overweight horse cowgirl magazine

Winter is almost behind us! Some horses have put on quite the hay belly, and it’ll only get worse with the arrival of lush spring grass. It’s essential you slim them down before they suffer the effects of being overweight or obese. It can destroy their performance and health!

How to Shed the Pounds

First and foremost, evaluate your horse’s body condition score. The Henneke body score system will help you determine if your horse is truly overweight. You will evaluate the fat deposits on their neck, wither, back, rib area, and tail head. The scores 7 to 9 are considered overweight to obese.

An overweight horse is more prone to diseases like laminitis, equine metabolic syndrome, and evaluated levels of stress hormone cortisol. They can also have joint problems, weaker hooves, and are at an increased risk for muscle strains. These horses will have trouble regulating their body temperature and can quickly overheat.

The key to your horse or pony losing weight is through diet and exercise.

Diet Tips:

  • Mature grass hay is ideal for overweight horses. It has less calories in it.
  • Hay should be the majority of your horse’s diet. Their food intake should be 1.5% of their body weight. A 1,200-pound horse will consume roughly 18 pounds daily.
  • A ration balancer should be fed in place of grain. These offer essential vitamins and minerals, but without the extra calories.
  • Use slow-feeder hay nets to extend the length of time your horse eats. This can curb unwanted behavior like cribbing and weaving. It also reduces ulcers.

Exercise Tips:

  • An overweight horse is unfit. They’ll need to slowly be brought into work to avoid injury.
  • Start with 20 to 30 minutes of walking and light trotting a few days a week.
  • Eventually, you’ll want to see visible sweat 3-5 days a week.
  • Get into a routine. Once you stop exercising them for a period of time, their weight will return.

Diet and exercise must be combined for the best results!