Trickle Nets Top 5 Tips for Weight Management
1. Movement! This doesn’t just mean exercise. Think about your horses daily step count. We know that horses in the wild can travel 20 miles a day. (Without any haylage, rugs or bucket feeds!) How far does your horse travel in his paddock each day? How can you increase this movement? Can you add a friend in with him? We know this increases movement a great deal. (and play – so wellbeing improves) Can you add some fencing to make a track system around the paddock? Or maybe just stop bringing them in at night. Do you have to do that? It restricts movement when your horse could be burning a few extra calories mooching around his paddock. Can you ride and lead? Or maybe replace a couple of hours in the stable for a couple of hours in the arena? Do you have time to lunge each day? Can you fit that into your routine? Even ten minutes a day will make a difference. By far the most effective method we have found is to create a turnout track system. This method of keeping horses is becoming very popular for good reason. It can prompt some terrific transformations.
2. Only feed what is required, and don’t feed just for the sake of it! If all the other liveries are giving bucket feeds to their overweight horses, it doesn’t mean you have to follow. Find out exactly what feed your horse requires given their individual circumstances, and feed only what they need. There are lots of resources available to learn about your horses’ requirements. We can help you work out your forage feeding. (Visit the Trickle Net Forage Calculator on our website.) Though if your horse has any challenges such as age or illness, or they are working hard and require extra energy then we highly recommend you contact an independent nutritionist. Spending money on a nutritional review could not only save you a huge amount in years to come but also give you great peace of mind in cutting out all the guess work.
3. Body fat score. Take a good look at your horse and consider the fat cover over the neck, back, loins, shoulders, and quarters. Feel with your hands. Fat is softer than muscle, but a hard crest is sign of significant excess fat and should not be ignored. Assess your horse against one of the commonly used Body score charts. We use the Henneke 9 point scale as we think it offers a more accurate scoring system, but you can use the 5 point scale too which may be easier to get started. Do this every two weeks, and record it with photos and a girth measurement. You can use a weigh tape but don’t rely on the reading as we know they can be highly inaccurate. You can also use a piece of string, and this method is extremely useful. Tie a knot in the string where it meets and take a photo of your horse. From this you have a record of the horse’s condition on that date, and in two weeks’ time when you measure with the same string, you’ll be able to see from where the knot sits whether your horses’ weight has changed. This works just as well if you mark the spot with a felt tip pen. It's just the changes in the right direction we need - the numbers are not important.
4. Be honest with yourself. Don’t bend under pressure from others. We know that pressure from ‘others’ can be a major influence in your decisions about your horse care. In a recent poll, we asked “Do you feel that pressure from anyone on your yard has ever influenced your decisions regarding your horse’s health?“ We had 225 responses, and a whopping 55% of owners said yes. It makes us so sad to know that stronger characters on a livery yard might pressure you to move away from professional advice. Or worse still, cause you to change something which you know is right for your horse. You know your horse best. You know if your horse isn’t well, or if he’s feeling fighting fit. If your horse is overweight, admit it. There’s no shame in that, in fact that’s the brave move! It’s only then you can make changes that could save his life. Be strong. Don’t let anyone knock you off track. He or she is your horse and this is your journey with him / her. If you need some support, call Trickle Net HQ for a good old rant, and a heap of great advice.
5. Take every opportunity to speak with any professional. Be that annoying girl that always collars any vet on the yard for a two-minute chat. Don’t be shy to ask somebody else’s farrier (as well as your own!) what they think to your horses’ condition. Ask your coach what they think about your horses’ condition and talk to professionals online, where you can show photos and gain some advice and guidance. There’s a wealth of advice available online, and I promise you that any professional in the Equestrian Industry will be pleased to hear you asking the right questions and paying attention to your horse’s health. Be brave. No professional (worth their salt!) will mind giving a quick assessment on your horse’s weight. Not only will you get an accurate and honest unbiased opinion, but you might get some additional excellent advice.
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