supported further by digestive aids to maintain a healthy, well functioning digestive system.
Happy horses, happy us!