Survey reports double the number of overweight horses

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The results of this year’s National Equine Health Survey (NEHS) have shown that the reported number of overweight horses and ponies has more than doubled this year, compared to last year’s NEHS figures. This substantial rise has prompted SPILLERS® to remind owners to keep a conscientious eye on their horses’ weight and feeding regime this winter.

NEHS is a snapshot survey run annually by Blue Cross every May, in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and sponsored by SPILLERS® and Zoetis. This year overweight horses or ponies were recorded in 16.9% of cases; more than double last year’s figure of 7.8%. The survey also showed that 59% of respondents assess their horse’s weight regularly, with 85% using a weigh tape.

“While the increase may be a result of this year’s mild winter and good grass growth it may also be attributed to the fact that owners are becoming more adept at recognising overweight horses,” said Clare Barfoot, Research and Development Manager at MARS HORSECARE UK Ltd. “But whatever the reason, the associated health risks are alarming. Laminitis is a serious concern but by no means the only risk. Abnormal insulin dynamics and the resulting metabolic syndrome, reduced reproductive efficiency, heat stress, extra strain on the heart and lungs, worsened signs of arthritis, lethargy and reduced athletic function are also potential concerns.”

Clare has put together some tips to help you weight-watch with confidence this winter:

  • Use a weigh tape on a weekly basis. Used correctly, a weigh tape can help identify small changes and increases in weight much more effectively than by your eye alone.
  • Get to grips with body condition scoring. Find out how to condition score by visiting the SPILLERS® website at www.spillers-feeds.com
  • Increase exercise, not only to help your horse lose weight but also to help keep the metabolism healthy in the good doer.
  • Restrict grass intake. Even winter grass can be a significant contributor to excess calories. A horse or pony can consume up to three times its normal daily appetite in just 24 hours at grass. Use a grazing muzzle or restrict time out at grass.
  • Provide an alternative low calorie forage source. Access to hay, haylage or a forage replacer will help replicate natural browsing behaviour and help prevent stress-related problems such as wind sucking, crib biting and gastric ulcers.
  • Consider a short chop hay replacer as a reliable and consistent low calorie forage alternative. Remember that the calorie content of hay or haylage can vary greatly depending on the type of grass and when it was cut therefore it is advisable to have it analysed.
  • Provide daily vitamins and minerals to balance the diet.
  • Don’t over-rug overweight horses and ponies especially if they are natives or unclipped.

SPILLERSHAPPY HOOF® is a specially blended, low calorie, short-chop forage which can be used as a complete feed as it contains all the vitamins and minerals the horse needs to stay in good health. It is designed to extend eating time and was the first complete chopped fibre feed to be approved by the Laminitis Trust.

SPILLERS® High Fibre Cubes are low in starch and high in fibre, with high levels of vitamins and minerals, making them a safe choice for horses and ponies prone to laminitis. They can also be soaked to form a mash for veterans that can’t manage long fibres.

For friendly feeding advice please telephone the SPILLERS® Care-Line on + 44 (0)1908 226626 or visit www.spillers-feeds.com

To download a copy of the NEHS results please visit www.bluecross.org.uk and to register for next year’s survey please visit www.bluecross.org.uk/nehs

Author: News Editor

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