SPILLERS invites owners of overweight horses and ponies to join their new Spillers Slimmers’ Club for support, advice, and encouragement in keeping their horse or pony at a healthy weight.
The initiative is backed by Redwings Horse Sanctuary, who hope it will help people realize that an overweight horse can pose as great a risk to welfare as an underweight one – as the Redwings case study below shows.
Obesity is a major welfare issue for horses and ponies, not only because of its direct weight-related effects, but also because of the increased risk it poses for certain clinical conditions, particularly laminitis. Further effects on health and well-being are increased joint stress, respiratory stress, heat intolerance, an increase in chronic, low-grade inflammation in older horses and reduced fertility.
The Spillers Slimmers’ Club provides horse owners with invaluable information and advice, including weight loss tips, details on assessing body condition and using a belt scale, diet plans, and weight loss protocols. Club members also have access to a special Facebook group where they can share their horse’s progress and tips with other owners and ask questions to Spillers nutritionists.
“Some horses and ponies just seem to get fat,” says Clare Barfoot RNutr, director of marketing and research and development at Mars Horsecare UK, the home of the Spillers brand.
“Reduced exercise and less stringent management programs due to COVID-19 restrictions have not helped and we may be guilty of normalizing overweight horses. We all need to work together to address the problem for the future health and welfare of our horses and we hope that our Spillers Slimmers’ Club will help to achieve just that. “
Spillers’ commitment to improving horse health and wellbeing is reflected in the feed brand’s extensive research into EMS, obesity, laminitis and weight management. Through the Waltham Equine Studies Group, Spillers has been involved in more than 100 published research papers on these important topics over the past 20 years. This places them in a unique position to offer the latest advice and practical support to solve the equine obesity problem.
As Redwings helps get the word out, even more horse owners will benefit from the advice and support. The charity shares literature with anyone who takes on a Redwings horse or pony, as well as tips and answers practical management questions on the Spillers Slimmers Facebook group.
Nicola Knight, Head of Communications and Campaigns at Redwings Horse Sanctuary, said, “We have worked closely with Spillers for nearly 20 years to raise awareness and support horse owners on a range of health and wellbeing issues. The Spillers Slimmers campaign is just as important to us as we see more and more horses arriving at the sanctuary in need of veterinary assistance to avoid diseases 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 daily challenges of pasture management and help our residents to maintain a healthy weight in the changing seasons and at the same time to cater to their individual and special needs. We look forward to sharing our experiences as part of this latest exciting partnership with Spillers. “
To celebrate the campaign and their longstanding partnership, Spillers donated £ 500 to Redwings.
You can join the Spillers Slimmers’ Club through the Spillers Facebook page.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary Weight Loss Case Study: “John”
The HACKNEY crossbreed ‘John’ was described as ‘grossly overweight’ by a veterinarian when he was rescued in May 2020. The 11-year-old was just over 15 hands tall, but weighed 612 kg and had a body condition score of 5 on the 0-5 scale. ‘John’ also suffered the painful effects of laminitis, which did not help due to the added pressure his excessive body weight was putting on his lamina.
Part of the immediate care “John” received upon arrival at Redwings was to begin a carefully planned weight loss program. While urgent, his diet needed to be controlled to ensure that all of ‘John’s’ nutritional, physical and psychological needs were consistently met while at the same time losing body fat.
Seeing ‘John’s’ weight loss as an essential but long-term project, our veterinary and horse care teams enabled ‘John’ to lose a staggering 150 pounds over a 14 month period. This was 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 his condition and treated it effectively.
Riding was out of the question for ‘John’, partly because of his laminitis. In some horses, exercise can play an important role in increasing energy expenditure while reducing caloric intake. However, this case shows that significant weight loss is still achievable in a horse that has not been ridden.
Not only did ‘John’s’ weight loss look much healthier, it also changed the way he behaved. The often grumpy, forage-obsessed gelding became much more relaxed, sociable and manageable.
‘John’s’ owner had been made aware of the health risk posed by ‘John’ and received practical advice on numerous occasions to help her lose weight. After ignoring all efforts to guide and support her, ‘John’ was removed from his owner’s care while the RSPCA took legal action against her.
Found guilty of unnecessary harm to ‘John’, his owner was banned from keeping horses for three years, had to pay nearly £ 9,000 in costs, fines and fees, and ‘John’ was made the permanent property of Redwings .