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Inducing weight loss in native ponies: is straw a viable alternative to hay?
  1. Miranda Carlotta Maria Dosi1,
  2. Roxane Kirton2,
  3. Sarah Hallsworth2,
  4. John A Keen3 and
  5. Ruth Anna Morgan4,5
  1. 1Equine Hospital, The University of Edinburgh Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, Roslin, Midlothian, UK
  2. 2Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Norwich, UK
  3. 3Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  4. 4Centre for Cardiovascular Science, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  5. 5Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Miranda Carlotta Maria Dosi, Equine Hospital, The University of Edinburgh Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK; mdosi{at}


Background Obesity is a growing problem in UK equine population. Achieving weight loss in obese horses and ponies at risk of laminitis is an important but often challenging objective.

Methods We hypothesised that supplementing poor winter pasture with a mix of barley straw and hay (50:50) rather than hay alone (group B) would lead to weight loss in grazing equids over winter. For this purpose, a group of 40 horses were fed either the straw mix (group A) or hay alone (group B) over winter.

Results Over the study period, all animals in group A (n=25) lost weight with a mean weight change of −27±17 kg, while in group B (n=15) only 3 out of 15 lost weight (20 per cent), and overall, group B gained weight (+6±18 kg).

Conclusions This study suggests that straw is a cost-effective and low-energy roughage, which may be a useful alternative to hay alone when trying to induce weight loss in grazing equids over winter. There were no episodes of colic or laminitis during the study period in either group.

  • equine
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • nutrition
  • straw
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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Data is available upon request from author R A Morgan (

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