Weight Management Advice

Everything I've tried hasn't worked!

It can be exhausting trying to get our horses to lose weight.

With a high population of native pony breeds, cob types and draught types in the UK, we have a nation of leisure horses and ponies who naturally thrive on very little food. We're also a nation of animal lovers, so it pulls on our heartstrings to see them "going hungry". They sure know how to play on this too! But we need to remember that carrying excess weight can lead to our horses being at higher risk of developing certain conditions such as laminitis, Equine Metabolic Syndome (EMS), arthritis and a number of other chronic health conditions which will cause them pain and deduct from their quality of life. Keeping our horses at a healthy weight is really important.

Sticking to an effective plan to manage our horse's weight can be frustrating as it takes time to see results. Don't we all have enough to do? But you need to stick to a strict plan to make a difference. We appreciate every situation is different for all horses and horse owners, so not all weight loss advice is feasible or helpful. There are a number of options to try if you keep open-minded and get creative.

Give yourself a clear starting point

You can only measure progress if you're clear and honest with your starting point.

Buy a diary or notebook specifically to record your horse's condition (or download an app if you prefer). Some feed suppliers also offer handy workbooks or guides with a tracker and advice to support your horse's weight loss.

Record your horse's weight (from a weighbridge, or use a weight tape) then assess your horse's fat covering by condition scoring him (find out how to do this here) - and be honest! Make a note of the date. We would recommend that you take pictures too, from all angles. This will help you in the coming weeks and months to feel positive when you worry you aren't making progress. 

Record your horse's weight and condition with photos each week.

Be consistent with the time of day that you take measurements and use the weight tape in the same place for accurate results. For example, you might get a different measurement if your horse comes in from the field bloated compared to first thing in the morning.

You need to also give yourself achievable targets.

There's no point expecting your horse to lose all the necessary weight in 6 weeks, for example. Be kind to yourself and set goals that are doable to give yourself the best chance of sticking to your target. Breaking down your overall goal into smaller chunks might also be helpful for you. Any tactics to avoid throwing in the towel are worth trying!

Commit to simple changes

Don't feel forced to overwhelm yourself with a strict plan that will be impossible for you to follow every day.Look at implementing simple changes that you can commit to on a long-term basis that fit into your daily routine and your facilities. There's no magic "one size fits all" method for weight loss and each horse and situation is different, so you may as well attempt to make it easy for yourself if you can.

Critiquing your management can be a good way to start 

Assess your horse's diet in full - what he's fed and in which quantities, and how that compares to his type and workload. There is plenty of advice out there, including on your feed packaging. Most feed manufacturers also offer a nutritional helpline to support you. Look at the amount of forage/cereals in your horse's diet as well as which type of forage your horse is fed and how. Although in an ideal world our horses would be given adlib hay, haylage and grass, this, unfortunately, isn't a solution for weight loss in most cases.

Be honest with how much exercise your horse is doing too. It's common for owners to overestimate how much work their horse is doing each week and over-feed as a result. As a rough guide, workloads can be broken down into:

  • Rest/Light Work: quiet hacking 1-3 times a week, light schooling and occasional competitions (the vast majority of leisure horses will fit into this category)
  • Moderate Work: daily hacking for 1-2 hours or 30-60 minutes schooling, lower level/riding club competitions
  • Hard Work: intense schooling sessions, regular upper-level show jumping and dressage competitions, racing, 3-day eventing

Take it back to basics

Like humans, horses need to burn more calories than they consume in order to lose weight. Once we have looked at how we could adjust our day-to-day management, it's time to take some action. How we approach the weight loss plan for our horses will depend on the time of year and their health, but we would suggest using the following tips.Simple, easy changes can make a real difference.

Highly recommended by professionals

Greenguard Grazing Muzzles are the grazing muzzle of choice for our customers year-on-year, out-performing all other muzzles we sell. They are designed as a solution to reducing grass intake while otherwise allowing the horse to comfortably carry out normal behaviour. 

These grazing muzzles have been designed in conjunction with vets and are highly durable and UV resistant for durability. The unique design and attachment to the headcollar lets the muzzle sit away from the horse's face to prevent rubbing.

Read more about the Greenguard Grazing Muzzles here, including a useful fitting guide!

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