There are multiple avenues for approaching the ever-growing problem of metabolic horses. Most of the attention has focused on the diet and limiting intake of grass and in the case of obese horses, hay as well. This is a self-perpetuating cycle as it puts the horse in starvation mode which releases the hormones that contribute to obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Low starch foods only work so far in helping to solve the problem (and one of the newer choices available to horse owners is copra (cococut meal) a low sugar foodstuff.
It is no secret (or shouldn’t be) that regular consistent exercise is one of the best ways to manage, reduce and even eliminate metabolic syndrome (and accompanying problems of laminitis). But recent research has shed a little more light on why. There is a white fat cell (which stores fat) and a brown fat cell (which generates heat and burns fat). Exercise will convert white fat cells to brown ones which in turn will result in weight loss.
In people, researchers have found that:
• Slender people have more brown fat than obese people do
• Younger people have more brown fat than elderly people, and
• People with normal blood sugar levels have more brown fat than those with high blood sugar
So it is not much of a stretch to think that this could also be the case in horses. So, saddle up and get working. If your horse’s feet are tender because of metabolic induced mild laminitis, start out with padded boots. Eventually you will be able to ride completely barefoot.