Fat horses

Wishfilly

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I know this comes up a lot, so apologies for the repeat thread!

I'm in a few different groups on Facebook, mainly from when I was looking to buy, but I stay in them because sometimes interesting things come up!

Recently, in a couple of the groups, I've seen some very fat horses come up- mostly cob/coloured types. These horses (to me) look genuinely obese- big, cresty necks, big fat pads on the shoulders, etc etc- but seem to be rewarded in the show ring (relatively low level stuff, but still).

I know people might be doing stuff behind the scenes, but what bothers me the most is all the approving comments these horses get- I mean, again, I suppose people are trying to be nice, but still.

It just feels like we are in danger of normalising horses that look abnormally fat to me- and all the health problems that come with that! Especially as these horses seem to still get rewarded in the show ring.

I know a lot of equine charities try to do education around this, but I think people look at cobs especially and think they are meant to be a bit chunky and then let them get fat, which is really not fair on the horses!
 

ElectricChampagne

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I have to agree. I know someone who has an incredibly fat cob. It's actually heartbreaking because the poor thing struggles with it. But it's seen as normal. I can't really say much because I'd be the negative one, and be accused of bullying. Which isn't my intention at all
 

shortstuff99

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Cob owners are the worst for having fat horses but thinking they are 'built' that way. I have cobs before anyone jumps on me but I keep mine slim and fit.

I see lots of posts on my cob groups asking for feed to help bulk up their cobs, even when they're already fat. It's madness. Then everyone else posts pictures of their chunky cobs which are just obese 🙄.
 
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Cob owners are the worst for having fat horses but thinking they are 'built' that way. I have cobs before anyone jumps on me but I keep mine slim and fit.

I see lots of posts on my cob groups asking for feed to help bulk up their cobs, even when they're already fat. It's madness. Then everyone else posts pictures of their chunky cobs which are just obese 🙄.
As a cob owner I agree. No horse is meant to be fat, regardless of breed or type. Funny how it also seems to be the owners of these obese cobs who insist on feeding their cobs more and more.
 

Wishfilly

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Cob owners are the worst for having fat horses but thinking they are 'built' that way. I have cobs before anyone jumps on me but I keep mine slim and fit.

I see lots of posts on my cob groups asking for feed to help bulk up their cobs, even when they're already fat. It's madness. Then everyone else posts pictures of their chunky cobs which are just obese 🙄.
Yes, I have a cobx pony, and I feel like he's the sort of pony that other people would try to bulk up, thinking that's his "type" but his actual frame/skeleton isn't that broad (if that makes any sense!). I try to keep a close eye on his weight, and luckily he does actually naturally lose weight in the winter. He's now out on lush grass overnight, so he gets one small feed a day to carry vitamins, minerals and a supplement for his skin!

There's definitely a show cob sort of look which involves being overweight, I think.
 

SilverLinings

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It has been a long time since I've seen a cob class at any level show that hasn't just looked like a 'fattest horse' class (this also seems to apply to a lot of native classes). As is shown in the pics posted by @fetlock cobs shouldn't be fat, they should be a fit, useful, working-type. It is awful that many people's understanding of what a cob should look like has been so warped, especially as it is nothing but detrimental (and often cruel) for the horse. There are so many lovely pictures of fit, lean cobs (many who won prizes at top shows) in books and magazines right up until the 1970s/80s, but since then the way they are presented has gone down hill drastically.

I think one of the most effective ways to fix this would be to never place overweight horses in showing classes, but there seems little willingness to do this at any level. People would be quick to be horrified and tell someone off for having an underweight horse, and overweight needs to be seen in the same way- fat kills horses, and laminitis is a particularly horrible way to go (not to mention the joint problems, digestive problems, liver problems, heart problems and skin problems etc that can be caused by a horse being overweight).
 

Wishfilly

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TheSubwayDino

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I know this comes up a lot, so apologies for the repeat thread!

I'm in a few different groups on Facebook, mainly from when I was looking to buy, but I stay in them because sometimes interesting things come up!

Recently, in a couple of the groups, I've seen some very fat horses come up- mostly cob/coloured types. These horses (to me) look genuinely obese- big, cresty necks, big fat pads on the shoulders, etc etc- but seem to be rewarded in the show ring (relatively low level stuff, but still).

I know people might be doing stuff behind the scenes, but what bothers me the most is all the approving comments these horses get- I mean, again, I suppose people are trying to be nice, but still.

It just feels like we are in danger of normalising horses that look abnormally fat to me- and all the health problems that come with that! Especially as these horses seem to still get rewarded in the show ring.

I know a lot of equine charities try to do education around this, but I think people look at cobs especially and think they are meant to be a bit chunky and then let them get fat, which is really not fair on the horses!
It's honestly ashame, judges favour fat cobs because it looks like what a cob ""should"" look like. Which is totally untrue. It's ashame because Cobs are so popular people think its alright or that's how they should be. Especially for show cobs 😕
 

HappyHollyDays

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There are a few slimline versions, I saw some cracking cobs eventing yesterday. Not one of them was fat and they were thundering around the XC which is incredibly hilly without any effort at all. In reality it’s not just cobs. My Connie is very well bred and was a prolific winner in his youth but he was obese. I was so upset when I saw the pictures of him being shown in hand, I could have cried. At 14 he has hock arthritis and gets laminitis at the drop of a hat, no doubt as a result of his past.
 

scats

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Can’t remember what group, but on FB this morning, someone has posted a transformation of a cob from fat to much thinner, yet there are people commenting that it’s too now too thin. The reality is that it’s perfect for springtime.
You can see the problems people have though, when they get a cob down to the ideal weight.

A couple of years she a BHS trained lady I know did a big post slagging off the grass livery her horse was at because of the dreadful condition he was in after winter. Lots of local horse people commented saying how dreadful he looked and it was neglect etc and the livery yard should be ashamed of themselves… some of these people spouting off were experienced horse people of over 30+ years. The pictures showed a horse, in March, showing the tiniest bit of rib. In my opinion, an absolutely ideal weight to come into spring when soon to be living out on good summer grazing.
 

SilverLinings

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Can’t remember what group, but on FB this morning, someone has posted a transformation of a cob from fat to much thinner, yet there are people commenting that it’s too now too thin. The reality is that it’s perfect for springtime.
You can see the problems people have though, when they get a cob down to the ideal weight.

A couple of years she a BHS trained lady I know did a big post slagging off the grass livery her horse was at because of the dreadful condition he was in after winter. Lots of local horse people commented saying how dreadful he looked and it was neglect etc and the livery yard should be ashamed of themselves… some of these people spouting off were experienced horse people of over 30+ years. The pictures showed a horse, in March, showing the tiniest bit of rib. In my opinion, an absolutely ideal weight to come into spring when soon to be living out on good summer grazing.
It is amazing how distorted the general view of what a healthy weight for an animal (there are also a lot of fat dogs and cats etc) is, and should look like. Why do some people think that a fat, waddling animal, with rippling fat pads who gets out of breath far too easily looks 'nice'? I look at that and see suffering instead.

With horses I wonder if it started going down hill when we mostly had lost the last generation of people in the UK who had routinely seen horses working. In old photographs and films it is impossible to spot a fat working horse (taxi horse, hackney, farm horse, railway horse, hunter, charger, coach horse etc), and most of them look quite lean by today's standards. In those days an overweight horse would have stood out, whereas nowadays they don't*. When most horses had to earn their keep there was a more widespread understanding of how many calories to put in to get the work out (without overfeeding and wasting money), and what good working 'condition' looked like.

*I am aware that for a variety of other reasons it wasn't a perfect world for horses back then.
 

Red-1

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It is amazing how distorted the general view of what a healthy weight for an animal (there are also a lot of fat dogs and cats etc) is, and should look like. Why do some people think that a fat, waddling animal, with rippling fat pads who gets out of breath far too easily looks 'nice'? I look at that and see suffering instead.

With horses I wonder if it started going down hill when we mostly had lost the last generation of people in the UK who had routinely seen horses working. In old photographs and films it is impossible to spot a fat working horse (taxi horse, hackney, farm horse, railway horse, hunter, charger, coach horse etc), and most of them look quite lean by today's standards. In those days an overweight horse would have stood out, whereas nowadays they don't*. When most horses had to earn their keep there was a more widespread understanding of how many calories to put in to get the work out (without overfeeding and wasting money), and what good working 'condition' looked like.

*I am aware that for a variety of other reasons it wasn't a perfect world for horses back then.
Can’t remember what group, but on FB this morning, someone has posted a transformation of a cob from fat to much thinner, yet there are people commenting that it’s too now too thin. The reality is that it’s perfect for springtime.
You can see the problems people have though, when they get a cob down to the ideal weight.

A couple of years she a BHS trained lady I know did a big post slagging off the grass livery her horse was at because of the dreadful condition he was in after winter. Lots of local horse people commented saying how dreadful he looked and it was neglect etc and the livery yard should be ashamed of themselves… some of these people spouting off were experienced horse people of over 30+ years. The pictures showed a horse, in March, showing the tiniest bit of rib. In my opinion, an absolutely ideal weight to come into spring when soon to be living out on good summer grazing.

I get this with Rigsby, my avatar cob. I bought him when he was just finishing box rest for Lami, with an EMS blood reading of 234. The previous owner had slimmed him down a lot, but the vet wanted him actually slimmed to skinny over the winter, so he would have a chance of repairing his bloods and actually having grass again.

He got perfect weight, according to the vet, within 6 months, tested as normal on bloods (2.8!!!) and was then allowed out to grass, leading a fairly normal life. The vet did say to keep him as he was, especially while he was increasing grass time. Then, in late summer, he got asthma, through allergy to pollen, and dropped some more than ideal, but it was in hand and being compensated for. He was weigh taped weekly so picked up quickly. Sadly, with a horse of his history, I couldn't suddenly up his feed for fear of killing him, so changes had to be gradual.

Al the time he had a peachy bum, but he was thinner than I would like, but the vet came for the asthma, saw him at his skinniest and said he was in the healthy, for him, range and not to up his feed too quickly.

I still got some backlash, even on my thread here, which is unpleasant.

If he had been over weight, I doubt anyone would have said a word.

As a close friend said, I had just lost weight and you could see my ribs too. Seeing ribs doesn't hurt. I feel much fitter when my own ribs are in sight than when fat (which I was previously). A few people also said that I looked awful and too skinny. Felt great!
 

TPO

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I think part of not being able to see fat horses is that there is a lack of understanding about fit horses and levels of work too.

A lot of people claim their horses to be in medium to hard work and feed accordingly when in reality they aren't anywhere close.

The worst sin appears to be having a slim horse and feed companies do a good job of marketing their products so its easy to see how people fall into the trap.

Also it used to be normal for horses to drop off over winter. Now that's when feed is upped to keep them in "good condition" year round. The slightest drop in weight and its out with the conditioning feeds.

There are a lot of fat potato shaped horses out there with people claiming that they are fit and working at a high level/doing hard work. When others are bombarded with those messages and images it's easy to see how their eyes get squewed.

The show ring has always been a different world sadly. I know that at one time there was a lot of talk about re-educating judges but I don't know if much came of that?
 

Wishfilly

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I think part of not being able to see fat horses is that there is a lack of understanding about fit horses and levels of work too.

A lot of people claim their horses to be in medium to hard work and feed accordingly when in reality they aren't anywhere close.

The worst sin appears to be having a slim horse and feed companies do a good job of marketing their products so its easy to see how people fall into the trap.

Also it used to be normal for horses to drop off over winter. Now that's when feed is upped to keep them in "good condition" year round. The slightest drop in weight and its out with the conditioning feeds.

There are a lot of fat potato shaped horses out there with people claiming that they are fit and working at a high level/doing hard work. When others are bombarded with those messages and images it's easy to see how their eyes get squewed.

The show ring has always been a different world sadly. I know that at one time there was a lot of talk about re-educating judges but I don't know if much came of that?
Yes, having worked in a riding school/ trekking centre, I consider "hard work" to be up to 4 hour days, say 4-5 days a week, which is what those horses often did in the summer- some at slow paces but equally with faster work mixed in as well. They managed fine and were fed according to their workload.

I think that's hard for people to replicate in a private leisure home.

I agree that feed companies often do excellent marketing as well!

FWIW, I agree the problems aren't unique to cobs, and you definitely see fat natives etc too!
 

SO1

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I think most people know that to be a healthy weight that you need to be able to feel a horses ribs. It is not ignorance, it is just people ignoring it because they cannot get their horses down to a healthy weight as it is hard either though lack of time or not having a suitable environment or not wanting to restrict forage.

For showing to change it has to be top down. If in HOYS and RIHS qualifiers only horses or ponies whose ribs could be felt could qualify producers would soon be exhibiting equines at a healthy weight.

A fat horse or pony is often easier also for novice riders to handle than a fit slim one.
 

Goldenstar

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There’s not a risk of fat horses being normalised it is normalised .
The misery that is heaped on cobs of show quality it enormous .
My cob Blue was obese when I bought him as was the my lovely old ID friend Fatty ( we did not call him Fatty for nothing).
The over feeding of non commercially produced very young horses is a huge issue and the lack of grazing that means many young horses very often never roam in large appropriately sized field, rugging and stabling ( often because of lack of grazing space ) means their metabolisms are unused to firing up to keep them warm .
These problems are not unique to cobs but they are quite often in light work jobs and if a horse is just being dawdled about a few times a week the owner is going to be working hard on the management in summer .If you link that to a winter stabled most of the time stuffing it’s face on add Lib forage every year from when they meet maturity and stop growing the issue is brewing .
Don’t buy a horse who is likely to be a fatty if you don’t have a plan to manage it .If you buy a fat horse you need immediate intervention from the moment you get it home .
I get that people like feeding their horses ,I like feeding my horses but the reality of having the horses I have now is that life is about working them hard and restricting their food .
 

palo1

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Yeah, it's horrible :( I try not to look at some of the Welsh Cob group pages - even though there is an increasingly public discussion in Welsh cob circles about fat horses you still see some horribly unhealthy natives. I have been told too that my Welsh cob is too slim, that she doesn't look like a 'proper' cob, even though I am constantly waging war on weight gain for the sake of her health. We have normalised overweight riders as well as engaging in vile fat shaming at the same time and the same applies to our animals. It is a form of excess that is manifested all over our society but it is godawful for our animals to pay the price of our neurosis about food and about weight. :( :(
 

Snowfilly

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A few weeks ago I saw the fattest Shetland I’ve ever seen win an NPS show M and M championship. It was puffing after the breed class, which it won by being the only entry and was lathered in sweat after the championship- I’ve had sweaty horses but this was grossly overweight, not a rib to be seen, broken over crest and fat pads everywhere.

The judge is highly qualified and well thought of. The owner / handler is on the board of the local breed society, the county BHS group and a few other things. They both thought this was a good way to turn a pony out. The gallery was full of kids waiting for the lead rein and first ridden classes, getting an early insight into showing and being shown this.

How do you even begin to challenge a viewpoint this engrained?

And twice, I’ve been told by different judges at the same show that my horse was either ‘in great fit condition’ or ‘too skinny,’ when he was hunting fit. You can’t win.
 

Sleipnir

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Last year I entered my then 3yo in a breed show (not a cob, but a heavy warmblood). He got the 4th place, of which I am pleased, but I could not help not to notice how the first three places were given to morbidly obese youngsters, the winner even had fat rippling as he was being trotted the victory lap. In comparison, my youngster looked almost scrawny...

Will enter the same show this year, just in the 4yo class. Looking at my boy, I, again, suspect that he will be scored down for "condition".
 

Cowrie

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I find it saddening that in 2022 this is still such a prominent issue. It shouldn't be; knowledge of nutrition and the health risks of obesity are widely enough known now that ignorance is no excuse. It makes me wonder why show exhibitors do it - can anyone enlighten me? Is it to try and make conformation flaws less obvious? Give the animal more 'presence'? Or....?
I really don't see the appeal! Managing the good doers of the world is IMO a lot harder than just stuffing a poor doer with food, but it is doable.
 

Ratface

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It's all rather depressing, isn't it?
A friend of mine bought my very nicely bred Egyptian Arab, whom I had rescued and had very carefully re-fed over a year. He became too strong/fast for me and needed a more competent rider.
My friend entered him in an in hand showing class for mutual fun and education. She was thrilled to be placed Reserve and was told that they would have been "far higher up the line if he had been in better condition". She sticks to Endurance these days and have lots of fun!
 

Goldenstar

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I think lots of things drive the issue because it’s not just showing .
When the vets worked out how to scope horses there’s was an emphasis on the 24/7 forage message this was music to many people ears in including my own I ended up with all my horses too fat .
The fact is that many many horses can’t eat forage 24/7 without becoming obese even when they are working our hunters still have their forage restricted and we don’t feed any quantity of hard food unless in exceptional circumstances.
I have to stand my horses in all day from mid May ( depends on the weather )or they would explode and they work.
I just don’t know how people keep their horses out all summer without disaster striking unless they are young growing horses .
The quality of the food is extremely high now a days but most horses don’t need masses of hard food , haylege is very nutritious even if it’s Timothy add add Lib haylege to a decent pasture mix and the horses are getting masses of high quality food my horses hunt on balancers and haylege the more they do the less we restrict the haylege .
I think it’s easy to miss when a young horse for example an ID reaches maturity they then need less food very often they have been able to eat loads of forage suddenly almost without you noticing they start gaining weight it sneaks on .
Many horses just don’t do enough hard graft for the way we keep them .
I would rather have a poor doer than a good one it relentless dedication trying to keep this lot slim enough.
 
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