Weight Loss & Feeding Tips

You might think your horse is in good condition, but take another look to be sure that he's not carrying a little excess weight. 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.

Here are a few handy tips from the Dengie nutrition team to help him on the way to beat the bulge.

  • Restrict grazing - stabling, restricted areas, track systems or grazing muzzles can all be used to reduce grass intake. Research has shown that using a grazing muzzle can reduce intake by 75%
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  • Use a low-calorie hay replacer, such as Hi-Fi Lite. Replacing hay with the same weight of Hi-Fi Lite can help reduce sugar intake by up to 50%
  • Feed according to the work done - not what you plan to do!
  • Weigh your haynets to help monitor calorie intake
  • Soaking hay can help reduce the sugar and starch content. Research has shown that 16 hours of soaking at 16°C removed the most sugar but this isn't practical for everyone to do. Soak for at least an hour, if you can.
  • Use small-holed haynets or try double netting to help reduced rations last longer
  • Try to feed low-calorie, highly digestible fibre feeds that are low in sugar and starch. Feed little and often to mimic the horse's natural grazing behaviour and to help keep the digestive system healthy.
  • Lose the duvets! To help burn off a few extra calories, try not to over-rug, especially if horses aren't clipped or we're experiencing mild winter.
  • Use smaller nets so you'll be less tempted to overfill them with hay or haylage!
  • Exercise your horse or pony. Try schooling, lunging, long-reining and hacking for at least 20 minutes a day - all of which will help your horse's waistline.
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  • Regularly use a weigh tape in conjunction with condition scoring to monitor your horse or pony's condition. 

For further information or friendly feeding advice, email the Dengie nutrition team or chat live with a nutritionist online.

Case study - Ace

Ace, owned by Matt Ilston, was in light work, doing a mixture of schooling and hacking 3-4 times a week and successfully competing at unaffiliated dressage.  Ace was turned out for six hours each day on really good grazing and was receiving ad-lib haylage. He was carrying a little too much weight, resulting in him being a little lazy, with Matt wanting a little bit more sparkle! 

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Recommend Diet

Feed - 1.5 scoops of Hi-Fi Lite and 600g of Alfa-A Balancer, split over two feeds a day
Forage - swap from haylage to hay, feeding in a small-holed haynet so that the ration (14kg) would last a little longer
Grazing - Fit a grazing muzzle whilst turned out

Ace did gain a little weight during the spring, due to the lush grass but Matt, along with guidance from Dengie’s Performance Horse Nutritionist, Claire Akers M.Sc (Dist), kept to his diet with great results, steadily losing 60kg!

“Ace’s weight loss programme was tough at times, but I kept at it and had great support from Claire and friends on the yard. The hard work was well worth it in the end – the new, slimmer Ace has his mojo back and I’m looking forward to competing this season and hopefully getting in the ribbons!” Matt Illston

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