8 Tips to achieve weight loss
Investigations performed in the UK have indicated that around half of the equine population are overweight. Below we summarise some tips on ways to achieve weight loss in your horse.
1. Get a handle on the situation and then make a plan - Get some baseline information on your current situation. Weigh everything you are feeding your horse including hard feed and forage. Weigh you horse. Decide on a target weight for you horse and then plan how you are going to achieve it.
2. Seek professional help. Do not be afraid to discuss your horse's weight with your veterinary surgeon. They may even suggest you test the horse to identify whether the horse is insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is a contributing factor in Equine Metabolic Syndrome (a disease similar to type II diabetes in humans and for affected horses they are at an increased risk of laminitis.
Most of the well known horse feed companies have dedicated feed helplines with experienced equine nutritionists who will be happy to devise a diet to suit your horse (although remember they have a vested interest in what they are trying to sell you).
3. Monitor weight and body condition score regularly. While a weigh bridge is the most accurate means of measuring a horse's body weight a weight tape is the next best thing. Click here to buy a weight tape.
4. Remove high calorie feedstuff eg avoid cereals, molasses and oil.
5. Hay - Weigh the dry hay with scales to ensure that it fits in with your plan. It is worth analysing your hay - aim to feed hay with less than 10% NSC (non-structural carbohydrates - or 'sugars') - NB many UK hays are greater than this. Soaking the hay for greater than 3 hours will reduce the sugar content of the hay. It will also leach out vitamins and minerals, so if you are only feeding well soaked hay there is some value in adding a broad spectrum vitamin/mineral supplement. As a rule of thumb you want to aim to gradually reduce the daily dry matter forage intake to approximately 1.5% of the horse's target bodyweight. Use small hole hay nets or put one hay net inside another so it takes longer for the horse to pull his forage out. To purchase hay scales click here..
6. Restrict calorie intake during grazing - Consider using grazing muzzles, strip grazing, or turn out in a ménage. Use other horses or animals to graze down pasture prior to turning out your dieting horse. Avoid grazing at high-risk times of the day and year. Turn the horse out to pasture when fructan levels are likely to be at the lowest, such as late at night to early morning - removing them from the pasture by mid morning. Try to avoid grazing pastures exposed to low temperatures (frosts), or pastures that have been stressed through drought. Try to maintain a young, leafy sward as mature stemmy grasses contain higher levels of stored fructans.
7. Exercise - gradually build up the duration and intensity of the work your horse does each day. Hill work, lunging and horse workers can be utilised.
8. Consider buying 'Weight Control' a new feed from Equine Veterinary Feeds. This unique product is only available through vets and helps to control your horse's weight by means of a calorie controlled diet without comporising. For more information or to purchase this product see our shopping page.