|A grazing muzzle is one device used to prevent too much weight gain during the spring and summer, but research shows that equine obesity is still a concern during the winter. Photo: Leslie Potter|
Plenty of humans bemoan winter’s weight gain. Holiday goodies followed by months of little daylight and inhospitable weather lead to less physical activity and often weight gain. On the other hand, most horse owners assume that their pastured horses will lose some weight during the months when the grass is dormant and covered in snow. A recent study, presented as Variation in body condition in small groups of horses at the International Equitation Science Conference suggests that this is not always the case.
More horses than ponies were obese based body condition score, where 27.6% were determined to be obese. More ponies had a high cresty neck score, with 48.8% of the equines rating a three or above on the five-point scale.
Although there is less grass available during the winter months, owners may overcompensate with too much supplementary feed. Many owners choose to keep their horses blanketed in the winter and may also reduce their workload, which prevents extra calorie burning. Since horses with access to grass are likely to gain weight in the spring and summer, beginning the season with a high body weight can be dangerous for equines that tend to be easy keepers.