Last Updated on February 24, 2022 by Allison Price
We are becoming more aware of the detrimental effects that obesity and emaciation can have on horse health. It is important that we keep our horses in a healthy condition. How to Body Condition Score (BCS) your horses. Let’s now take a look at how horses with a BCS 6 or higher might look.
Here are some tips to help your horse lose weight.
It could take up to several months for your horse to reach his desired weight and condition score, depending on his size. You should look for gradual improvements and don’t be surprised to see your horse plateau after some initial gains. You can revisit your feeding and exercise programs to determine if additional changes are needed.
First, think about calories.
If the horse consumes fewer calories than it uses, it will lose weight. To decrease the horse’s body condition, it must either reduce its calorie intake or increase its calorie consumption (or both). It’s not healthy to force a horse to lose weight. Therefore, it is best to increase calorie consumption and decrease calorie intake.
Learn where your calories come from.
Horses eat calories from their pasture, hay, grains, and/or concentrated feed (such a sweet feed). Most people underestimate the importance hay and pasture for horses’ diets. Hay and pasture can provide horses with the majority of their calories if they are high quality and plentiful. Your horse may not even require grain. To keep your horse’s digestive tract healthy, it is important to consume fiber from pasture and hay.
Concentrates contain the most calories per pound. The first step to reducing the calories intake of fat horses, is to reduce the concentration.
Do not add extra fat to your horse’s diet. Fat is high-calorie and can cause horses to gain weight.
Horses can become very agitated if they are given concentrate by other horses. A small amount of a high protein, high-mineral supplement can be fed to a fat horse (often called a balancer pellet) while the rest of the horses are getting their regular concentrate. This will help reduce the frenzy. The small amount of food will be enough to satisfy the needs of the horse, as well as its need for vitamins and minerals that are not available from the hay.
You can also purchase hay pellets or hay cubes to feed your pets a small amount (less than one pound). Although this is an effective appeasement strategy, it doesn’t provide the same nutritional support as the balancer-balancer pellet. These feeds are generally less digestible than concentrate. It might take horses a while to get used to them, but they will eventually adapt.
Restrict pasture access.
As you cannot control how much grass your horse eats each day, lush pasture can be a constant source of calories. You can reduce horse pasture consumption by placing your horse in a drylot (sacrifice lots). This will allow you to manage the horse’s food intake. It is possible, but only if you have the space for a dry lot. A horse that is kept in a stable environment may be less active, which can reduce his daily calories. To keep the horse from getting too fat, you might consider using a young horse to help him move. Just make sure they get along well so that no one is hurt. The youngster will require a special diet so it is important to separate feed him.
Use grazing muzzles.
A grazing mozzle is another way to limit pasture intake. Some horses will be able to adapt well to the muzzle while others may sulk. The muzzle allows horses to eat only a small amount at a time. Horses will be able to share a lot with others. Pasturemates can keep your horse active all day. Make sure the muzzle is properly fitted to avoid facial sores.
Your water source is also important when horses are muzzled. Many automatic waterers have small openings, which can make it difficult for your horse to drink enough water. You should not have any problems if you water from a bucket or a trough.
Remember that muzzling horses does not work. A horse can be muzzled for 6 hours and then let it eat the rest of the day. He will make up the time he lost by eating for the remaining 18 hours. The muzzle should be kept on when the horse is in the pasture. Consistency is the key.
Use late-maturity, clean grass hay.
Horses that are kept in large, unfenced paddocks with little pasture will eat hay as their primary food source. Hay harvested at late maturity should be given to fat horses. Late-maturity grasshay, such as timothy and orchardgrass, is rich in slow-digested fiber, which makes it lower in calories than early maturation hay.
Late-maturity hay has a higher fiber content, so the stems take the horse longer to chew. Horses that chew more often have less time between meals and consume fewer calories. When you have your hay evaluated, make sure it contains at least 60 percent of neutral detergent fiber (on an all-fed basis).
Adjust the amount of hay.
According to some feeding guidelines, horses should be fed two pounds of hay per 100 pounds of body weight. For horses over 1,000 pounds, this is 20 pounds. This is a good rule of thumb for horses with moderate bodies, but it may not be enough for very large horses. Remember that a horse weighing in at 850 to 900 pounds and having a condition score 8 is a horse with 1,000-pounds of weight. For a horse with a condition score of 8 and weighing in at 1,000 pounds, the hay allowance for weight loss would be approximately 2 pounds per 100 pounds of the target weight. That’s about 17 pounds per day. The amount of hay can be gradually decreased if weight loss does not occur at this rate. Limiting your hay intake too often can lead to digestive problems or other undesirable behaviors. Therefore, it is important to keep a minimum of 1 1/2 pounds of hay for every 100-pound target weight.
Learn how to make your horse eat less calories.
As mentioned above, an active young horse can be paired with a sedentary fat horses to encourage him to move more. Stabled horses can be made to work for several hours each day by being kept dry. To encourage movement, hay and water should be kept away from gates, fences, resting areas, and other obstacles in a paddock. Feeding devices and practices can slow down or increase the effort of eating. Use small-hole nets, or haynets that are small in size, to help horses move around the pasture. You can help your horse reduce his calorie intake if you don’t normally blanket him in winter, or keep him in the barn. To maximize winter calorie consumption, reduce the amount of blankets used and the time spent in a barn.
Regular exercise is one way to increase your calorie consumption. Before you start an ambitious exercise program, make sure your horse is examined by a veterinarian and farrier to ensure he does not have any underlying conditions or lameness. Once your horse is stable and healthy, you can begin a gradual increase in the difficulty and amount of exercise.
Start with lunging exercises. For example, start at 10 minutes per day at a trot, then increase to 15 for the second week. Then, increase the duration to 45 minutes, at least once a week. You should increase either the activity duration or the level, but not both simultaneously. It is best to exercise your horse at least once a day. However, if that is impossible, it will still be beneficial to do so three to five times per week.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!