A guest post by Raquel Lynn of Horses & Heels
Most equestrians struggle to help their horses maintain a healthy weight. While a majority of owners find it harder keeping weight on their horse, dropping pounds is equally as challenging.
My perfectly plump Paint Horse was recently told she needed to shed some serious lbs by my vet. I’ve known that she needed to lose weight, but when he spoke to me about metabolic concerns, I got really serious.
He advised to have her lose 100lbs and then we would re-evaluate from there. My mare is about a month into her new lifestyle and things are going well. I’ve noticed she’s moving better than ever and I know it’s putting less stress on her joints.
Just like humans, there is no miracle plan that works for everyone. I’ve tried a combination of several things that seem to be working. Below are my top seven tips for caring for your easy keeper.
- Evaluate what you are feeding – Fira was consuming a mixture of teff and alfalfa hay. The first thing my vet recommended was getting her off the alfalfa. Grass hay isn’t as rich or high in calories. Orchard hay can be high in sugar, which isn’t good for dieting either. Now Fira is enjoying a combination of teff and timothy hay.
- Adjust the amount of forage – Does your horse really need that extra flake? Sometimes you cut into a bale only to notice the flakes are massive (or vice versa). Be consistent with the amount and make sure they are getting too much.
- Up the exercise – Riding schedules change throughout the year, but I noticed I had cut back on riding because of the rain. I added an extra ten minutes each time I lunged Fira and noticed an increase in her conditioning and a decrease in belly size.
- Use a slow feeder and/or hay ball – I currently have a slow feeder hay box (without metal grates) and a hay ball. The hay ball will take her a couple hours to empty compared to the hour or even 45 minutes it took before. Not to mention, keeping your horse eating longer and mimicking natural grazing is better for the digestive system.
- Feed smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Does your horse get fed twice a day or three times? If your answer is twice, consider upping their meals to three for better hay distribution.
- Limit pasture time or use a grazing muzzle – When spring and summer pastures are lush, it’s easy for a horse to pack on weight. I don’t have pasture access, but be aware of this if you do.
- Cut back on grain – Sometimes people cut back on hay, but not grain. Follow the guidelines on the back of the bag and from your vet. Don’t just use a large scoop of grain without properly measuring. Some horses can go without grain as long as they are on a good supplement. Again, consult your vet for a professional opinion.
- Be mindful of treats. Carrots and apples are low in calories, but high in sugar. It’s not okay to cut back on hay and then throw in a bunch of carrots. Treats should be used sparingly as a reward.
All of these methods should help your easy keeper be happy, maintain a healthy weight and not feel like they are starving!
Raquel lives in an equestrian community just outside the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles with her Paint mare, Fira in her backyard. When she’s not riding through the hills, she’s sharing barn tours on Stable Style or posting inspiration on Horses & Heels.