Spring Weight Loss?

Posted by Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS on Mar 15th 2024

Spring Weight Loss?

As spring arrives and we really take time to look at our horses sometimes we find they’re not at the weight we might like. If they’ve been hanging on the round bale and not moving much, perhaps you have more weight than you would like. On the other hand, you may be thinking your horse has lost weight causing you to panic.

Let's step back and look at nature to decide what is really best and what is happening. In nature, fall grass and forage is usually lusher than summer forage, allowing the horses (and other animals) to pack on weight for the cold winter. Winter comes, less forage is available, and it may not have much nutrition in it. Horses lose weight. Spring comes and with it a flush of nutrition. The thin horse can happily pack on pounds to regain what was lost in the winter.

Now, think about modern horse life. We have plenty of forage and feed available all year. There is little weight loss in the winter. Spring grass comes and our starting point is already at peak weight. The result: horse gain even more weight and we spend the rest of the year trying to take it off.

So, if we look at weight management a bit differently, perhaps we want to have a bit of weight loss during the winter. It's probably healthier in the long run. For horses that are working hard in the winter (foxhunters and competition horses), this does not apply.

Ob Formula

Life is not always simple, however, since many horses will still maintain their full weight all winter, either because of quality hay or less exercise. For these horses, continue with weight management as you have been doing, and try to increase exercise. But the fresh spring grass intake will have to be monitored carefully. Get a weight tape and check every 2 weeks to see if they are creeping up in weight.

One caution, the first bites of spring grass are like the best chocolate on the planet if you are a horse. For the first few weeks they will often spend every bit of energy they have eating the tiniest of blades of grass. They won’t even be interested in their hay. And they often look thin. That’s working in your favor, because for a few weeks they take in less calories and actually do lose weight. Do not increase feed at this point. Wait three weeks and watch out, that weight will come right back as the grass grows and matures a bit more.

Read how to detox your horses in the springtime

To learn more about feeding your horse throughout the seasons, sign up for my Horse Healthmanship nutrition course. https://harmanyequine.com/introduction-to-horse-healthmanship/