How To Feed Your Horse According To Weight And Dietary Requirements

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When it comes to choosing the horse feed most suitable for your horse, there are a number of variables that need to be taken into consideration, including your horse’s body condition, weight, workload and temperament. These factors will have an impact on the amount of energy required, as well as whether your horse needs to lose or gain weight. With there being a wide range of horse feed products on the market, finding a feed suitable for your horse’s individual requirements is easier than ever. 

How To Know If Your Horse Is The Correct Weight 

It’s imperative that you keep an eye on your horse’s weight and body condition.  Whether your horse is in hard work and competing, is retired or is used for leisure, you need to know if your horse has dropped weight or put it on, so you can alter their diet accordingly and investigate any further problems that may be occurring. For example, if your horse has lost weight dramatically and isn’t in hard work, then it may be because of an underlying health issue or problems with their teeth. Alternatively, if your horse has gained additional weight this could lead to laminitis. 

As well as visual signs that your horse is overweight or underweight, you can check their weight by using a weigh tape or a weighbridge. 

I Know What My Horses Weight Should Be: What’s Next? 

In addition to using a weight tape or scales, you can also condition body score your horse to determine whether they are at an ideal weight or not. Simply use the chart below, starting at 0 for emaciated and working to 5 which is obese to identify where your horse is on the chart. When condition scoring your horse: 

  •  You are feeling the ribs to see how easily you can feel them
  • Feeling the crest to feel for any fatty deposits and how hard it is to move
  • Feeling hips to see how prominent they are
  • Looking at the fat covering around the tail head
  • Looking at their body overall 

From this, you can determine where they fall on the chart, below, and from here alter their diet and routine to either help them gain or lose weight. These changes may include putting your horse on a low-calorie diet, checking the weight of your haynets, increasing your horse’s exercise, restricting their grazing or even using a grazing muzzle to reduce intake. An optimal body condition score would be a three, although very fit horses may be at an ideal bodyweight just under this score.  

As well as altering the main bulk of their feed, such as their straights and forage, you need to take the supplements into consideration too. With there being a whole range available on the market, you can easily choose the ideal supplement according to what your horse needs, such as biotin for hoof health and glucosamine for their joints. 

Once you know what your horse’s weight is and you have decided their diet, you need to maintain this and monitor it to help your horse successfully get to an ideal 3 on the condition score chart. Despite your efforts, if you horse isn’t responding to your changes, it may be a sign that there may be something else wrong, which is preventing your horse from attaining its ideal weight. Either speak to a nutritionist or a vet, as they will help you to get to the bottom of this and can suggest further steps you can take. 

What Should I Do if My Horse’s Weight Is Ideal? 

If your horse is an ideal weight and condition, then you can continue to feed your horse the same diet to maintain this. Should your horse’s workload change it is important to ensure that you alter your horse’s diet over a gradual period. You may also look at changing the diet slightly as you move from summer into winter as their grazing changes or they spend more time stabled. 

What Should I Do If They Gain Weight Suddenly?

Weight gain in horses can lead to problems such as laminitis. If your horse has put weight on, then it is most likely due to an improvement in grass quality or quantity. To prevent this, you need to match the calorie intake with the energy output. Gradually build up the amount of work your horse is in, but if this isn’t feasible then you can implement strip grazing, feeding a lower calorie feed, using a grazing muzzle or even soaking hay to lower the sugar content. If you reduce the amount of feed, you need to ensure that your horse continues to receive nutrients to maintain a balanced diet. 

Hopefully this guide will help you to feed your horse according to weight and dietary requirements, so you can maintain a healthy weight for your horse.

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