Rule #1: Don’t let horses get fat
(and if they do, help them lose weight immediately but safely).
The hardest part about helping easy keeper horses maintain or lose weight is to ensure they are able to eat much of the time, but not eat too many calories.
Rule #2: Restrict access to high sugar feeds to avoid triggering laminitis
For insulin resistant (IR) horses including those with EMS and many who are prone to laminitis, the sugar levels of the roughage also have to be taken into consideration, even when intake is limited. In practice, this means:
- avoiding pasture when it is very short or seeding or stressed
- avoiding pasture after 10 am
- avoiding pasture if it contains ryegrass or other high sugar cultivars.
In lockup, choose hay lab tested to be less than 10% ESC plus Starch or soak hay for half an hour in hot water or an hour in cold water, with soak water drained and discarded. Remove any uneaten wet hay every 12 hours to avoid mycotoxin ingestion. Read here for more details on choosing appropriate forage.
Click here to learn more about choosing safer forage for your laminitis-prone or overweight horse.
Rule #3: Feed enough of the right food
Feed hay rather than chaff because chewing hay is beneficial both mentally and chemically as it creates more saliva containing the buffer sodium bicarbonate which reduces the acidity of the stomach thereby reducing the risk of gastric ulcers. However, a handful of damp lucerne chaff makes a good low calorie carrier for your daily vitamin and mineral supplement.
If your EMS or IR horse needs to gain weight, you’ll need to carefully choose low sugar, low starch feeds. Read our guidelines here.
Rule #4: Exercise boosts metabolism and reduces laminitis risk
If your horse isn’t lame, you should also encourage him or her to exercise more, preferably with ridden or lunge work, but also through more movement in the yard by utilising hay nets in different places, or use a laneway system so s/he has to travel from food to water. Click here for our expert guidelines on how much exercise you need to give.
Rule #5: You must supplement appropriately
All horses are mineral deficient unless fed a well balanced mineral supplement or the full recommended amount of a quality pre-mixed feed. Horses on a weight loss diet or being managed to prevent dangerous weight gain are not going to be able to eat the full recommended amount of a hard feed without consuming too many calories, so will need either a concentrated mineral balancer powder or pellet.
Equine Vit&Min (EVM) powder in a handful of damp chaff, baleage or sprinkled over soaked hay is the ideal way to add in all the vitamins and minerals otherwise missing from the diet without adding any extra calories to the diet. EVM Balancer Pellets are the simplest way to ensure your horse gets all his or mineral needs during weight loss and can be fed straight from your hand.
Message us if you need free advice on feeding your horse during Spring from our team of qualified equine.