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Good Doer

What is a Good Doer?

The term 'good doer' is often used to describe horses and ponies that maintain and/ or gain weight easily. Although ponies, natives and warmbloods are renowned for being good doers, every horse or pony is an individual - some Thoroughbreds can also maintain weight easily on little or no compound feed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Obesity Risks
    • Obesity is a growing problem, particularly amongst the leisure horse population and presents a number of health risks:
    • Increased risk of laminitis
    • Increased risk of insulin dysregulation
    • Joint strain/ osteoarthritis
    • Heat intolerance
    • Increased respiratory strain
    • Excess weight gain and obesity can also have a significant effect on the horse/ pony's energy levels and performance.
  • Feed & Management Tips
    • Monitor your horse/ pony's body condition regularly - this will help you to keep track of gradual changes and assess whether any dietary adjustment may be necessary
    • Although ad-lib forage is the ideal, it is not always practical for good doers and some level of restriction may be necessary
    • Never starve any horse or pony, even if they are extremely overweight
    • Whilst forage alone can easily meet or exceed energy (calorie) requirements for many good doers, it is unlikely to provide a balanced diet
    • Balancers are the ideal option for horses and ponies able to maintain weight easily on forage alone, providing a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and quality protein alongside a negligible level of calories when fed at the recommended ration
    • Unlike broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplements, balancers also contain added quality protein and amino acids such as lysine, which is typically low in UK forage
    • Try adding low calorie chaff/ fibres to buckets to provide 'bulk' and help extend eating time
    • If your horse/ pony is already in good or overweight condition, don't be tempted to increase his feed in an attempt to improve his energy levels. Remember, energy = calories!
    • Avoid mixes and cereal based feeds even if additional calories are required
    • Maintain a regular exercise programme where possible
    • Avoid over-rugging - make the most of chilly periods by encouraging your horse or pony to use his own reserves for keeping warm!
  • Forage
    • Total forage intake should not be restricted to less than 15g per kg bodyweight dry matter per day including grazing. As a guide, ignore grass intake in those turned out for only a few hours and feed at least 50% of the minimum daily ration to those stabled for 12 hours.
    • Feed approximately 20-50% (1.2-1.5 times) more haylage than hay by weight to account for the higher moisture content and ensure suitable fibre intake.
    • Hay can be deceptively high in sugar, regardless of the cut, smell or physical appearance. Soaking for 12-16 hours in tepid water can reduce water soluble carbohydrate (sugar + fructan, the storage form of sugar in grass) by up to 50% However results are variable and cannot guarantee suitability for laminitics. Soaking time should also be reduced to a maximum of 6 hours in hot weather.
    • Consider having your forage analysed or feeding a low calorie hay replacer.
    • Try dividing hay/ haylage into several, double netted, small-holed haylage nets to help extend eating time.
    • Divide your horse/ pony's daily hay/ haylage ration into as many small servings as possible to help avoid long periods without forage
    • Some good-doers will be able to winter out without additional forage except for in the coldest of weather and when there grass is covered in snow. With this in mind avoid turning out with those who need ad-lib hay/ haylage
  • Tips for restricting grass intake
    • Consider using a grazing muzzle which has been shown reduce grass intake by 80% on average regardless of the season. Provided you have sufficient grass coverage, grazing muzzles can be used in winter months too!
    • Strip grazing may be helpful although try 'back fencing' to help prevent your horse/ pony eating more than his allowance!
    • Consider turning out at night when fructan levels are likely to be at their lowest
    • Although reducing turnout time may seem like a logical approach, turning out for short periods un-muzzled may encourage 'gorging'. In one study ponies ate almost 1% of their bodyweight in only 3 hours!
    • Consider turning out on bald paddocks or in ménages (with hay or hay replacer)
  • Grazing Muzzles
    • Ensure muzzles fit correctly and check for signs of rubbing or discomfort regularly
    • Introduce your horse/ pony to wearing a muzzle gradually and ensure he is happy to graze and drink before leaving him unsupervised
    • Keep an eye on grass length - grass that is too long or too short may be completely inaccessible
    • Monitor herd behaviour to ensure those wearing muzzles are not bullied and are allowed access to water
    • Do not leave muzzles on 24/7
    • Inspect muzzles regularly for signs of wear & tear
    • Ensure your horse/ pony's teeth are checked regularly by a vet or equine dental technician
  • Body Condition Score (BCS)

    Seasonal fluctuation in body condition is a natural phenomenon, particularly for ponies and natives breeds. Provided they are not laminitic and otherwise fit and healthy, a BCS of 4-6 is generally considered acceptable depending on the time of year. Allowing good doers to slim down in winter months as nature intended helps to prevent excess weight gain in the following spring.