As a horse owner, you play an important role in controlling your equine companion's weight. Sound nutrition management, a regular exercise programme and veterinary care are key to keeping your horse fit and healthy. Maintaining the ideal weight is not always easy, however.
When implementing a weight loss programme for the overweight horse, it's
important to do it gradually and under the supervision of an equine
veterinarian. Follow these guidelines to get started:
1. Be patient. Weight reduction should be a slow, steady process
so not to stress the horse or create metabolic upsets.
2. Make changes in both the type and amount of feed gradually.
Reduce rations by no more than 10% over a 7 to 10-day period.
3. Track your horse's progress by using a weight tape. When the
horse's weight plateaus, gradually cut back its ration again.
4. Step up the horse's exercise regimen. Gradually build time and
intensity as the horse's fitness improves.
5. Provide plenty of clean, fresh water so the horse's digestive and
other systems function as efficiently as possible and rid the body of
metabolic and other wastes.
6. Select feeds that provide plenty of high quality fiber but are low
in total energy. Measure feeds by weight rather than by volume to
determine appropriate rations.
7. Select feeds that are lower in fat since fat is an energy-dense
8. Switch or reduce the amount of alfalfa hay feed. Replace with a
mature grass or oat hay to reduce caloric intake.
9. Feed separate from other horses so the overweight horse
doesn't have a chance to eat his portion and his neighbor's too. In
extreme cases of obesity, caloric intake may also need to be
controlled by limiting pasture intake.
10. Balance the horse's diet based on age and activity level. Make
sure the horse's vitamin, mineral and protein requirements continue
to be met.
Once your horse has reached its ideal body condition, maintaining the proper weight is a gentle balancing act. You will probably need to readjust your horse's ration to stabilize its weight. Exercise will continue to be a key component in keeping the horse fit. Because obesity can affect a horse's health, communicate regularly with your veterinarian. Schedule regular check-ups, especially during the weight reduction process.