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Do you know how hard your horse is really working? 

July 20th 2021

Have you thought about how hard you are actually working your horse?


Do you feed your horse accordingly to meet the workload requirements?


Time and time again i see clients experiencing training issues which some coaches have concluded is plain "naughtiness" or simply lack of training. However most of the time I find it is due to a hirse being overfed for what he actually needs.


In simple terms most hirses are in light work - medium work at most.


This is 1- 5 hours a week of schooling (or similar) with around 50% of that time spent in trot, 10% canter and the rest walk.


Horses in light-medium work rarely need supplementing with hard feed. And yet most horse owners are feeding a high energy feed to these animals (check the Digestible Energy (DE) of your feed later, you'll find it on the back of the feedbag)


It doesn't matter if its 'slow release energy' it's still surplus energy requirement which, if not utilised will either turn to fat, leading to obesity/overweight horses or overexcited behaviour.


Neither is particularly desirable.

Hale. Hemmings and Randle (2016) conducted a study to compare the level of work a horse was in as stated by the national Research Council (NRC) 2007 with the perceived level of work the owner attributed to the anima. 

They conducted a face to face survey over a 2 year period with 1270 horse owners. Owners were asked to state levels of workload their horses were in - 

Maintenance, Light, Medium, Hard or Very Hard

Each owner was then asked how many times per week they rode/worked their horse; then length of time each bout of work lasted and the type of exercise conducted. 

Each horse was assigned to one of the 5 workload categories based upon the NRC description of each category . 






IT was found that there were significant discrepancies - with the owner-perceived score being much higher than the actual score! 

Some owners had in fact stated that their animals were in very hard work (the type of work used to describe racehorses in full training) when in reality they were deemed to be in minimal/light work

Nearly three quarters of horses were categorised by their owners as being either medium or hard work. Whereas the authors placed the majority of these horses into the light work category.​

This is important as workload estimation is essential for the correct calculation of dietary needs. 

This study highlights that horse owners in the UK significantly overestimate the amount  f work that their horses are in. This may then lead to overfeeding and confound the issues of obesity and poor behaviour in the domestic horse population .

So take time to assess your horses ACTUAL requirements in relation to its workload and adjust accordingly.

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