Losing weight will only succeed if you make clear agreements
To make your horse lose weight, it is very important that the management with regard to your horse is well organised. Whether you have your horse at home or in a livery stable, it is key that everyone involved with your horse is aware of the agreements concerning your horse. It doesn’t work out well if you do all that you can, but others do not take account of your horse’s weight loss program.
To make your horse lose weight, you need to know what it eats. You have to control the number of calories that your horse takes in. If your horse has a body score of 7 or higher it is important that, for the time being, he will not be put out in a pasture. Because out there, you do not control what he takes in. Some horses will gobble up in an hour the amount of grass that they should have on a whole day.
Don’t think it is ok to put your horse in a field with short grass, because research has shown that precisely short grass contains much more sugar than long grass. If you have no other option, you could consider putting your horse out with a muzzle and limit the number of hours (max. 4 hours a day), to restrict the calorie intake, but only if you have no other option.
What is allowed?
Should you keep your horse stabled? Definitely not. Have your horse outside as much as possible, for example in a sand paddock. Preferably with a friend or in a group. Together with other horses, your horse will move more than when he is out alone. A horse put out alone isn’t happy. And by all means, if a horse needs to lose weight, social contacts and ‘distraction’ are very important.
By nature, horses will graze about 18 hours a day, so you need to offer the horse an alternative. Divide the roughage into as many small portions per day as practically achievable. We recommend 6 portions. From these, you should give the largest late in the evening.
Dividing the food into as many portions as possible is necessary to keep your horse’s digestion going. To ensure that your horse can chew as much as possible during the weight loss program, you can use slow feeders or hay nets. There are many types of slow feeder available, but you can also use your own creativity: make holes in a large barrel, or put chicken wire on the roughage. Find out what suits your horse best and prevent boredom. Make sure that the surface under the roughage is smooth and in any case not sand. During the weight loss program, your horse will literally eat every last bit of hay. And you do not want him to eat sand, which can lead to a sand colic. If you do not have a paved or smooth surface, you can place for example rubber mats under the roughage.
"Make sure your horse always has access to sufficient, fresh water. Make sure that it is not too cold. Too cold water increases the risk of colic."
Nutritionist and Veterinarian
Place a salt block at all locations where your horse will be, so both in the paddock and in the stable. In that way, your horse can regulate the salt intake to his own needs. Make sure though that you provide a neutral salt block. If you provide a flavoured salt block, your horse will start licking because he likes it and not because of his salt requirements. The horse will take in too much salt (and often minerals too) which can have harmful effects. So read the label carefully. Only a salt block with just salt and no added minerals or trace elements is ok.
No winter rug
Perhaps you are used to putting a nice warm winter rug on your horse. If you want your horse to lose weight, it would be good to not put a rug on. In order to stay warm, a horse without a rug will start to burn fat. After riding, you can use a cooler rug so your horse dries faster. And you can possibly clip your horse partly, so that he dries up faster after exercising.
Don’t use edible bedding, such as straw. By nature, a horse will eat all day long. So if straw is available, he will eat it. However, by putting him on straw, he will take in more calories than needed in order to lose weight. In addition, when your horse eats a lot of straw, the risk of impaction colic increases. It is better to use a non-edible bedding, such as shavings or flax.