Managing an IR horse in a herd

adrienne price

My husband and I are feeling quite defeated with management issues of our IR horse, largely bebause we have 7 others who are not IR.  I realize for weight loss that 1.5% of his current weight should be fed. We currently use slow feed nets that are varied between 1 and 2” openings. Track life, no grass, tested hay.
This all sounds  so easy if he were the only horse we had. So how do I realistically manage his intake???….
1. Is it realistic to put a muzzle on him with hay nets? 
2. a parallel track at this time just for him would not have shelter on it 
3. other options?

Adrienne Williams in KY, 2022 

Trisha DePietro

Hi Adrienne. I would introduce the muzzle to him...see how he does and give him sometime to adjust to it and eating through it. The muzzle will slow him down while eating. If you can create the parallel track, you can purchase a canopy top that arcs over fence panels. It blocks the sun and rain and would provide the shelter he needs..Some of them come with sides that can come down and fasten at the bottom to block wind too.  Check out the company called ClearSpan. And in addition, I would look for someone that can exercise him 3-4 times per week walking and trotting for 30 minutes...exercise is really important...If he's not moving on the track, because he's standing in front of a hay bag, its just not going to work. And if his hay access is endless, then he won't lose weight. Perhaps take one of the other horses that likes to move their feet and pair them on the parallel track to encourage more movement.  When he's on the separate track, when his weighed hay is finished its finished....he doesn't get more until later...he can safely go 4-6 hours without another feed. I use their supplement with the carrier to bridge the in between times...Just some suggestions...I know its difficult. How long is your track and how wide is it? 
Trisha DePietro
Aug 2018
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Nancy C

Hi Adrienne

When introducing the muzzle, adding a treat as it is being put on, can help.

I use parallel turnout and my two do move together, as Trisha mentions.
Nancy C in NH
ECIR Moderator 2003
ECIR Group Inc. President 2021-2022



Hi Adrienne,
I have been managing a situation similar to yours for years, generally successfully.  There is nothing about an IR diet that won’t benefit other horses as well.  My horses come into stalls at night and that’s where their management becomes more specific for each horse.  While I live further north than you, I have plenty of lush pastures that aren’t being used.  When I did use them, my horses were rotund.  Switching off those lush pastures, I felt they needed hay in front of them all the time.  Turns out that was another misconception I had.  They do need regular feedings but they don’t need to be in the barnyard all day, just munching away on hay.  My water tank is at the barn at the top of a hill and the most entertaining part of their turn out is at the bottom so they get exercise that way.  I also have several turnout areas so they can be in smaller groups, depending on their needs.  Some get muzzled and some don’t.  They objected to muzzles at first, until they realized that turnout came after muzzling.  While I do have several more permanent turnouts, I use jump standards and electric string to divide them even further.  I rarely turn the fence on anymore but I do if it seems appropriate.  I guess a big feature of my management that makes this work is that, no horse stays in the same turnout all day.  They come into their stalls at night, as I mentioned, but they also come in during the heat of the day.  Each time they come in is another opportunity to feed them differently.
What breeds are your other horses?  The Rocky Mountain is susceptible genetically to being IR, as are other hardy breeds.  A TB is much less likely to be IR.  I have some PPID WB’s and TB crosses which go out together and ponies, which are highly IR susceptible and go into a more controlled turnout, muzzled, with more time unmuzzled in a graveled area.
What I don’t have is a track system.  At one point, I considered installing one but I’ve been able to make things work without.  I also don’t have the option of opening each stall to its own run.  My barn is an antique bank barn which opens on three sides.  The fourth side, against the bank, is where the stalls are.
Hoping this might give you some ideas to work with.
Martha in Vermont
ECIR Group Primary Response
July 2012 
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adrienne price

So muzzle him while on track with hay bags?
Adrienne Williams in KY, 2022 

Kirsten Rasmussen

Yes, but try muzzling and loose hay first to get him used to eating with the muzzle.  Then try a large hole hay net.  You may need to separate him for these trials.  Make sure he can eat before going 100% to the muzzle and hay nets.  If you do it all at once you'll likely have a very frustrated horse.

Another option would be to put him in a closed muzzle on the track, and bring him in every 6 hours for his weighed portion of hay.  Not sure if that would fit into your lifestyle, but then you'd know exactly how much he is eating.  You could even soak his hay to help reduce his insulin if it is high. 

Kirsten and Shaku (EMS + PPID) and Snickers (EMS) - 2019
Kitimat, BC, Canada
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