Performance Horse Nutrition

The causes of obesity in horses are simple: too much energy (calories) consumed too little exercise and certain medical conditions. Management of the obese horse requires changes in the feeding program as well as the exercise program. Excess weight and over-nutrition in equines has a number of potentially negative effects, including: increased stress on the heart and lungs, greater risk of laminitis or founder , increased risk of developmental orthopedic (bone and joint) problems in young, growing horses, more strain on feet, joints, and limbs, worsened symptoms of arthritis, less efficient cooling of body temperatures, fat build-up around key organs which interferes with normal function, reduced reproductive efficiency, greater lethargy and more easily fatigued. Weight reduction will only occur if the horse’s energy expenditure is greater than its energy intake. Weight loss can only be accomplished by reducing the number of calories going in and increasing the number of calories expended. So a combination of diet and exercise is in order to shed extra weight from the easy keeper. Especially if turnout space is limited or unavailable, the horse should be exercised regularly, provided it is sound and healthy. This is one of the best options for weight loss, especially if the horse is usually sedentary. If possible, exercise the horse more often than it had been before dieting, to increase the rate of weight loss. If an exercise or dry lot paddock is available, where there is no pasture available for grazing, regular turnout will allow for increased activity and weight loss. Don’t feed high-fat supplements. Vegetable oil, flaxseed and rice bran are high in fat and so are high in calories. Eliminate these supplements from your horse’s diet and you can cut out a large number of calories and prevent excessive weight gain. Limit access to pasture by using a grazing muzzle and replace legume hay with grass hay. Legume hay, such as lucerne and clover, contain more calories per pound than grass hays. Instead of lucerne, feed a high-fiber, good quality grass hay free of dust, mold and weeds Commercially available “balancer supplements” are ideal for these horses as they provide the animal with its mineral and vitamin requirements without adding excess calories.

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