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Feeding For Fitness

Feeding is key to ensuring a happy and healthy horse. It is

important that we tailor the diet to the horse’s specific requirements

and circumstances. Here we will take a look at some of the most

common scenarios;

Katie hayton BVM&S MrCVS,

Capontree Vets

Veterinary Surgeon

Katie Hayton

The Rules of Feeding

Feed little and often. Horses are grazers

and the equine gut is designed to receive

an almost constant supply of roughage

The diet should be based on roughage

e.g. hay, grass or haylage

Feed according to size, condition and


Monitor body condition regularly. This can

include condition and fat scoring, and the

use of a weigh tape or weigh bridge

Make dietary changes slowly over the

course of a few days. Horses are hind gut

fermenters and the bacteria in the large

intestine need time to adapt to dietary


Keep feeding times the same each day;

horses thrive on routine

Keep feed and all feeding utensils and

buckets clean

Avoid fast work immediately after feeding

hard feed or concentrates

Feed roughage such as hay or haylage

prior to fast exercise to help avoid acid

splash on an empty stomach

Provide a constant supply of clean fresh

drinking water

The Good Doer

This is typically a native pony which is often

body condition score (BCS) 3.5 or more

(based on a scoring where 0 = emaciated

and 5 = obese). Early Spring is the ideal

time to encourage weight loss. No increase

in calories, in response to increased work

load, is required for the good doer. The diet

should be based primarily on long fibre. A

balancer is a good idea to ensure all the key

vitamins and minerals are included in the diet

especially if you live in an area of the country

which is low in certain trace elements.

Concentrates are not normally required and

are best avoided as they can lead to weight

gain. To encourage the good doer to eat his

balancer you could feed small amounts of

chaff. It is worth bearing in mind that as

spring progresses the nutritive value of the

grass improves, especially the sugar content.

If your good doer is prone to laminitis, a

smaller barer paddock or grazing muzzle is

worth considering.


XLVets Equine practice

Capontree Vets