Popular rural Radio 4 soap The Archers has highlighted the importance of maintaining a healthy weight in horses and ponies, with a recent episode addressing the condition of a Shetland. Equine charity World Horse Welfare has said the mild winter makes the storyline even more timely.

Champion was introduced to The Archers listeners on 3 January but when he was being groomed it was discovered that he wasn’t as fluffy as it first seemed. In fact, he was carrying too much weight, and his owners were advised to give him more exercise to help him lose some of the extra inches.

World Horse Welfare welcomed the mention of equine weight management, and said the issue is one that many owners struggle with. Recent months have been warmer then in previous years, so natural winter weight loss is not happening for many horses and ponies.

“It is natural for horses and ponies to lose a little weight over winter, before putting it back on again with the flush of spring grass,” said Sam Chubbock, Head of UK Support at World Horse Welfare. “This winter has been very mild – and wet – and in many places grass is still growing and providing calories.

“Maintaining a horse at a healthy weight can be very difficult and one of the most common health issues owners struggle with is their horses being overweight. With this winter’s weather it is looking like the spring could prove an extra challenge for anyone trying to maintain their horse at a healthy weight.”

Although many owners know that their horse shouldn’t carry excess weight, the difficulty is often in recognising what a healthy condition looks like as, unfortunately, it has become commonplace for horses to carry more weight than they should. Thick winter coats, rugs and mud can make it harder to see a horse’s body condition but the charity offers information on condition scoring and how to manage weight on their website, including webinars, videos and a downloadable leaflet.

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