Winter Weight Loss - Foran Equine
The winter weather, cold, adverse weather and lack of grass often leads to natural weight loss in horses as they burn calories for heat regulation. Whilst for some this may be undesirable for those that are carrying a few extra pounds, winter is often a highly effective weight loss tool.
Body Condition Scoring
Body condition scoring allows the owner to have a better understanding of how much their horse weighs. During winter a horse’s weight can be deceiving due to their thick winter coat. Horses that are scoring over 3.5 out of 5 are classed as overweight and therefore need to lose weight. For a better understanding of body condition scoring click here
It is highly important that horse’s lose weight gradually to remain healthy. To track your horses wight you can use a weight bridge or a weigh tape.
Exercise is a great way to burn calories. To burn calories energy spent must be greater than calories taken. Whilst the winter weather leaves us with no motivation exercise is so important. So, whether you ride, or loose school always try to make sure your horse has some kind of daily exercise.
Cold weather can often lead to us over rugging. For those horses carrying a little extra weight you should consider if they need a rug or whether they could wear a thinner rug if you need to keep them clean. By doing this you kick start weight loss as your horse will have to burn more calories to stay warm. Clipping is also recommended as the horse will have to burn more calories to stay warm. However, rugs should be put on clipped horses, just opt for something a little thinner.
Winter grass contains far less nutritional content compared to spring and summer grazing however, it can still provide enough calories for good doers in light work if there is enough grass for the horse to eat. When grass becomes sparse alternative sources of forage should be provided. Opting for a late-cut low calorie hay is the best option. It is important to note that overweight horses on restricted diets should not be put out with horses that need ad-lib hay/haylage as they will then have access to more calories than they need, and weight loss will not happen. Sunny, frosty winter mornings can cause a spike in the sugar content of grass so overweight or laminitic prone horses shouldn’t be turned out until later when the sugar content will have decreased.
No matter what the horses weight forage must always be given in the correct quantities. This should be between 1.5 and 2% of the horse’s body weight. Trickle feeding forage helps to maintain digestive health and minimises the risk of problems such as colic, gastric ulcers and oral stereotypes like crib-biting. It is advised that horses are provided forage in a feeding devise that slows down the rate of consumption. Examples of these are double wrapped or small holed nets or hay balls.
Feeds & Supplements
On its own, forage will not provide the horse with optimum levels of essential vitamins and minerals for overall health and function. Providing a a vitamin and mineral supplement ensures that the horse maintain optimum levels for daily function and health. To feed a supplement you will need to provide a feed. We recommend feeding a small amount of low-calorie chaff or hard feed.
For horses that need to lose weight we recommend Foran Chevinal. The ultimate liquid multivitamin, mineral and essential amino acid supplement for optimal nutrition.