World Horse Welfare Cautions Against Horses Overgrazing

After all the recent heavy rainfall the U.K. has seen over the past month, World Horse Welfare, a U.K.-based equine welfare charity, is urging horse owners to consider the impact this will have on their horse's grazing.

The wet and warmer weather means grass will grow more quickly and can be thick and lush. Therefore, it is important to keep a close eye on your horse's calorie intake. Grass can be surprisingly high in calories and will affect your horse's weight, which can cause long-term health problems.

Deputy Head of U.K. Support at World Horse Welfare Sam Chubbock, said, "After an unusually dry winter we have seen a lot more rainfall recently and with the weather warming up, the combination of the two will certainly mean plenty of new grass appearing. This sudden growth can often take horse owners by surprise so it's important to have a plan in place. Individual owners need to find a system which suits them and their horse, and we have a wide variety of tips available to help with this.

"Rich grass can be a huge problem for horse owners and it's one of the main triggers for laminitis," Chubbock continued. "Although the condition affects all types of horses and ponies throughout the year, our charity's field officers certainly attend more calls regarding laminitis at this time of year. It's an incredibly painful condition and it's notoriously difficult to manage, but if you monitor your horse regularly, you may be able to avoid weight-induced laminitis completely. Therefore it's vital to ensure your horse is consuming the correct amount of calories for its breed, age, type, and workload."

World Horse Welfare has 10 top tips for managing your horse's weight:

  1. Find out if your horse is overweight--It is impossible to tell by eye how much fat a horse is carrying and this can be surprisingly deceptive. Feel for fat in specific areas to check your horse's condition.
  2. Check your feed--With the help of your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist, determine whether you are feeding your horse appropriately. This can be very confusing, which makes it easy to feed your horse more calories than they really need. Also, try to make titbits and treats the exception rather than the rule.
  3. Don't crash diet--Horses must have a steady supply of food to keep them healthy, so you need to find ways to reduce the calories without cutting down the quantity.
  4. Control grass intake--Most leisure horses get more calories than they need from grass alone. In many cases it may be necessary to restrict their grass intake in some way, although additional vitamins and minerals will still be required. Find ways to cut down the amount of grass they get without stopping them from eating completely.
  5. Don't be tempted to feed for more "oomph"--A high energy feed is also high in calories. Feeding an overweight horse more calories won't necessarily give it more energy for work, but it will create more fat. Think about reducing their calorie intake so they lose weight and build up fitness to give them more energy.
  6. Walk more--When exercising, a brisk walk or steady trot will burn more fat than faster work such as canter. Find ways to build more walking into your horse's day.
  7. Consider if your horse really does need a rug--Remember that horses already have waterproof coats and their own "central heating systems." If your horse is overweight consider whether it could go without a rug or if a lighter weight one would be more suitable.
  8. Remember that every horse is different--Don't be tempted to feed or rug your horse just because everyone else does. Consider what your horse needs and remember that it might be different to what other horses need, even if they're of a similar type.
  9. Monitor your horse--Horses can put on weight very quickly so fat scoring and weight-taping your horse regularly will help you spot any changes more quickly than you could by eye.
  10. Stay informed--World Horse Welfare has resources to help you stay informed about equine weight issues. Also, never hesitate to consult your veterinarian if questions about weight management arise.

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World Horse Welfare

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