As we approach the competition and show season, it’s time to start looking at waist lines in our horses and ponies.

Horses are designed to gain weight in the spring and summer and become more insulin resistant as their fat to muscle ratio gets higher. If this continues the risk of laminitis occurring increases. Excessive weight gain, doubles the risk of a laminitic episode. Every bout of laminitis can shorten the lifespan by 18months. Repeated bouts increase the risk of death by a factor of 5.

Aims of weight loss:

  • To lose weight sensibly and slowly
  • To minimise the risk of gastric ulceration through reduction in feed and forage
  • To ensure there is enough exercise on a daily basis to help with weight loss

Weight loss plan:

  • Horses and ponies need to be fed between 1.5-2% every 24hrs, of their ideal bodyweight to lose weight
  • High fibre, low sugar diets are ideal for equines, as this is how they are designed to be fed.
  • Hay soaked for 12 hours in fresh water will reduce the sugar content even further
  • If grazing out in field; should be fed a small hay net before going out
  • Exercise:
    • Aim to exercise at least 5 times a week
    • Start with short sessions and increase these by 5 mins per week
    • Aim to introduce trot when you have 40 mins of total walk work
  • Talk to your vet they can often help with putting together a more individual exercise plan for your horse or pony.

Weight loss not starvation:

  • This involves ensuring that the reduced intake is spread over a longer length of time. There are several ways this can be done.
    • Trickle nets – Filling these and bagging them into another trickle net, means that it takes longer to consume the reduced ration.
    • Tying nets up and off any wall surface – This is a bit like bobbing for apples as kids. Because the net can’t be pinned against a surface it makes harder work and therefore expends more energy eating
    • Hay Balls – increase movement and are hard to eat hay from
    • Filling stomach with high fibre feed twice daily will make the weight loss journey easier. Feeds that are high in fibre but low in sugar include:
      • Speedibeet,
      • Fastfibre,
      • Spillers Speedimash Fibre,
      • Top Chop Zero,
      • Baileys Light Chaff
      • Baileys low Cal Balancer