Equine Obesity – Why is Your Horse Gaining Weight?
It is important that your horse maintains a healthy weight throughout the year. If you are finding that your horse is gaining weight, then you must establish why, and the precise reason may not be immediately obvious. Here are the most common errors which lead to weight gain.
As with people, horses will gain weight if they consume more calories than they burn off. You might be measuring your horse’s feed with care to provide the right amount for your horse’s weight, but the rate at which they burn off those calories will also be dictated by how hard they are working. You need to adjust your feeding regime to suit your horse’s level of activity.
What breed is your horse? Native breeds are generally good doers which have digestive systems evolved to make the most of poor quality forage. They require a lower calorie intake as a result but must ingest plenty of fibre for their gastric health. Your horse’s weight issue could mean that their grazing should be accompanied by only a small quantity of low calorie fibre feed. They will also require a vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that they receive the nutrients that they need.
The Changing Seasons
Grass is sparser and of poorer quality in the winter and so if you maintain the same feeding regime throughout the year your horse may well gain too much weight during the summer months. You must monitor your horse’s condition carefully and then adjust your horse’s diet seasonally as the amount of hard feed that they need will fluctuate.
You must establish the right amount of food to give your horse and that will depend on their weight so it is vital that you know what their weight is. It could be that you have overestimated their weight and are simply providing too much hay and hard feed. Once your horse’s weight has been established you should weigh their hay and hard feed accurately. Do bear in mind that the number of calories in hard feeds varies from brand to brand. Reduced rations may mean that you need to find ways to slow down the rate at which they can consume the food.
Grass and Hay
Grass can contain a lot of calories. If the grass your horse is eating is especially rich, then you might need to reduce their hard feed accordingly. The nutritional value of hay also varies. You could try soaking the hay to reduce the level of energy it provides.
Some horses are prone to gaining weight and so their diet requires careful management. Any changes to their diet should be introduced gradually. You must not attempt to put your horse on a crash diet. They must have continuous access to forage in order to maintain a healthy digestive system so it is the nature of that forage and the speed at which it is eaten that you must address.