Topline or Fat – The Big Issue

The condition of a horse should be evaluated taking into consideration variables such as its breed, build, mature size and discipline. Each horse has an individual appetite and metabolic rate but are instinctively always hungry due to their gut anatomy having evolved to facilitate continual grazing. On a condition score chart your horse should fall somewhere in the middle.

The main culprit causing obesity in horse is inadequate exercise, along with failing to couple energy input with energy expenditure. Moderate exercise has several beneficial effects, including a reduction in appetite over time, the conversion of fat tissue into utilisable energy and improved fitness in addition to reducing boredom and preoccupation with eating.

Obesity causes many problems including a shortened life span, as a result of the following factors:

  • Digestive disorders – Colic
  • Respiratory ailments
  • Lameness
  • Laminitis
  • Heart disease and circulatory problems
  • Decreased performance
  • Decreased immunity
  • Diabetes and metabolic syndromes i.e.; Insulin Resistance

Condition Scoring

1 Thin Little fat over vertebrate, withers, shoulder, neck, ribs and tail. Base easily discernible but individual vertebrae can’t be seen
2 Moderate to thin Faint outline of ribs, some fat around tail base, withers, shoulders and neck not obviously thin, neck narrow.
3 Moderate to fleshy Slight crease down back, fat over ribs and tail base, behind shoulders, alongside of withers and neck but no crest
4 Fat Prominent crease down back, can’t feel ribs, wither and shoulder area filled with fat, thickening of neck, fat inside hind legs
5 Extremely fat Deep crease along back, patches of fat over ribs bulging fat over flank and neck, back legs may rub together, crested neck.

Keeping the weight off

  • Energy dense grains should be minimised. Provision of hay helps to starve off boredom as well as performing the very important task of keeping the digestive system working. Additionally, the bicarbonate buffer found in the saliva is produced through chewing motions, aiding gut pH balance and keeping gastric ulcers at bay. The most common nutritional deficiency from poor quality hay is vitamins, especially vitamin A, which can be supplemented.
  • Avoid lush pasture. You can confine the plump horse to a yard with minimal forage or practice strip grazing, use a grazing muzzle or restrict grazing time.
  • Ensure horses receive essential vitamins and minerals particularly when cutting down on feed. It is important to provide a balanced supplement. Ranvet’s Ration Balancer, which is a concentrated supplement providing a balanced combination of vitamins and minerals to optimise performance, health and vitality.
  • Provide trace minerals via the use of Ranvet’s Iodised Salt Lick which contains sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, cobalt, selenium and Vitamin E. The lick is extremely resistant to wet conditions, ideal for paddocks and stables.
Don’t Feed Do Feed
Products containing oils, such as some high performance feeds, conditioning feeds and showing products. Fibre, fibre and more fibre. If possible replace all concentrates with fibre products, such as high fibre cubes or chaffs
Early cut hay/ Spring and early summer grass due to highly soluble sugar and fructan content Suitable products for the work level of your horse
Heavily molassed, grain based pre-mix feeds Products designed specifically for the overweight horse
Carrots, apples or treats Little and often – Remember the horse is a trickle feeder

Remember: make any changes to the ration in a gradual and step-wise fashion to avoid digestive upset and ensure acceptance.


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Experts in Equine Nutrition

Every product in the Ranvet range has been developed to meet a horse’s most specific need at any given time, be it in a training environment or on a breeding farm. Having pioneered the formulation of specific medications and dietary supplements for horses, the company is now recognised as a leader in the areas of equine health and nutrition.

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