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How to Properly Maintain a Horses Weight

For some owners their horses will stay fat no matter what they try to do. If a horse can keep their optimal body condition then they are considered easy keepers since they live on less-than-average amounts of feedstuffs.

Although these easy keepers are less demanding on an owner’s budget they do present another completely difference challenge which is meeting their nutritional requirements while trying to avoid obesity.

Decreased performance that comes from heat stress is the biggest problem for an athletic horse that turns obese. The horse’s ability to cool quickly is affected by the excessive fat which acts as insulation and causes increased amounts of sweating and a reduction in the horse’s physical performance.

The additional body fat will also restrict the oxygen intake ability while causing an increased need for oxygen. Joint problems can result from this extra weight which for a performance horse can shorten their career. Overweight horses have a higher incidence of laminitis which is thought to be the result of insulin resistance and excess weight.

Lipomas or fatty tumors are also more common in the abdominal cavity of obese horses. A lipoma can become entangled with the intestines which can cause a serious and life threatening condition called strangulation colic that requires surgical correction.

Whenever the energy expenditure of a horse is greater than their energy intake you will have weight reduction. There are two ways to do this although a combination of both is the best option. You can reduce the amount of feed the horse consumes and you can increase the amount of exercise your horse receives.

As long as a horse is sound and healthy you should exercise them regularly especially if you have a small turnout space. For horse weight loss one of the best options is exercise and especially if you have a sedentary horse. To increase the rate of weight loss you should exercise the horse more often than before if possible. The resultant weight loss can be gained with regular turnout to allow for the increased activity if you have a grass-free exercise or dry lot paddock for the horse.

The best way to start a diet program is to determine the horses target weight and then feed them moderate to good quality grass hay at one percent to 1.5 percent of this target weight rather than their current weight. For overweight horses it is a good idea to feed them a custom feed at a rate of about a pound per each five hundred pounds of the horses current body weight. At all times you should make sure you have water and a salt block available for your horse.

Increase the amount of grass hay you feed your horse to the point that they are no longer losing weight once you have achieved the desired weight or body condition of the horse. You should also adjust any special feed to their current body weight. The best way to have weight management is with proper diet and exercise. Your easy keeper horse can avoid heat stress, perform better and lead a longer, healthier life as long as you keep off their excess weight.

Tips to Maintaining Weight

In the spring and early summer times it is important to limit grazing. This is when the pasture growth is the fastest. If you can’t limit the horses grazing then consider using a grazing muzzle which reduces the amount of forage that a horse can eat. When the horse is in their stall or an exercise paddock you can remove the muzzle.

Eliminate any high calorie supplements from your horse’s diet. This can include corn oil, flaxseed and rice bran which have a high fat content and therefore a high amount of calories. To prevent excess weight gain it is a good idea to avoid as much calories as possible in your horse’s diet.

To provide a horse with their proper amounts of vitamins and minerals most will use a concentrate or grain-based feed. These are designed to be given to your horse at a minimum rate of .5 percent of body weight which means about five pounds a day for a horse that is around a thousand pounds. However, for an easy keeper horse this ration will result in too many excess calories.

Focus on low intensity for a long duration when choosing an exercise program for your horse if they are not used for performance activities. Increasing energy expenditure or calorie loss is the main purpose of exercising a horse. An increase in metabolic rate, a possible reduction in appetite and prevention of bone and mineral losses are other benefits of daily exercise that normally occur with calorie restriction.

Rather than feeding legume hays such as alfalfa and clover which have more calories per pound you should feed regular grass hays. The best option is a high-fiber and good quality grass hay that doesn’t have any dust, mold and weeds.

Since horses have a limited stomach capacity they are continuous grazers by nature. This behavior makes sure the horse’s stomach acid has saliva and ingested plant material to buffer it. Gastric ulceration can result from infrequent meals as a result of the constant exposure of the stomach wall to the stomach acid. To increase meal frequency you should divide the hay into three or four daily feedings. Keeping the stomach full along with salivation will prevent ulcer formation from occurring.



Read the next horse nutrition article on Cutting Excess Fat from Diets.
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