If your horse or pony is a little on the chubby side then you’re not alone!
The National Equine Health Survey has shown that around 20% of the equine population is overweight or obese and feedback from vets and nutritionists suggests this figure could be considerably higher. Being overweight increases the risk of laminitis in any horse or pony so to avoid this horrible disease you really need to take action and get your horse’s diet under control.
The key is to use feeds that are low in sugar and starch which usually means they contain lots of fibre and oil. High or prolonged intakes of sugar and starch are increasingly being linked to insulin dysregulation which is a predisposing factor to laminitis. Be careful that you don’t over-condition your horse as the greatest risk factor for laminitis is being overweight. Unfortunately “fat” is becoming normal – research has shown that horse owners frequently underestimate the condition score of their horse meaning they are underestimating their risk of laminitis too. If you are in any doubt ask a nutritionist to assess your horse and don’t succumb to peer pressure to have a cuddly pony – cuddly might be cute but it isn’t healthy!
If you really do need to promote weight gain then feeds such as Alfa A Molasses Free and Alfa-Beet are really low in starch and sugar but contain moderate levels of energy (calories) Alfa-A Molasses Free is a medium energy feed but contains around 10 times less starch than a cereal based feed with a comparable energy value.
A couple of studies have been done investigating this including one by our very own nutritionist Tracey Hammond. The general estimate is a reduction in intake of about 75-80% depending on the time of year. Do be aware that if you take the muzzle off and let your horse or pony graze freely they can consume their total daily requirement in just a few hours! Some horses and ponies have adapted their grazing behaviour to increase intake even when wearing a muzzle so do keep an eye on what they are doing!
Hi-Fi Good Doer contains a higher proportion of straw than Hi-Fi Lite which helps to reduce the energy value slightly. It also contains added spearmint oil and some added nutrients that tend to be missing from the diet when access to fresh pasture is restricted such as selenium and copper. Hi-Fi Good Doer can be particularly useful for those who can be fussy or if you are trying to hide medication. If you aren’t feeding a balancer or supplement then Hi-Fi Good Doer would also be the best feed to use.
Molasses itself is not dangerous or harmful to horses – it has been used as an ingredient in horse feeds for decades. It is a source of sugar and if used in large amounts can significantly increase the amount of sugar a horse consumes. The key point is how much molasses is added to a feed and how much sugar the other ingredients contain – this determines the overall sugar content and therefore suitability of a feed for a horse or pony prone to laminitis. The Laminitis Trust have strict criteria based on findings from independent research as to what levels are acceptable. If the total sugar and starch content of a feed are below the levels set by the Trust then that is what determines the suitability of the feed for a horse or pony prone to laminitis.
With temperatures forecast to be below zero and snow fall for areas of the country, ensuring your horse or pony is kept warm and going about your normal routine can be a challenge.
There is concern regarding a potential forage shortage this winter. Many ran out of forage before the end of last winter and a dry summer has seen the early use of hay and haylage harvested this year. So if you find yourself short of hay and haylage this winter then what’s the alternative?
This summer the Dengie Nutrition Team have seen many horses that have gained weight year on year. Here we explain why winter is a great time to encourage weight loss along with information on lower calorie, high fibre feeds.
Dengie Healthy Hooves Molasses Free is the ideal low-calorie fibre feed to promote healthy hoof growth in horses and ponies. Discover the five key benefits of Healthy Hooves Molasses Free.
In their latest blog the Dengie nutrition the importance to ensure that your horse’s ration is balanced and the certain nutrients that are beneficial for hoof growth.