A Recipe for Equine Weight Loss

Use slow-feeders and reduced feeding rates to safely and effectively decrease horses’ body weight, researchers said.
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It’s no secret that a restricted diet could help your horse lose weight, but there can be consequences when horses eat more like humans, with only two or three meals per day, than how they were designed to—grazing small amounts of forage almost all day long. However, with the advent of slow feeders, horse owners and managers can extend foraging time while still limiting the amount of hay that’s fed. And recent study results suggest this might be the answer to keeping your horse healthy while he sheds weight.

In a four-week study, researchers from the University of Minnesota employed eight overweight adult Quarter Horses with an average body weight of 563 kilograms (just over 1,240 pounds) and a body condition score (BCS) of just over 7 out of 9. After an acclimation period, the team separated the horses into two groups of four and fed them a diet consisting of a ration balancer and cool season grass hay fed at approximately 60% of their maintenance digestible energy requirement, twice daily. Horses consumed hay either from a slow-feed haynet or from the floor of their stall.

To evaluate the effects of feeding treatment on horses’ glucose, insulin, cortisol, and leptin levels, the researchers collected blood samples on Days 0, 14, and 28 at several time points (one hour before feeding, one hour after the morning meal, every 30 minutes for the following three hours, and then hourly until the evening meal). They team repeated this schedule for the evening meal.

On those same days, they assessed horses’ BCS, took body measurements, and measured rump fat and longissimus dorsi (back muscle) muscle depth and thickness via ultrasound. They also measured the horses’ body weight using a livestock scale

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Written by:

Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as a certified equine acupressure practitioner. She also hosts a blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse. Once an avid barrel racer, she now enjoys giving back to the horses who have given her so much.

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