A new free online forage calculator could play a vital role in fighting the equine obesity epidemic. Launched by Trickle Net, the forage calculator is the first of its kind and was built with guidance from vet Louisa Taylor of Vetrition. It has been developed over several months and uses data pulled from the latest available research to approximate how much dry matter forage is required for a horse or pony on a grass and hay diet.

Users must input their horse’s weight, number of hours of turnout and type of pasture, as well as the amount of hay being fed and the feeding goal. Results are instantly available and displayed alongside advice for feeding equines on a weight-control diet. The calculator also tells the user how much money they will save if they have been over-feeding forage.

The tool provides a good starting point for owners looking to manage their horses’ weight but does not replace veterinary advice and/or working with an equine nutritionist.

A good baseline

The calculator is the brainchild of Ellen Chapman, who founded Trickle Net.

“Owners often ask us about the amount of forage to feed and we found ourselves repeatedly running through the same calculations when giving advice,” she said.

“I thought it would be ideal to have an online tool for owners to do this themselves and learn more about dry matter intake (DMI) requirements. I then wanted to make this tool more comprehensive and useful for owners, so I began to look more closely at pasture DMI and started reading the research.

“We have created a unique resource which gives owners a good baseline to start from,” continues Ellen. “Using the specific feeding goal, weight loss, maintenance or weight gain, the calculator takes the numbers we know work. It then approximates on the DM requirements based on the owner’s information and the research data.”

Ellen added that the calculator can’t be 100% accurate as each horse is an individual but explained that it gives “a very good ballpark calculation, which is a big step forward for owners who could not easily access this important information before”.

The calculator is supported by BETA, Redwings, The Laminitis Site and Care Equine Education. Information on diet and nutrition, laminitis prevention, management and weight control can be accessed from supporters via the calculator page.

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‘This will lighten the load’

Dr Tamzin Furtado of Care Equine Education and University of Liverpool believes the forage calculator will be extremely useful.

“Trickle Net’s new online calculator will be so helpful for horse owners trying to manage their horse’s weight,” she said. “We’ve found in the past that people find it really tricky to work out exactly how much forage they should be feeding, and this will help lighten the load.

“It’s also great for determining how much your horse is overeating by – using the calculator made me realise that it’s no wonder my boy is getting fatter as spring comes!”

Ellen added that there are plans to launch an owner-focused weight calculator too.

“We hope to launch an owner focused equine weight calculator, based around ideal bodyweight, with owners accurately fat scoring their own animals. We feel this could also be incredibly valuable.”

View the calculator here

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