We’ve all heard the phrase “good-doers” but what does it mean? Also known as “easy keepers” these are horses and ponies that have no trouble maintaining or gaining weight, with little more than a forage based diet. Don’t let the name fool you though… When it comes to the warmer Spring and Summer months, there’s nothing ‘good’ or ‘easy’ about caring for these equines, thanks to their increased risk of obesity, laminitis, insulin dysregulation, joint strain, heat intolerance and respiratory strain.
Top 10 Tips for Good-doers
We’ve been talking to Caroline Dickens from Baileys to find out how to keep good-doers on the straight and narrow! Take a look at her top ten tips…
1) Never starve your good-doers.
Just like with people, crash dieting is never the answer! When we see our horses piling on the pounds at the start of Spring it can be really tempting to think that being “cruel to be kind” is the only answer. But beware… Good-doers deprived of pasture and fed very little alternative fibre will make up for lost time and consume even more when turned out again! Not to mention, they’ll be at an increased risk of gastric ulcers and hyperlipaemia (an often fatal condition where there’s abnormally high concentration of fats in the blood).
2) Maintain fibre intake.
The key to healthy weight loss is to maintain fibre and nutrient intake, while monitoring sugars and cutting calories. When reducing grazing it’s vital to ensure that your horse still has at least 1.5% of his bodyweight in forage/fibre per day. Failing to provide this can stop the digestive system working healthily. Late cut, stalky hay or haylage is low in nutritional value but high in fibre, perfect for good-doers. Alternatively, soak your hay for up to 9 hours to “wash out” calories but be sure to compensate for any lost vitamins and minerals.
3) Maintain a balanced diet.
Just because your horse is maintaining (or even gaining) weight, doesn’t mean they’re getting everything they need in their diet. Pasture and forage undoubtedly provide calories but levels of essential minerals, vitamins and proteins can vary. Feeding the recommended amount of a balancer, like Baileys Lo-Cal, will ensure your good-doer has all he needs for well-being, healthy hooves and muscle tone, without adding the excessive calories associated with a traditional mix or cube.
4) Exercise your good-doers.
Fitness fights fat! Very few of us can stay slim and toned without some form of exercise (unfortunately) and the same applies to our horses. A large saggy belly can be due as much to lack of correct exercise as to excess calorie intake. There are loads of options when it comes to exercising our horses, from in-hand walking and riding to driving and free schooling. For more fitness inspiration why not take a look at our blog: Get Your Horse Fit For The Upcoming Season!
5) Keep your good-doers occupied.
Horses are designed to graze continuously. Ideally, their hay net should last them all day to avoid long periods without food. Small-holed hay nets and/or putting one net inside another will help a little forage go a long way. Boredom toys and balls containing low calorie, high fibre nuts will also help pass the time for your good-doers when they have restricted access to pasture.
6) Regularly Body Condition Score (BCS) your good-doers.
Knowledge is power! Learning to assess how your horse or pony looks and how much body fat he is carrying is the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Use the handy guide on our blog or on the Baileys web site to keep an eye on your horses progress.
7) Feed by weight not volume.
One scoop is one scoop, right? Your horses feed should always be measured by how much it weighs, not it’s volume. For example, the weight of one Stubbs scoop of high fibre cubes is equivalent to five scoops of Light Chaff. Choosing chaff would not only supply fewer calories but also keep your horse chewing for much longer, ideal for good-doers.
8) Measure soaked feeds by their weight when dry.
If years of carrying water buckets has taught us anything, it’s this… Water is heavy! The recommended quantities of Baileys feeds are based on dry weight. What sounds like not a lot of feed goes long way – A Baileys measuring mug of dry Speedi-Beet weighs just 120g but soaks to a whole Stubbs scoop of wet beet containing just 1.32MJ of Digestible Energy (calories). Soaked feeds are a great way to help your good-doers to feel full after their meal.
9) Replace lost electrolytes.
As the temperatures begin to rise our horses will naturally sweat more. Sweat contains vital electrolytes, if these are not replaced through your horses diet it can leave them fatigued and struggling to recover. Baileys Aqua-Aide is ideal for replenishing lost electrolyte salts to aid recovery and rehydration. If your horse requires supplementation, it’s better to add electrolytes to a very wet feed as it’s more palatable and easier to monitor. If you choose to add electrolytes to your horses water, plain water must also be provided.
10) Give a small fibre feed before exercise.
One thing we all dread is our horses getting ulcers! Though this is an issue more commonly seen in racehorses and performance horses it’s important to remember that even good-doers may suffer with acid splash in the stomach when exercising. A scoop of an alfalfa-based chaff will help provide a physical barrier in the stomach. Alfalfa has natural acid-buffering properties, as does the saliva produced when the chaff is chewed.
We hope that this blog will help you to keep your four legged friend in tip top condition this Spring! For more information regarding Baileys horse feed please contact Caroline Dickens (NW Feed Advisor) on 078010227 or the Baileys Nutrition line on 01371850247.
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