Most, if not all of our employees here at Big Dee’s are true horse-people. Meaning they have owned, worked with, and/or show/shown horses. Many have been involved in the horse industry for numerous years. Within that knowledge, we’ve all had personal experiences with horse related products. We know what products really work and we want to share our experiences with our customers!
I freely admit, since my horse has retired, I spoil him rotten horse treats and extra hay. Not to mention an excellent high-quality Diet Balancer feed. Including all of the supplements he is on for his joints, digestion and immune system.
In all seriousness, overweight horses are at a greater risk for developing major health issues, and Dr. Corey Paradine wrote the blog below to help horse owners trim down their plump ponies and keep them in fit condition.
The Over-fed Horse
There are a lot of fat horses these days, and it’s a problem. A serious problem. A problem that is so widespread that peoples’ assessment of normal is becoming skewed – often what most consider to be normal is actually obese, and what is actually healthy is often seen as too lean.
Horses are not exempt from health risks associated with obesity. Insulin resistance, for example, is a common weight-related disease. Insulin resistance is a disease in which the bodies’ insulin receptors become increasingly resistant to insulin and as such the body must increase the levels of insulin to achieve the desired effect – mainly, affecting glucose uptake by cells. Think of it as Type 2 diabetes in people – not exactly the same disease but similar. Inappropriately large body size also increases the stress on many joints and ligaments – in other words, increases the “wear and tear” on them by having to carry more weight than they should every minute of every day as well as increasing their load during performance.
So your horse is fat – now what?
Diet and exercise. Calories IN must be less than calories OUT in order to shed pounds. Grain should be cut first when starting to decrease feed. Many horses, especially the easy keepers, do not need grain in their diet. The horses’ digestive tract is made to digest forages, not grains, and unless the grain is needed to meet energy requirements (often high performing horses, like racehorses, eventers, barrel horses), it’s unnecessary. That being said, a diet of hay or grass alone is not considered to be a balanced diet. While a lot of horses do not need grain, they should be fed a diet balancer to provide vitamins and minerals. Most major feed companies make one.
Weight tapes are useful to help gauge weight loss – I recommend using a weight tape every couple weeks and keeping a log of the number. It can be very useful to chart trends in your horses’ weight. It’s important to be consistent in your placement of the tape as you can create false “gains” or “losses” by inconsistent placement and tension on the tape. The tape is most accurate when placed in the girth area, just behind the elbows and over the withers.
Weight loss is not always easy.
There is considerable evidence that there are genetic factors that contribute to a propensity for weight gain and even insulin resistance. It takes time and persistence and often a complete lifestyle/management change to achieve and maintain significant weight loss in many of these horses. Products like slow-feeder hay nets are helpful for horses on strict diets as they slow feed intake and make the limited amount of hay last longer for the horse.
Another key component to feeding is weighing feed (both grains/diet balancers and forages) as horses should be fed by weight (so many pounds of hay per day, so many pounds of grain or diet balancer per day – recommended amounts depend on the individual) rather than volume (flakes, scoops, coffee cans….). Your veterinarian can provide some guidance for your individual horse, and it may benefit to contact a feed representative or nutritionist as well.