Last month, Equestrian Masterclass instructor Max Corcoran took on some EM members' direct questions (something we do weekly for Equestrian Masterclass members!). One of these questions was in regards to keeping a fit horse through a sustainable and safe nutrition program.
Equestrian Masterclass member Carolyn asked:
I am struggling to help my naturally thick horse stay slim. He seems to get fat no matter what I do. He's on limited grain, essentially only enough to feed his supplements with. He gets plenty of regular exercise and the vet has ruled out any metabolic problems. I've always been told it's a bad idea to limit forage, but my barn manager says we should feed him very little hay. How can I help him stay appropriately trim without compromising his access to hay/grass to keep his gut healthy?
As Max would call an "easy doer", horses who tend to keep weight on, especially throughout the mid section, can be hard to manage. "Hay is so important in a horses diet," tells Max. Since horses are grazing animals, this means that they should have access to forage at most, if not all of the time. Due to the high acidity level in a horse's gut, forage is key in keeping their internals working and moving along in order to prevent any issues. Instead of limiting a horses in effort to keep some weight off, Max suggests the following:
Switch to a Grass Hay
A lot of times, we can be unaware of exactly what type of hay our horse is eating. Alfalfa and timothy, two of the most common types of hay are great choices however, have more calories than a grass hay. "Even though you are lowering your horse's calorie intake by switching hays, do not lower the quality of the hay, " shares Max. Switching to a grass hay can ensure that your horse is intaking fewer calories throughout the day without sacrificing their forage intake.
Introduce a Hay Net or Feeder
Another way to limit your horses caloric intake throughout the day without sacrificing their exposure to forage would be by introducing a hay net or hay feeder into their routine. This will simply slow and spread out your horse's intake of the hay resulting in the ingestion of less hay over time.
Consider Adding or Switching to an Oat Balancer
The goal when dealing with an overweight horse is to minimize the amount of calories they're taking in all while not sacrificing the quality of their diet. If your horse is currently on a grain diet, consider switching them to an oat balancer. "An oat balancer will help supplement the minerals that your horse will be loosing by not getting the proper amount of grain," tells Max. If your horse is not given grain, an oat balancer still serves as a great idea to ensure your horse has an overall well-rounded diet.
Try a Grazing Muzzle
I know... a lot of us horse lovers are not ones to want to put a muzzle on our horses, but there is no harm in trying it out. A grazing muzzle is a great option if your horse is turned out on grass the majority of the time and you do not want to sacrifice their outside time and do not have a dirt lot option. There are tons of different styles of grazing muzzles. Don't be afraid to try out a few and see what works best for your horse.
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