It is normal for equids to gain weight during the fruitful summer months, in preparation for the frugal winter period, however it is a sobering fact that most horses do not lose sufficient weight in winter to allow them to safely gain weight again come spring time. This is usually a combination of over feeding and over rugging, putting them at risk of serious and painful conditions such as laminitis.
When dieting overweight equines, strict guidelines must be adhered to if sustainable weight loss is to be achieved. Generally, vets recommend feeding 1.5% of body weight in dry matter, so it is important to know how heavy the horse is prior to commencing a diet.
Remember that many weight tapes underestimate the weight by 20-50kg, so this needs to be factored in when carrying out feed calculations and monitoring for progress. Usually grazing is not permitted during a drastic diet as it is impossible to be able to measure grass intake, and therefore factor this into feed calculations. Many horses requiring drastic weight loss are suffering from, or are at high risk of laminitis, and therefore exercise may not be possible. This makes weight loss much more difficult, but it can still be achieved with strict dietary management.
Obese horses can lose up to 1% of their body weight per week, so weight loss of approximately 25kg every 4-6 weeks is reasonable. Soaking hay, double netting haynets and using a grazing muzzle can all help to reduce the calories horses can obtain from feed.
Leo’s Weight Loss
14 year old Welsh Section C “Leo” has undergone drastic weight loss of approximately 150kg through strict dieting alone.
His committed owners have worked tirelessly with Vet Rhiannah to achieve this, and we think he looks fabulous. He is proof that it is possible to achieve this level of weight loss when a horse is on box rest, however the fact he is now happy and healthy means it was definitely worth all the hard work!