Tips to Adjust the Weight of Your Horse
Whether you keep a horse for trail riding, showing, endurance, jumping, high performance or just for fun, it is important to keep your animal in top shape. A horse with the proper weight and a good topline will be better able to maintain its balance over jumps, keep up with its friends on the trail and stay sound on a long endurance trail ride.
Unfortunately, maintaining the proper weight is not always an easy thing for horse owners to do. Older horses often experience problems keeping weight on, while horses who are ridden less strenuously can pack on the pounds due to lack of exercise.
Whether your horse is thin and struggling to gain weight or trying to lose a few pounds, here are some tips you can use to put weight on or take weight off your equine companion.
Getting Your Horse to Gain Weight
If your horse is underweight and you want to add some pounds quickly, you can use these tips to improve overall condition and build fitness.
- Choose a higher quality food. Read the label on your current brand of horse feed, then look for one with a higher calorie and fat content. Be sure to mix the old and new foods when making the switch - a sudden change in diet could lead to colic and other problems.
- Add additional sources of fiber to your horse's diet. Horses are grazing animals, and they need regular access to hay, grass and other sources of forage.
- Have a veterinarian examine your horse to rule out tooth problems and other health issues. Horses with sharp spots on their teeth may not be able to eat properly and lose weight as a result. Having the teeth floated to remove those sharp spots can make eating - and weight gain - easier.
- Soak or steam hay for older horses whose teeth have deteriorated. Older horses often have trouble chewing regular hay. Buying hay pellets that can be soaked in water or steaming the hay flakes will make it easier for the horse to get the forage it needs.
- Add oil to your horse's diet. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty oils can improve your horse's coat and help it gain weight more easily.
Slimming Down Your Horse
If your horse has the opposite problem and needs to lose a few pounds, there are some things you can do to improve its diet and its condition. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Reduce the amount of grain you feed. Grain can really pack on the pounds, and your horse may not need it if you feed high quality forage and have sufficient pasture.
- Feed grass hay instead of alfalfa or grass-alfalfa mix. Grass hay is the lowest calorie forage available.
- Cut down on the amount of protein in your horse's diet. Switching to a lower protein feed can reduce the amount of calories your horse consumes and help shed the excess weight. Always change feed gradually by mixing the old and new varieties. A sudden change could lead to serious health complications like colic.
- Increase the amount of exercise your horse gets on a daily basis. If you cannot ride every day, lunging or working in a round pen can get the horse moving and remove the excess weight.
- Do hill work when you can. Climbing hills is one of the best ways to improve your horse's fitness level and topline. Walking up hills can be particularly good for building muscle.
No matter what kind of horse you own or what type of riding you enjoy, keeping your equine partner fit and healthy will enhance your enjoyment and make life easier for both of you. The tips above can help your horse put on weight, take it off or maintain its current healthy appearance.