Debbie Stephenson bought John, a 11.1hh Traditional Coloured Cob to show in-hand. John’s weight gradually increased without Debbie noticing, until one day in December 2021 John appeared a little foot sore. Debbie took John to the vets the same day, where he was x-rayed and they confirmed it was laminitis.
“John weighed 318kg on the day he was diagnosed with laminitis” explains Debbie. “With John being overweight his diet was reviewed; I was advised to soak his hay and we changed his bucket feed to Dengie Hi-Fi Molasses Free, which is low in calories, sugar and starch.”
Six weeks later at John’s veterinary check-up, Debbie was ecstatic to hear that his pedal bone was back in the correct position. However, sadly it was not all good news; John was also tested and diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). Following the vet’s instructions to the letter Debbie gradually brought John off box rest and started the slow rehabilitation process.
Five months later Debbie was able to get John back out in-hand showing. “Prior to the laminitis John had competed successfully at County level and Royal Windsor but post-laminitis we did okay, but sadly not as well as before” recalls Debbie. “We received many comments from the Judges saying John needed more condition to be of real show quality. The comments really got me down, as I was trying so hard to keep him at a healthy weight and condition!”
When Debbie’s local equestrian centre, Barleylands advertised that they were running a new class for horses with underlying health conditions, such as EMS and PPID, Debbie jumped at the chance to show John once again.
“I am so grateful for Barleylands for introducing this new class and for Dengie to sponsor it” says Debbie. “It gives horse owners like myself the chance to still enjoy what we love, and the reassurance that we are doing everything right for our horses whilst getting judged fairly.”
Debbie prepped John for the show and was completely overwhelmed when he went on to win the class! “I now look at other horses in a completely different way as to when John was winning at high level” comments Debbie. “I did not notice how overweight John was previously, so much more awareness is needed for the health and wellbeing of the horse. I hope others follow Barleylands with this initiative”.
At a recent nutritional check-up, John weighed a healthy 242kg, having lost almost 80kg! “It’s great to see John at a healthy weight and condition” comments Dengie nutritionist Claire Akers. “Debbie has put in a lot of work to help John lose the excess weight and it’s great for her dedication to be recognised.”