#AskTheVet with Dr. Carolyn Smith
Question: My horse is loving summer turnout but has put on weight from eating a lot of grass. Do you have any tips to manage weight gain throughout the season?
Answer: If your horse is gaining weight in summer turnout, there are several ways to reduce caloric intake. In addition to keeping your horse fit and active, one great option is to have your horse wear a grazing muzzle at all times when they have access to grass. Muzzles can reduce grass intake by about 30% and still allow the horse to drink and breathe well. There are several different shapes and sizes of muzzles, so most people should be able to find one that their horse tolerates. Simply reducing turnout time from 12 hours to 10 is less effective. A study done on ponies and grazing intake demonstrated that horses can become more effective/faster at grazing when they have time to adapt to a shorter duration of turnout.
For horses that have gained an extreme amount of weight or will not keep a muzzle on, there are a couple of other options. First, examine your horse’s grain or concentrate diet with your veterinarian. You may be able to reduce the amount of grain they are eating or even switch to only giving them a ration balancer, which has the required nutrients without excessive calories or sugar. In severe cases or horses that have a history of laminitis, full turnout on grass may not be possible. To help these horses enjoy time outside, they can be turned out in a large dry lot with different enrichment toys such as a hay ball or slow feed hay nets placed at different spots in the area.
At B.W. Furlong & Associates, we are progressive leaders delivering the ultimate in veterinary care to our equine patients and clients in both the hospital and ambulatory setting. We have several associated practices offering exemplary care and services in New Jersey, Florida, and Virginia