New research has shown that some obese horses and ponies may need to have their diets more severely restricted than previously thought, in order to help them lose weight.

The study of overweight horses was conducted by the Department of Veterinary Clinical Science at the University of Liverpool, and funded the government-initiated Knowledge Transfer Partnership and the WALTHAM Equine Studies Group.

Twelve overweight and obese horses were studied over 16 weeks. Their diet was restricted to 1.25% of body weight, previously thought to be adequate at reducing weight. The horses were allowed daily but unstructured exercise.

Eight horses showed a gradual but consistent loss of body weight over the study period, yet four remained resolutely fat.

The stubborn horses were subsequently put on a 1% body weight diet, and began to display weight loss akin to the rate of the successful dieters on the 1.25% body weight regime.

It is thought that genetics may account for such individual differences in sensitivity to weight loss.

In all cases the decreasingly weight horses remained healthy and no stereotypic behaviours were seen.

For more on this and other nutrition advice don’t miss the 7 October issue of H&H.