Though it’s long been assumed that fat horses would eat more than their leaner peers if given an option, a study from North Carolina State University shows that this isn’t actually the case. When allowed to make their own choices, chubbier horses not only eat similar quantities of food, they also exercise the same amount as their thinner herd mates.
Drs. Jennifer Moore, Paul Siciliano and Shannon Pratt-Phillips used 10 horses that they separated into two groups: one group included six horses that had body condition scores of more than 7; the other group included leaner horses with body condition scores of 4 or 5. Over the course of 25 days, both groups transitioned from a diet that relied heavily on grazing to one that was based on free-choice hay. Once the horses were transitioned over, the scientists monitored their hay intake and metabolic state for the next 11 days.
Horses had blood drawn regularly throughout the study. Fecal samples were also collected from each horse to determine dry-matter digestibility and gross energy digestibility. The horses also wore heart rate monitors that had GPS trackers that collected data to calculate each horse’s energy expenditure.
The study team found no significance difference in the energy intake and expenditures between the two groups of horses. Interestingly, the obese horses were more active for longer periods of time than the lean horses. They also spent less time eating. The scientists concluded that obesity in horses does not appear to be related to excess food intake or reduced activity; obesity is most likely related to metabolic issues.
Read more at EQUUS magazine.
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