Customer: My horse won’t lose weight, even though I have put him on a diet. The vet has said it’s going to be bad for his health if he doesn’t lose a bit soon – please help!
Olivia: I’m sure that we can help you. Can you tell me a bit about your horse, his workload, his routine and his diet please?
Customer: He is a 15hh native, and we do hacking, a bit of schooling and the occasional show. He has hay, and twice a day, he gets fed a small feed of ½ scoop molassed chaff and a handful of horse and pony mix.
Olivia: Thank you for that information. I suppose the simple way to think of how to get a horse to lose weight is that, just like humans, if he needs to drop a few kilos he needs to be burning more calories (energy) that he is consuming. This means that the best thing to do is examine his diet to see where we can cut out some calories, and see if he can expend some more energy. Firstly, let’s look at his diet: Is he out at grass during the day?
Customer: He is out in the field from 5pm once I’ve finished work until about 9am. He is out on his own but there is quite a lot of grass still – should I not turn him out?
Olivia: If he is out all night then it is likely that a high percentage of the energy in your horse’s diet come from grass. However, not turning out can be really detrimental both to mental and physical health, so unless it’s an extreme case we would not recommend this. Luckily there are a few ways to help this, especially since he grazes on his own. If he accepts a grazing muzzle, they are such a handy tool to help reduce grass intake Studies have shown that by using a grazing muzzle on a horse they will consume between 50% and 86% less grass than those without (do make sure he will drink with it on though!). If this won’t work for your horse, you can restrict grazing using other methods: by strip grazing; using sheep to graze a field down; or by using a turnout area with no grass.
Olivia: I’d suggest leaving it on the whole time they are turned out, if not they may compensate by gorging when you take it off! However, do not use it in the stable. Instead, to minimise calories consumed when your horse is in, I would feed soaked hay in the stable – soaking it for 12-16 hours will reduce the WSC (water soluble carbohydrates). If your horse is very greedy see if you can get someone to pop hay in ‘little and often’ to keep him busy and stop his stomach from being empty for more than a few hours at a time.
Customer: What about his hard feed, I do like to give him a little something?
Olivia: I’d stop what you are giving him – as nutritionally this isn’t contributing much towards balancing his diet. What I would suggest is looking at our SlimAid supplement – this is a really condensed, pelleted vitamin and mineral supplement, that also contains amino acids, specially formulated to be an easy to feed way to balance the diet of those who are on restricted grazing.
Customer: Should I do all of this straight away?
Olivia: As with all changes to the diet, these changes mentioned should be undertaken gradually, over the course of a few days.
Customer: Is there anything else I can do to help him?
Olivia: Anything you can do to increase the energy he uses will help to speed up the weight loss – can you ride for longer or more frequently? If not is there someone else who can exercise him to help? Alternatively, if your yard has a horse walker that is a handy way for your horse to burn a few calories while you are doing yard chores.