5 steps for equine weight loss – the horse
2. Evaluate his diet
To reduce your horse’s food intake, you must first know how much he is eating. Hay flakes can vary in size and weight even within a single bale, so start by weighing several of its normal meals and calculating the average.
You can do this by standing on a scale yourself to get a weight, then standing on it while carrying the hay and calculating the difference. Or, says Crandell, you can hang a bucket or hay bag or net on a milk or fish scale, making sure to zero the weight of the container before adding the hay. You can also use this method to weigh cubes of hay and other foods.
But weight isn’t everything. Different hays contain different amounts of nutrients and calories, so the better the quality of the hay, the less concentrate and supplements your horse needs to meet its nutrient needs. To lose weight, you want quality hay that isn’t too high in calories. The best way to determine the quality of hay is to have samples analyzed by one of the many laboratories across the country. If that’s not practical, however, you can do what people have been doing for centuries: visual assessments.
“Look at the types of grasses in your hay,” Crandell says. “Legume hay such as alfalfa will generally be of better quality than grass hay, and cool-season perennial grasses such as timothy, orchard grass, bluegrass, brome, and fescue generally make hay. better than warm season perennials like bahia and ribs. Bermuda. Legume hay may be too high in calories for the purpose of weight loss.
Crandell also recommends checking the leaf-to-stem ratio of your hay. If you see more leaves than stems, they will generally be more caloric.
Medium to late maturity hay is more suitable for obese horses than early maturity hay. “You can determine maturity in different ways,” says Crandell. “For example, in timothy hay, a lot of large, tall seed heads indicate that it is quite mature.”
If your horse is on pasture, its nutrient and calorie intake depends on both the amount it eats and its quality. “Ripe hay has fewer calories than early cut hay, but fresh grass contains 75-85% water compared to 10-12% for hay, so the amount of fresh grass needed to get the same amount of dry matter (and therefore calories) is going to be much higher, ”Crandell says.
Another difference between hay and grass, she adds, is that a horse that eats hay must eat what’s in the bale, while a horse that grazes in pasture can select. the tastiest new growth. “So by nature, they’ll get more calories from fresh grass because they’re breeding for quality,” she explains.
If your overweight horse is not meeting its nutrient needs with just forage, you may want to add extra feed to its diet to cover the shortage (s). Crandell says ration balancers, which distinguish between concentrates and supplements, are his benchmark in this scenario. “They provide a balance of vitamins, minerals and protein without the extra calories from concentrates,” she says.