Horse feed specialists Dodson & Horrell advise how best to feed your good doer.
Horses and ponies have adapted to break down and absorb as much nutrition from their diet as possible.
Their natural diet can be fairly indigestible and lacking nutritional value and it's because of this that horses will naturally graze for over 70% of the day.
Why do horses gain weight
As we demand more activity from our domestic horses, we provide appropriate support in both calorific and nutritional terms.
The problem arises when the amount of calories we give our horses is out of balance when compared to their needs.
If we over-provide our horses with food then weight gain is commonly seen.
Being even slightly overweight can be a major cause of poor performance in horses; for every extra 10kg of weight your horse has to work 3.3% harder.
This places extra stress on their heart, lungs and joints so can have long-term consequences for your horse’s health.
How to help your horse lose weight
The most effective way to encourage weight loss is regular exercise, but there are also steps that we can take to help control and restrict calorie intake, while still providing all the micronutrients required on a daily basis.
The fibre side of the diet should be the first aspect to adjust.
The natural temptation as horse owners is usually to cut back on the volume being offered, which can cause digestive issues.
Instead, make sure that at least 1.5% of bodyweight is being provided in fibre (as dry matter) per day.
It's usually preferable to reduce the calorie content of your hay or haylage rather than to reduce the quantity of it.
Going for a forage that has a lower digestible energy value will reduce the amount of calories that are ingested; either switch to a lower calorie haylage or soak hay in water for a minimum of two hours to reduce the natural sugars contained within it.
We can also reduce the speed your horse eats by double netting or making piles around the field to help encourage activity.
Ensure your horse is still getting the micro-nutrients they need by feeding a high specification balancer.
Check your horse's weight
Regular checks in body condition score and weigh taping will help you to evaluate whether you efforts are paying off.
Keeping a diary of condition scores and re-assessing every few weeks will help you to judge whether you are seeing a difference, which can be especially hard to achieve if you see your horse or pony on a day-to-day basis.
If you're able to take monthly photos and keep a record of these, flicking through them and looking at changes will help you to monitor progression and keep you on the right track.
How to body condition score your horse
Remember specialist advice is always on hand from the Dodson & Horrell Nutritional Team
Helpline: 0845 345 2627