The obesity crisis no longer applies to humans. More and more nutritionists and veterinarians are seeing an increase in obesity within other species, including equines. Obesity in the equine population can partly be contributed to better quality nutritional products and pasture management, which over the years has made it easier for horses to get fat and stay that way. Another contributing factor is a lack of exercise; many horses get little to no exercise on a daily basis. What are the risks for an overweight horse? Overweight horses are prone to many disorders.
When was the last time you evaluated what your horse is being fed? The nutritional needs of horses actually change quite frequently, and I always recommend a thorough evaluation of the forage, concentrate and supplements being fed to a horse every four months. Think about it, something has probably changed the nutritional requirements of almost every horse within the last four months.
The energy level of the horse is one of the most commonly analyzed factors of performance. Horses that compete in energy-oriented competitions need the proper amount of fuel to perform at their best. While the main source of energy in feeds for performance horses is carbohydrates, other sources should not be dismissed.
As the summer gets hotter you find yourself with a sweaty horse, but a quick hose down is not all he needs after a good workout. Horse sweat is hypertonic, meaning it contains more mineral salts or electrolytes than water. If electrolytes are depleted from the horse and not quickly replenished, numerous health problems can occur.
Alternative medicines and dietary supplements are quickly growing in popularity among those in the equine industry as a means of treating conditions and illnesses that affect horses. Some of these therapeutic agents have been intensively researched while others have little or no scientific evidence to support their efficacy. However, consistent anecdotal reports on their use in treating musculo-skeletal conditions, pain and behavioral issues as well as enhancing overall well being and performance cannot be ignored.
Horses affected by equine metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and Cushing’s disease require modification in several areas of management to regain their health. Diligent adherence to dietary, exercise, and therapeutic changes are mandatory to avoid long- term negative and debilitating health effects. We now know that horses with equine metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and Cushing’s disease do not metabolize starch and sugar like normal horses, and this negatively affects endocrine function. Other major health problems are also associated with the disorders, such as obesity, although not all horses affected by these disorders become grossly overweight.