10 Tips for Weight Reduction in the Overweight Horse
As a horse owner, you play an important role in controlling your equine companion’s weight. Sound nutrition management, a regular exercise program and veterinary care are key to keeping your horse fit and healthy. Maintaining the ideal weight is not always easy and changes must occur gradually. Metabolic conditions can contribute to obesity and these may need to be ruled out with a blood test. If a metabolic disease is affecting your horses weight additional management strategies or medications may be necessary to achieve a healthy weight.
Follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to get you started:
Be patient. Weight reduction should be a slow, steady process so not to stress the horse or create metabolic upsets.
Make changes in both the type and amount of feed gradually. Reduce rations by no more than 10% over a 7- to 10-day period.
Track your horse’s progress by using a weight tape. When the horse’s weight plateaus, gradually cut back its ration again.
Step up the horse’s exercise regimen. Gradually build time and intensity as the horse's fitness improves.
Provide plenty of clean, fresh water so the horse’s digestive and other systems function as efficiently as possible and rid the body of metabolic and other wastes.
Select feeds that provide plenty of high quality fiber but are low in total energy. Measure feeds by weight rather than by volume to determine appropriate rations.
Select feeds that are lower in fat since fat is an energy-dense nutrient source.
Switch or reduce the amount of alfalfa hay feed. Replace with a mature grass or oat hay to reduce caloric intake.
Feed separate from other horses so the overweight horse doesn't have a chance to eat his portion and his neighbor's too. In extreme cases of obesity, caloric intake may also need to be controlled by limiting pasture intake.
Balance the horse’s diet based on age and activity level. Make sure the horse’s vitamin, mineral and protein requirements continue to be met.
Once your horse has reached its ideal body condition, maintaining the proper weight is a gentle balancing act. You will probably need to readjust your horse’s ration to stabilize its weight throughout the seasons. Exercise will continue to be a key component in keeping the horse fit. Because obesity can affect a horse's overall health, schedule regular check-ups, especially during the weight reduction process.
There are many different feeding regiments and feed types available. Use of grazing muzzles, hay nets and other limiters can allow you to provide access to forage at a low level throughout the day thereby limiting digestive issues. Purina mills has a very educational website where the publish research on their diets and can help you build a balanced diet. This resource can be found at www.purinamills.com
If your horse is overweight, start now to get them back on a healthy track. Schedule an appointment with our doctors for weight and metabolic analysis and a nutritional consultation, 330.410.4899
3578 Hamlin Rd. Medina, OH 44256 | 330.410.4899