What’s the Best Weight Loss Plan for My Horse?
Q. My dominant gelding is also an easy keeper, and he’s managed to pack on the pounds this summer, ballooning from a body condition score (BCS) of 5 to 7. When your farrier asks if your gelding is pregnant, you know you have a problem! I’ve now separated him from my herd in an attempt to control his weight. His diet is forage-based, with only a handful of alfalfa pellets to mix with his supplements. What recommendations do you have for a “reduction diet,” and how quickly should I expect him to lose weight?
A. First of all, kudos to you for taking action, because obesity in horses can lead to serious health risks.
The first part of a management plan—which you’ve done—is performing a body condition score so that you can determine just how overweight he is. It also gives you a starting point from which to work. While we used to say that a BCS of 4 to 6 was an ideal range, more recent work has shown that a 7 is in fact obese. Therefore, a 6 is headed in that direction, so staying in the 4 to 5.5 range (I award half scores for horses that aren’t quite one score or the other) is recommended. (Editor’s note: Learn about body condition scoring in our article “Evaluating Your Horse’s Body Condition.”) Once you have performed the BCS and identified the problem there are a number of steps to
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