Keeping your horse’s waistline in check can certainly be a challenge, particularly when grass alone can provide up to 3 times the daily calorie requirement! Although ‘ideal’, ad lib forage just isn’t practical for some good doers and will lead to excess weight gain.
If this sounds familiar, the following tips may help.
- Forage alone is unlikely to provide a balanced diet, even if fed ad lib. Horse feed balancers are the ideal way to ensure good doers receive suitable levels of vitamins, minerals and quality protein, without feeding excess calories.
- Do not restrict total forage intake to less than 1.5% of bodyweight (dry matter) per day – 7.5kg/ day for a 500kg horse. Unfortunately it’s impossible for you even estimate how much your horse is eating in the field so as a guide, ignore grass intake when turning out for only a few hours and feed a minimum of 0.75% bodyweight (dry matter) to horses stabled for 12 hours. Speak to a nutritionist for more advice.
- Consider using a grazing muzzle which has been proven to reduce grass intake by up to 80% on average.
- Whilst reducing turnout time may seem like a logical way of reducing grass intake, turning out for short periods un-muzzled may encourage ‘gorging’. In one study ponies consumed almost 1% of their bodyweight in only 3 hours!
- If strip grazing try to ‘back fence’ to prevent your horse eating more than his daily allowance!
- Consider turning out on bald paddocks or ménages and feeding additional hay, haylage or hay replacers.
- Consider turning out at night when the level of fructan (stored sugar) are likely to be lower. Provided the soil temperature is consistently above 5°C, fructan stored in the stem is used for growth overnight.
- Soaking hay for 12-16 hours in tepid water can reduce water soluble carbohydrate (sugar + fructan) by up to 50% and of course, less sugar means less calories! Reduce soaking time to a maximum of 6 hours in hot weather and remember that soaking can never guarantee safety for laminitics. Alternatively consider having your forage analysed or feeding a low calorie hay replacer.
- Haylage is not automatically higher in calories or sugar than hay but does contain more water. Feed approximately 20-50% more haylage than hay by weight to ensure your horse/ pony consumes enough fibre.
- Try dividing hay/ hayalge between several double-layered, small holed haylage nets to help extend eating time.
For more advice on feeding your good doer call the SPILLERS Care-Line on 01908 226626