Winter is fast approaching but what can you do to make sure your horse is their best weight this winter. Here are a few top tips focusing on weight.
Fat, thin or just right?
Is your horse overweight or underweight? Have a careful look at your horse or pony, using body condition scoring and a weigh tape.
If your horse is overweight winter is a great time to start addressing this problem.
Think about what you can change
Can you increase their exercise?
Even very lightly can make a difference. With dark nights and frozen menages this doesn’t always have to be ridden, it can be as simple as increasing their movement in the field. Trotting and cantering will burn more calories than walking though, so ridden exercise may be best.
What are they fed?
Analyse this carefully; bucket feeds, supplementary forage and grazing. Remember we aren’t trying to starve them as this can cause its own problems such as colic, gastric ulcers or hyperlipaemia. Rather ensuring they are dieted appropriately to lose weight to a healthy weight. Check they have the appropriate vitamins and minerals supplemented particularly if you are restricting their grass and forage. Speak to a qualified Equine nutritionist or your Vet to help plan a safe diet for weight loss.
Do you rug your horse or could you clip your horse?
Use your horses own metabolism to help lose weight as the weather gets colder but ensure your horse has some shelter from the elements and enough forage to keep warm.
If your horse is underweight, ask yourself why?
Is it as simple as they need more food or is there more to it? If you are concerned speak to your Vet, as unplanned weight loss can be an indicator of an underlying condition such as liver disease, dental disease or worms. If it is a case of just needing more food, remember the golden rules of feeding - any changes to diet should be introduced gradually and ‘little and often’ is better than one large feed.
If your horse is the perfect weight – well done!
Keep monitoring your horse regularly to ensure they don’t gain or lose too much weight over winter. Remember it is natural for horses to lose weight over winter so that they are ready for that first flush of spring grass.
Remember to keep checking the body condition score and weight regularly. Keep a diary so you can monitor any changes and act on them as they occur. If you are worried about your horse please speak to your Vet.
There are some really lovely resources for owners https://www.beva.org.uk/Guidance-and-Resources/Routine-Healthcare/Equine-Obesity#weightmonitoring