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Winter Equine Weight Loss
 By Winniefield Park   •   28th Dec 2015   •   1,290 views   •   0 comments
Winter Equine Weight Loss

About this time of year, my horse starts to put on weight. There are a few reasons for this. Her work load lightens, although itís not very strenuous to begin with. The bugs are gone, which means thereís less pacing and swishing to evade them. And, the weather is cooler, but not yet very cold. So, sheís eating as much as she wants, but not burning many excess calories. I donít give it a lot of thought, as I donít mind seeing her go into deep winter with a little stored fuel. Not all horses will be like this, and some will burn a lot of energy keeping warm and dealing with winter weather.

If your horse tends to lose weight easily, or is a hard keeper that never seems to put weight on there are a few things you can do.

Shelter From the Weather
You might provide your horse with a warm winter blanket, a snug shelter or put it in a stall for part of the day or night. Whatever you do, a horse that has a hard time maintaining a healthy weight will need some protection from the elements. That means it needs a place to get out of the wind and wet. Most horses are okay in fairly cold temperatures as long as the air is still, and their coat is not flattened by rain or melting snow. But the hard keeper might need some extra help. If you use a blanket be sure to check under that blanket frequently, because youíre want to keep a close eye on your horseís condition.

Parasite Control
Internal parasites can run a horse down, so itís important to have an effective deworming schedule. Not only are parasites nutrition thieves taking the good from your horseís food, they can also damage your horseís internal organs, which can cause other health problems. After the first frost in a good time to deworm with a medication that targets bots, as well as other parasites.

Dental Care
Most horses need to have their teeth checked at least once a year. Sharp edges on teeth and other dental problems can make it hard for a horse to chew efficiently and that means they will have a hard time getting all of the nutrition they need. Bad teeth can also lead to infections and other health problems.

Free Choice Hay
When cold weather hits, your horse keeps warm by digesting food. Their digestive system is like a big internal furnace, burning grass or hay fiber that generates a lot of heat as it breaks down. Keep your horse warm by making sure it always has good quality grass or hay to nibble on. Grass hay is fine, but some legumes in the mix will add extra calories and nutrition.

Concentrated Feeds
Grains and mixes can help a horse who has a hard time keeping weight on because they provide a high power hit of calories. Older horses especially may benefit from pelleted food thatís been cooked, and is easily chewed. Various types of oils, rice bran, ground flax and beet pulp can help as long as almost 2/3 of your horseís diet is roughage. Adding these things in too quickly, or feeding too much oil can cause digestive upset, so go slow and donít go overboard with the oils.

Water
It is extremely important that your horse has drinkable water available. Horses canít eat enough snow to stay hydrated and trying to do so will chill them down. Studies have shown that horses actually prefer tepid water. They may try to drink icy water, but if they don't drink enough because it makes them uncomfortable, not only will they not only not drink enough for efficient digestion, it can lead to dehydration and colic.

Whatever changes you make in your horseís diet, go gradually. Sudden changes can cause problems. But a few adjustments can help the hard keeper weather the winter cold more comfortably and in better condition.
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