While restricting caloric intake in horses that need to lose weight is important, new research shows that low-intensity exercise is also key to helping horses shed pounds and garner additional health benefits.
A study done by the University of Melbourne used 24 horses and ponies with a body condition score of at least 7 (out of 9), which is deemed overweight. Each animal was weighed before the research began. and its body-fat mass and insulin sensitivity recorded.
All 24 were placed on a diet for 12 weeks, receiving grass hay and one meal a day that ensured they were receiving enough protein. Twelve of the horses received low-intensity exercise five day a week on an automated walker. The horses walked for five minutes, trotted for 15 and then walked for another five. Researcher Nicholas Bamford reported in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine that the decrease in body weight, body-fat mass and body condition score were similar between the two groups at the conclusion of the study.
However, it was shown that the horses that had exercised had improved insulin sensitivity. It was determined that low-intensity exercise was key to helping horses receive more health benefits than simply diet control for weight loss. Additionally, exercise alone did not improve insulin sensitivity, even with a decrease in body-fat mass.
As this study used horses that had recently become overweight, the scientists say more research is needed to determine if the restriction of diet and implementation of low-intensity exercise would help chronically obese horses.
Read the full study here.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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