We all want to do the best by our horses, but modern management practices aren’t always helpful when you strive to make your horse #fitnotfat. It can be a difficult balance for many horse owners to meet their horse’s mental, physical and dietary needs, as well as keep an eye on their horse’s waistline.

There are two lifestyle areas — physical and mental wellbeing, and diet — that you can reassess to improve your horse’s quality of life.

Physical and mental wellbeing

1. As much turnout as possible

Getting him out and moving will benefit your horse mentally and physically, but access to too much grazing can cause his waistline to expand. Grass intake needs to be regulated by type of field, size of field, number of horses grazing and use of grazing muzzles.

When turnout is not possible, alternative access to outdoor space and equine company is important.

2. Turnout with other horses

Interaction between horses increases the amount they move when turned out.

3. Use a track system

Any field can be adapted to encourage greater movement. There are some fabulous guides to this available. Track system expert Dr Tamzin Furtado recommends this online article about grazing systems, the book Paddock Paradise by Jaime Jackson, and the Facebook group Track Systems UK.

4. Ride as frequently as you can

Consider sharing your horse if you struggle to find the time yourself.

5. Vary the type of exercise

Adding variety can stop you and your horse from getting bored. Try schooling, jumping, hacking, and in-hand.

6. Vary the terrain

This can also make him work harder. Use your arena, but also work him on grass and roads, incorporate hill work and, if possible, in water.

7. Avoid rugging or use the lightest rug possible

This will encourage movement and your horse will expend excess calories to keep himself warm.

8. Toys and feeders

Safe toys and trickle-feeders, such as treat balls, can be used to increase movement and create mental stimulation in order to access food.

9. Forage feeding

Where there is a need to supplement the diet with hay or concentrate feed, this can be done in a way that increases movement; for example, by dividing up rations and locating them in different parts of the field.

Diet

1. Make forage and balancer a priority 

Only feed hard/concentrate feed if forage intake is at a maximum/ad-lib and more energy is required in order for your horse to carry out the work he does. Speak to a nutritionist for advice on this.

2. Slow the rate of feeding

Where forage intake needs to be limited, try to slow the rate of feeding by using trickle feeding nets and grazing muzzles. Strip grazing (when done correctly) and track systems can slow grass intake.

Have you heard about Your Horse’s #FitNotFat campaign, which is supported by Dodson & Horrell? Equine obesity is an enormous welfare problem and we’re on a mission to provide owners and riders with the knowledge, skills and information you need to keep your horse in tip-top health. It could be life saving! Find out more

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