Do I Put My Horse On A Diet?
© 2008 Cherry Hill ©
gelding is just plain fat. I just brought him home from a boarding stable. There
he was being fed a diet of sweet feed, alfalfa hay and pasture. When I got him
home I slowly decreased his intake of sweet feed and fed him a mixed grass hay.
I also limited his pasture time. I have switched him to oats and only give him
a small amount and continue to feed him a mixed grass hay and also continue to
limit his time on the pasture. He appears to be losing a little weight but I would
like to know the best way to take weight off of this gelding. I ride but not on
a daily basis.
Thank you Linda
First of all I must congratulate
you on your sound approach to getting your new gelding fit.
just isn't a more fattening regimen than pasture + alfalfa hay + sweet feed. Add
inactivity to this formula and a horse's chance for unsoundness increases and
his useful lifespan decreases even more. So bravo to you that you've started him
on the right path. It will be worth the effort.
When I managed
over 100 horses in the teaching herd at Colorado State University, the easy keepers
on the top of the pecking order often would get more than their share of feed
in the group pens. A sage and salty veterinarian from the CSU Vet Hospital that
tended the herd used to give this prescription for those overweight horses: "Move
him to an individual pen and put him on a diet of air and water." There is more
to that quip than just a bit of humor.
Here are some tips
for taking weight off a fat horse (some of which you already have been doing).
1. Feed grass hay, not alfalfa or grass-alfalfa
mix. You want to give the horse the satisfaction of chewing roughage without the
calories. Grass hay is the most natural horse hay and the lowest in calories.
2. Eliminate grain altogether.
An adult gelding doesn't require grain unless he is thin to start with or is working
3. Eliminate or greatly limit pasture turnout.
It would be best if the horse could be turned out in an area without vegetation
(perhaps an arena or round pen) for his free exercise. If you must turn out on
pasture, do so very sparingly or use a grazing muzzle to decrease the amount of
feed your horse ingests while on pasture.
4. Increase REGULAR
exercise through whatever exercise alternatives you have available to you. This
can include riding, in-hand work, longeing, long lining, ponying, treadmill, hot
walker, swimming. The key is REGULAR exercise. 30 minutes every day is much better
than 2 hours once a week. The more you can increase your horse's metabolic rate
with regular exercise, the more calories he will burn when he is just standing
5. Be sure that your horse has access to free choice
fresh water and a salt/mineral block. As you increase his exercise, his requirements
for these will increase and will help his digestive tract function properly.
get more detail on some of these points, read the other articles on the Horsekeeping
Roundup related to feeding and care. Best of luck. Cherry Hill