Tips for Feeding a Good Doer
If you're just dipping your toe into the often complex world of horse-keeping, having a "good doer" or "easy keeper" horse will probably sound like a dream. However, there's actually nothing easy about it. A good doer is a horse that maintains or gains weight on minimal amounts food. It's essential that steps are taken to prevent obesity and serious side effects. It can become a nutrition nightmare for even the most experienced owners. If you own a good doer, you'll need to find ways to cut your horse's calories whilst keeping him content. Here we take a look at feed hay, limiting pasture and investing in a Grazing Muzzles.
Feed hay rather than grain
The first step when feeding a good doer should be to remove or reduce concentrate feeds from his diet, selecting hay instead. If your horse is overweight, don't feed him any grain feeds. They may well contain lots of vitamins, minerals and other special ingredients, but these feeds also provide lots of calories, which your good doer does not need. To ensure that they're getting the nutrients they need, you could add a ration balancer or a to their diet.
It is best to change their diets gradually and if in any doubt consult your vet or equine nutritionist.
Limit access to pasture
If you don't control pasture access for your good doer, it can be a disaster in terms of your horse's weight. It can also put him at risk of developing laminitis – a hoof disease which has the potential to be deadly. However, simply limiting the time your horse spends on pasture won't stop him gaining weight. This is because a horse can graze a full day's pasture in just a short time. As a result, sugars and starches are put into his body all at once, which can cause greater problems. Your horse loading up on sugars may increase the risk of insulin resistance problems.
So, the question is, how long should easy keep horses be allowed to graze on the pasture? The right amount of time varies depending on the horse and the pasture. It depends on the grass quality to a great extent. It also makes a difference if a horse is at risk of developing founder (laminitis). Horses that are at risk of developing laminitis shouldn't be allowed out at pasture. It's believed that morning turnout is best for good doer horses as this is when some of the non-structural carbohydrates (e.g., sugars and starches) are minimal in the plants. Sugar content slowly rises through the day. Turn your horse out early in the morning, bringing him in in the afternoon. That way he won’t get as much sugar as a horse that is turned out in the evening.
Invest in a grazing muzzle
Turning your good doer out wearing a grazing muzzle means that he will still be at pasture, engaging in exercise and interacting with the other horses. However, he won't overeat and increase his risk of developing founder. Research has shown that ponies’ intake of forage decreased significantly (by around 83%) when they wore muzzles. Whilst it's true that some muzzled horses are crafty and eat more than you’d think, a grazing muzzle can slow a horse's grass intake effectively. Grazing muzzles usually have a holes in them for a small amount of grass to get through. This allows the horse to still be able to eat and drink water through the muzzle. There are several types of muzzles available on the market, so take your time to find one that works for your horse.