SPILLERS is inviting owners of overweight horses and ponies to join their new Spillers Slimmers’ Club for support, advice and encouragement to help keep their horse or pony at a healthy weight.
The initiative is supported by Redwings Horse Sanctuary, who hope it will help people recognise that an overweight horse can be as much of a welfare risk as an underweight one – as highlighted by the Redwings case study below.
Obesity is a major welfare issue for horses and ponies, not only because of the direct weight-associated effects, but also due to the increased risk it poses for certain clinical conditions, in particular laminitis. Other health and welfare implications include increased joint strain, respiratory stress, heat intolerance, an increase in chronic low-grade inflammation in senior horses and reduced fertility.
The Spillers Slimmers’ Club provides horse owners with invaluable information and advice including weight loss tips, details of how to body condition score and use a weigh tape, diet plans and weight loss records. Club members will also receive access to a dedicated Facebook group where they can share their horse’s progress and tips with other owners, as well as post questions for Spillers nutritionists to answer.
“Some horses and ponies simply appear to get fat on thin air,” said Clare Barfoot RNutr, Marketing and Research and Development Director at Mars Horsecare UK, home of the Spillers brand.
“Reduced exercise and less rigorous management regimes due to COVID-19 restrictions haven’t helped and we are perhaps becoming guilty of normalising overweight horses. We all need to work together to tackle the problem, for the future health and welfare of our horses and we hope our Spillers Slimmers’ Club will help achieve exactly that.”
Spillers’ commitment to enhancing equine health and wellbeing is reflected in the feed brand’s extensive research work in the areas of EMS, obesity, laminitis and weight management. Via the Waltham Equine Studies Group, Spillers has been involved with more than 100 published research papers relating to these important topics in the past 20 years. This places them in a unique position to provide the very latest advice and practical support to help address the issue of equine obesity.
With Redwings helping to spread the word, even more horse owners are set to benefit from the guidance and support provided. The charity will be sharing literature with all those taking on a Redwings horse or pony, as well as sharing tips and answering practical management questions on the Spillers Slimmers’ Facebook group.
Nicola Knight, Head of Communications and Campaigns at Redwings Horse Sanctuary, said: “For almost 20 years, we have worked closely with Spillers to help raise awareness and support horse owners on a range of health and wellbeing issues. The Spillers Slimmers campaign is just as close to our hearts as we see more and more equines arrive at the Sanctuary requiring veterinary attention for conditions that could have been prevented with proper weight management.
“With a herd of 1,500 rescued horses, ponies, donkeys and mules, we also live the day-to-day challenges of pasture management and helping our residents maintain healthy weights throughout the changing seasons, whilst tending to their individual and specialist needs. We look forward to sharing our experiences through this latest exciting partnership with Spillers.”
To celebrate the campaign and their longstanding partnership, Spillers has donated £500 to Redwings.
You can join the Spillers Slimmers’ Club via the Spillers Facebook page.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary Weight loss case study: ‘John’
HACKNEY-cross ‘John’ was described by a vet as ‘grossly overweight’ when he was rescued in May 2020. The 11-year-old was just over 15 hands, yet weighed 612kg and had a body condition score of 5 on the 0-5 scale. ‘John’ was also suffering from the painful effects of laminitis, not helped by the additional pressure being put on his laminae by his excessive bodyweight.
Part of the immediate care ‘John’ received on arrival at Redwings was to begin a carefully planned weight loss programme. While urgent, his diet needed to be managed to ensure all ‘John’s’ nutritional, physical and psychology needs would be consistently met, while gradually losing body fat.
By seeing ‘John’s’ weight loss as an essential but long-term project, our veterinary and horse care teams enabled ‘John’ to lose an incredible 167kg over a 14-month period. This amounted to more than a quarter of his original body weight, and more than a third of what ‘John’s’ weight would have been if his owner had monitored and managed his condition effectively.
Ridden work was not an option for ‘John’, partly due to his laminitis. For some horses, exercise can play a significant role in helping to increase energy use alongside reducing calorie intake. However, this case shows that significant weight loss is still achievable for a non-ridden horse.
In addition to looking far healthier, ‘John’s’ weight loss also transformed his behaviour. The often grumpy, food-obsessed gelding became far more relaxed, sociable and easier to handle.
‘John’s’ owner had been made aware of the risk ‘John’s’ condition posed to his health and was given practical advice on numerous occasions to help her reduce his weight. Having ignored every effort to guide and support her, ‘John’ was removed from his owner’s care while legal action was taken against her by the RSPCA.
Found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to ‘John’, his owner was banned from keeping any equine for three years, ordered to pay almost £9,000 in costs, fines and charges, and ‘John’ was transferred into Redwings’ permanent ownership.