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Managing the Overweight Horse

Posted 22nd January 2021

This week de Boer & Taylor Vets have been discussing the increasing obesity problem in Britain’s horses. We appreciate that it is difficult as an owner to objectively determine your horse’s Body Condition Score and we hope the recent videos and resources that we have shared have helped you. However if you are still not confident about how to score your horse, our dedicated team of vets will be more than happy to help you.

As there are still a few months of winter left, now is the perfect time to act in order to get weight off your horse. The colder weather means your horse will burn more calories in order to keep warm, so if you feel he is heavier than he should be, avoid increasing the hard feed, and leave that thick rug off to make the most of the lower temperatures.

Many horses are more than capable of living out all year without a rug on, a horse warms up far quicker than it cools down, meaning it is easy for a rugged horse to overheat, even in the winter months. Horses have highly efficient thermoregulatory mechanisms, which mean they are able to naturally adapt to fluctuations in the outside temperature. For example; you will often see a horse using a field shelter in the summer for shade, and to escape the flies, but how often do you see them venturing over there to seek out warmth in the winter? The horse’s therm-neutral zone is very different to our own, so don’t base your rug decisions upon whether or not your feel cold.

Horses are designed to live out all year round without rugs both physically and behaviourally. Fat is a natural insulator, in the wild they would spend the summer gaining weight, only to lose it over the winter months. Seeing a pony with a frosty back is a sign that they have good insulation; none of their body heat is going towards melting that frost, it’s being used to keep them warm. Now we rug and provide high quality forage year round, our horses are unable to shed the weight before the good grass comes in.

In today’s video we provide some tips to help get weight off your horse, however if you feel you would like a discussion with a Vet please feel free to give us a call.