Essential Weight Control Tips For Field-Kept Horses
Here’s our essential weight control tips for field-kept horses.
Although turn-out is extremely important in a horse’s regime, struggling to control how much they eat whilst they are out can be problematic. Over-grazing can cause weight gain and a predisposition to laminitis, with owner’s often deciding the stable their horse to prevent these common problems. Weight control tips for field-kept horses are even more sought after, with some having nowhere to turn if they stumble across over-grazing issues.
With the grass growing at a prolific rate, we put together a few ways to controlling horse grass intake and weight, whilst they are out. Get your horses out and staying out all summer, with these essential tips on weight control for field-kept horses!
A good practice for horse owners is the monitoring of horse weight. Making the effort to check for weight changes, just once per week, can alert to any abnormal changes in weight that have not been influenced by diet or exercise.
Weight monitoring can be done in a variety of ways, the most reliable being the use of a weight bridge. The industrial size scales can give an exact and accurate reading of how heavy your horse is, although they do come with their draw backs. Weigh bridges are not on every yard, so accessing one may be difficult with travel often required. More recently weigh bridges have been introduced in portable versions, however they do come with a price tag at around £20 per horse and therefore expense to access on a regular basis. However, they are ideal for establishing weight if you have never had your horse weighed before, or ahead of worming procedures.
Cheaper ways of assessing horse weight come in the form of a weight tape. Weight tapes are an easy to use, tape measure device. Placing the tape around the circumference of the horse’s body, at the girth and behind the wither, the tapes are perfect for a quick and easy reading of weight. The tapes aren’t as accurate weigh bridges but provide an indication of any weight gain and loss your horse might be experiencing. We recommend Shires Equestrian Horse and Pony Weight Tape (Amazon; £9.18), which has both horse and pony measurements, so you can share it among your yard-mates!
Although, weight isn’t the only indicator that your horse is piling on the pounds! Checking body condition score may be crucial, as this is an indicator of fat percentage, whist weight accounts for muscle as well. Try assessing other horse’s body weight, as oppose to your own, as research suggests owner bias toward an ideal body condition. The ideal body condition is 3.
Restrict Available Grazing
It is not recommended to restrict grazing all together, but restricting the amount horses can get their teeth stuck into is vital for weight control.
Restrciting the amount grazed when your horse is out can be done multiple ways. Firstly, try strip grazing. Strip grazing is sectioning a larger field into smaller sections, so horse’s don’t have free rein on how much they eat. The area should still be big enough to allow your horse to move comfortably, so make sure the width allows a good turning circle. Strip grazing can be gradually increased in size as your horse eats down the grass, or, with the grass growing at it’s current rate, you may find the area a perfect permeant feature.
With electric fencing comes problems though. Many horse’s don’t respect them and owner commonly find their horse escaping in search of better grass or to see a friend. Try fencing with copper wiring for increased conductivity and a sharper current, to prevent them snapping a destroying the fence line, such as the Shire High Performance Electric Tape (Amazon;£24.98).
Electric fence power can be sourced from mains electricity; however most owners opt for battery packs. When using a battery pack make sure to keep it charged up, as low or no power could result in an escapee. The Tractor Factory SHIRE Electric Fence Energiser (Amazon; £59.98) powers up to 6 miles of fencing, and is waterproof, so there’s no need to worry about rain-damage too!
As an extra precaution, try a grazing muzzle. If you decide to use a grazing muzzle, keep an eye out for any rubbing or discomfort. Also consider your horse’s current ability to eat the grass. If they struggle with shorter grass due to age or dental condition, grazing muzzles are advised against. It is also advised to allow periods of the day without a grazing muzzle, as it can restrict social behaviour such as grooming.
Turnout Without The Worry of Grass
Still worried your horse might eat a bit too much grass? Try turning out in a starvation paddock.
A starvation paddock is a turnout areas will no or very little grass. They should be supplemented by an additional supply of forage, to maintain gut health. This way you can easly monitor how much your horse is eating too. We suggest trying a small holed haynet, to make the forage supply last longer and reduce the risk of stomach ulcers and colic. We recommend the Stable Kit Slow Munch Haylage Net (Amazon; £14.58). Heavy duty, plus a range of colours, the net’s 1cm holes are perfect for any greedy pony.
Get the weight off ASAP with NAF’s SLIM Pellets (Amazon; £30.97). Although they won’t’ work miracles on their own, in conjunction with a good exercise routine and a carefully constructed, calorie-restricted diet, they can work to accelerate weight loss.
SLIM Pellets are fantastic if you’re worried about a reduced intake, effecting overall health of your horse. They provide all the essential micronutrients, supporting the metabolism with a range of vitamins, minerals and naturally sourced antioxidants. Supporting healthy weight loss, the palatable feed supports insulin action and normal blood glucose levels, which are commonly at fault in horses prone to weight gain.
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Journalist and News Reporter, Everything Horse
Reporting on equestrian news stories, Abby also produces a variety of engaging content for the magazine.