Knowing where to start with your horse’s weight loss plan can be daunting, but with these tips and tricks we can hopefully give you the helping hand you need to kick start your horse’s weight loss journey.
Rugging: If your horse is at an unhealthy weight, don’t keep them unnecessarily rugged, as they can use up calories to keep warm!
As we move into the warmer months of spring, consider the type of rug you are using or whether a rug is needed at all. A rug used in warm conditions can trap a lot of heat, causing your horse to sweat and make them uncomfortable.
Weigh your forage: Most horses can maintain their weight by eating 2-2.5% of their bodyweight in forage per day (24 hours). For weight loss this can be reduced to 1.5% (never below this figure, unless under vet supervision). Nina had found this reduction in forage a challenging aspect to Dancer weight loss journey, as Dancer commonly munches through her hay at a speedy rate! To help tackle this, Nina has split Dancers nets up, so she has some hay when she first comes into her stable and a second net later in the evening to last her overnight.
Have you ever considered feeding 50% hay and 50% straw? This can be another great option to reduce calories without having to drastically restrict the amount your horse is eating. However, if you choose to follow this weight loss method, make these changes gradually and make sure your horse’s teeth are in good shape before introducing straw as it does take more chewing - this will also reduce the risk of colic.
Restrict grazing: Grass is a big contributor of calories in your horse’s diet and as we move into spring, this should be something we are all thinking about. Consider restricting your horse’s grazing by using electric fencing to strip graze, setting up an alternative grazing system for example - a track system, or by using a grazing muzzle.
Get your horse moving: Create a diverse and regular exercise plan, increasing duration and intensity slowly. By adding variety to your exercise plan, you will keep things fun and interesting, both for you and your horse. If time isn’t always on your side, have you considered buddying up with a friend or someone on your yard? This can help you share the responsibility, but also provide a support mechanism giving you that extra motivation to keep working towards your goal.
Use enrichment: Enrichment helps to reduce how quickly your horse eats their food, while making feeding interesting. For example, consider using trickle feeders or hay balls. As a bonus, this will also provide some additional movement for your horse.
Monitor their weight: When you see your horse everyday it can be difficult to spot whether they are losing weight or not. By using a weigh tape, taking photos and getting hands-on by fat scoring every 2 weeks, this will help you monitor their weight and react to any changes.
Hear from Nina on some of the weight loss methods she has already tried with Dancer and watch out for our next blog to see how successful these have been, as we head back for a second weigh in and fat scoring session!