Obesity causes significant problems in horses. It is linked with equine metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, leading to an increased risk of laminitis. It can adversely affect athletic performance and may limit reproductive ability.
With the onset of the grazing season, it is time to consider how to stop ponies putting on too much weight.
A study by Annette Longland, in conjunction with Pat Harris and the WALTHAM Equine Studies Group, has assessed three restricted grazing practices for managing equine bodyweight during the British grass growing season.
Three groups of four ponies, that had been equally matched for weight, height and secondarily, body condition score, were placed in paddocks with a herbage yield equivalent to 1.5% (dry weight) of each pony’s bodyweight per day for 28 days.
The ponies were assigned to one of three grazing practices:
- no other restriction;
- a lead fence placed across the width of the paddock to allow fresh grass to be accessed each day by moving it 1/28th of the paddock length daily;
- strip grazed with both a lead and a back fence with the back fence being moved the same distance as the lead fence daily.
“The ponies with gradual access to pasture via strip grazing had significantly lower bodyweight gains than their counterparts who were allowed free access to the entire 28-day herbage allocation,” said Clare Barfoot RNutr, Marketing and Research and Development Director at SPILLERS. “If you are planning on turning your horse out to grass during this current situation or at any other time it’s certainly worth considering installing a strip grazing fence and moving it once a day.”
The next stage of research includes looking at several other aspects of strip grazing such as pasture wear and tear and activity levels in order to be able to give further advice as to the choice of strip grazing method.
For more details, see:
Comparison of three restricted grazing practices for equine bodyweight management during the UK grass growing season
Harris P & Longland A (2020)
Proceedings of the 4th Global Equine Endocrine Symposium p64
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