Laminitis in horses and ponies
The latest research published by the National Equine Health Survey (NEHS) 2015 stated that, of the 15,000 horses and ponies included in the study, 23% were described as overweight - up from 16.9% the previous year.
In a separate survey carried out by the University of Liverpool just 11% of the 546 respondents correctly identified overweight horses and ponies from photos. Click here to view the study.
Being overweight predisposes horses and ponies to diseases such as laminitis, Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and Pituitary Pars Intermedia Disease PPID (formally known as Cushing's Disease) and can put additional strain on internal organs and joints.
The link between diet and laminitis
The underlying endocrine problems of EMS and PPID make the horse more vulnerable to laminitis. The trigger that ultimately results in the clinical signs of laminitis is often diet-related and is usually due to excessive consumption of sugar and starch.
Grass and grass-based forages, such as hay, are usually the main source of sugar in most equine diets, whereas the greatest source of starch is cereals. It is usually very easy to remove the starch from a horse's ration but much harder to control sugar intake. However, it is vital to make the effort to do so if you want to win the "battle of the bulge" and keep your horse healthy.
Why is my horse overweight?
It is common to think your horse or pony is working harder than he is and perhaps over-feeding as a result.
Hacking and schooling 5-6 times a week = light work
Another factor is that you may not realise how much energy some feeds contain
1/2 scoop of low-energy mix = enough energy for 20 minutes schooling
1/2 scoop of low-energy cubes = enough energy for 50 minutes schooling
Remember to include grazing and hay/haylage into your horse's overall ration.
Grass and hay are usually the main source of sugar in most diets.
How can I tell if my horse is overweight?
Condition scoring is used to assess whether a horse or pony is at the correct bodyweight. Describing a horse's condition can be subjective and therefore a condition score sets out criteria to make the process more objective.