Saturday, June 15, 2013

Horses: How Fat is Too Fat

During the summer season, because many horses have access to green grass, they are
going to gain weight, but how fat can a horse get before it becomes unhealthy?  This is
an age old question amongst horse enthusiasts.  Some horses are “easy keepers,” while
others can eat all day and not increase their weight. 

Professional trainers and breeders must be highly aware of this issue, and consequently
they have developed a scoring system that can help any horse lover determine if their
equine friend is a little too plump. The easiest way to determine if a horse is too fat is to feel the middle of the rib cage.  If you must press your hand down hard to feel the ribs, then you need to start reducing the amount of feed that you are giving, and or create an exercise regime. Remember to
reduce the feed slowly so that your horse’s digestive system can adapt. If, however, you can easily feel the ribs, but not see them, then your horse is carrying the correct amount of weight. Keep in mind that some horses can get fat even while being fed just grass hay, and others will only gain weight when their diet is supplemented with grain.  Digestion and metabolic rates factor into these conditions.   Vitamins and minerals are also another important component in keeping your horse’s digestive system running optimally.  The types of minerals that can be depleted from the soil are dependent on where you live and where your hay is grown.  Talk to your feed dealer and or your veterinarian to find out what minerals might be lacking from your horse’s diet, and check with your veterinarian if you are considering adding a vitamin and mineral supplement.  If you are going to turn your horse out on pasture, be sure to keep in mind that early spring and winter grasses contain carbohydrates that escalate the levels of starches and carbohydrates in the horse’s system.  In other words, they act like grain, and just like grain, must be introduced slowly in order to avoid problems like founder.

Getting your horse out on trail rides or doing work in an arena will also pay off by
helping them to maintain a better body weight and muscle condition.  Wet down a saddle
blanket to keep them cool during the hot summer months, and be sure to wear clothing,
and other sun protection for you. 

Keeping yourself conditioned by exercising is equally important for you too.  Power
Yoga, Pilates, Running, Biking, Hiking and Weight Training are just a few ways in which
you can keep fit and flexible.  If you live near the ocean, consider taking up snorkeling as
it provides both cardio and muscle conditioning that your body will need to ride and be
your best in the saddle.

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