13 Weight Management Tips for Good doers
Did you know that horses and ponies turned out 24/7 may consume 3 times their daily calorie requirement from grass alone? If your horse or pony is a good doer we hope the following tips and information help you to keep his waistline in check this spring…
1. Cut calories not nutrients! Despite the calorie overload, grass may be lacking in key nutrients including lysine, copper, zinc and selenium. Balancers provide a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and quality protein alongside negligible levels of calories, starch and sugar.
2. Don't be tempted to increase your horse's feed in an attempt to improve his energy levels – unfortunately energy and calories are exactly the same thing!
3. Beware of binge eating! Turning out for short periods without a muzzle or allowing free access to grazing after removing a muzzle may lead to gorging.
4. Grazing muzzles have been shown to reduce grass intake by approximately 80% in ponies turned out for 3 hours.
5. New research has shown that ponies managed by strip grazing gained significantly less weight than ponies managed by strip grazing over a 28 day period.
6. Soaking hay helps to reduce the sugar content and of course, less sugar means less calories! Just remember that sugar losses are highly variable which means soaking doesn't guarantee suitability for laminitics.
7. Due to a loss of nutrients (and therefore dry matter) into the water, each haynet will contain less ‘hay' and more water post soaking. As a guide, increase the amount of hay you soak by 20%.
8. For some horses and ponies, replacing up to 30% of the forage ration with straw can help to reduce calorie intake without restricting total intake. Straw should always be introduced gradually and be of good hygiene. Did you know straw can be steamed before feeding?
9. Total forage intake should not be restricted to less than 1.5% bodyweight (dry matter) per day. In practise this equates to approximately 9kg of hay (11kg if you intend to soak it) or 10-12kg of haylage for a 500kg horse without grazing.
10. Counting droppings can be useful and more practical way of monitoring forage intake, particularly if you don't know how much your horse weighs. Initially we recommend aiming to reduce the number of droppings by a third if trying to encourage weight loss but never by more than half.
11. Aim to maintain to body condition score of 5 out of 9 (4.5-5 for laminitics).
12. Although weigh tapes may not be an accurate way of determining your horse's actual weight, they can a way of tracking gradual changes. For consistency, try to use the same weigh tape at the same time of day. Changes in gut fill can have a significant effect on the reading – this is why most of us like to stand on the scales first thing in the morning!
13. Keep up the exercise. A recent study found that even small amounts of exercise may help to support a healthy metabolism, even if it doesn't result in additional weight loss.