Overweight Horses on the BBC News

Dave's Mam

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Not always completely that straightforward as a for instance I have a horse on box rest he won’t see a field until late spring he will hopefully be able to do some light work soon on the roads when it’s dry .
So atm he’s in 24/7 and is gaining wieght .
I need to keep him calm and means he needs to eat forage .even we moderately restrict and we remove his rug during the day ( he’s clipped ) he still getting fatter .
If I have to choose between weight gain and stable vices I know what I will choose
I was meaning the current trend to feed fancy food, "because so and so said to."
Horses need forage.
 

Goldenstar

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I was meaning the current trend to feed fancy food, "because so and so said to."
Horses need forage.
But lots of horses can’t eat add lib forage and maintain a healthy weight and that’s something that needs addressing .
That’s where lots of leisure riders go wrong and end up with a an obese horse .
I don’t own a horse who if getting no work I can allow to go at forage 24/7 and I have six Tb warmblood ISH and of course ID’s the master Fatties
 

Dave's Mam

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But lots of horses can’t eat add lib forage and maintain a healthy weight and that’s something that needs addressing .
That’s where lots of leisure riders go wrong and end up with a an obese horse .
I don’t own a horse who if getting no work I can allow to go at forage 24/7 and I have six Tb warmblood ISH and of course ID’s the master Fatties
I never said they can. Crikey, there's no need to pick everything apart. I made a general statement.
 
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I had a sec d that survived on fresh air despite my best efforts. Totally un rugged all year and diet monitored so I feel your pain. Winter was my friend lol but wasn't helped that she was retired due to sight issues. 😀

they aren't bad atm but actually I always find the time to get weight off them is Feb-April up here, a nice cold spring is always helpful. We don't get first flush of grass until May which helps a lot. We had a lot of snow and cold from December last year and they lost nothing all through that!
 

ester

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I think there's a lot of different people who own fat horses. There are the ones who genuinely don't know any better, the ones who like feeding, the ones who are showing and those who are doing the best they can in their particular set of circumstances weighing up the various risks.
 
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I expect DM meant that in normal, healthy horses to keep it simple is better - box rest is obviously not a normal state for a horse to be in and is really tough when you can't exercise them (I had to box rest and do a stifle rehab in the winter of 2010-11 so feel your pain).
I am with you on the ad lib forage as I've said many times, mine do not get ad lib access to hay-even when soaked and I'd never feed them haylage if I could help it but I'll not keep them in tiny, bare flat paddocks either.

ester is right, a lot of people are just doing the best we can-some people think I am cruel for using muzzles for part of the year but I'd rather they had space. I've tried it all ways and have had a couple of very hard to manage smaller native ponies (not with cushings etc though) and the way i do it now has worked best for me.
 

Lindylouanne

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Keep your horse simply. If it's not in work, let it grow a woolly coat & maintain itself.
If it's in work that makes it too hot, clip accordingly & rug accordingly.
Remember that fibre keeps your horse warm. They have an inbuilt furnace.

If your horse is fat, shorten its rations & stop babying it. They're harder than you think.

& just because YOU need an extra 3 layers doesn't mean your pony does.

This is music to my ears. My two are partially clipped and are out today naked and "gasps" it's raining. They are on over 30 acres of good grass, have adlib hay at night and neither of them look poor. I always check under armpits before they go out and when they come in and so far neither of them have been cold this winter. My vet is always on about overweight horses and the over use of rugs and is quite happy that my two don't wear them unless it's absolutely necessary.
 

Leo Walker

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Unfortunately managing a good doer is much harder and more expensive than managing a poor one. With the work loads most leisure horses get they cant just be chucked out 24/7 in a field all summer and given ad lib meadow hay all winter. And upping the work isnt always easy. The only time Leo needed feed was when he was in during the day with ad lib hay and out overnight on very poor grazing. He was also working 5 or 6 times a week and doing 10 to 15k mainly at a trot pulling a carriage with 2 or 3 people in, or he was doing an hours fast work, lots of canter, sharp turns and circles again pulling a carriage with 2 people in.

Even then he only needed a handful of rice bran pellets and linseed. How many people can manage that level of work? And it still was only medium work, not hard work.

So the other option is to restrict them. I've done it. It cost me an arm and a leg and I lost track of the comments from people saying why didnt I just turn him out on the grass, he wasnt fat, etc, etc.

Track livery is the way to go, but its not your usually £10 a week grass livery costs and the majority of land owners dont want to trash their grazing, and owners dont want to pay for hay all year round, so its not really happening.

I'm very, very lucky to have found a happy medium now. Bobbie is out on 8 acres of really hilly not great grazing. Dont get me wrong, theres lots of grass but its not fertilised or messed about with, and now shes broken to drive she will start working relatively hard. I was very aware that if I didnt do something before spring I would have a very fat pony on my hands having worked really hard to get her down to a good weight.

It makes me a bit sad. My default setting is feeder and rugger. I would love to shovel food down her neck, and fill her with fancy supplements, all whilst tucking her up in 400gms of rugs and bandages. However that would be a death sentence to her, so I have a 400gm rug liner, and sometimes I stroke it longingly, but it doesnt even go to the yard never mind on the horse. I still look at all the shiny food bags in the feed merchants, and then remember I am broke from having her broken, and shes outgrown the carriage and I need to fix my trailer, and force myself to walk away. I knew poverty would have some advantages :p
 
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I agree that its harder work sometimes LW but its not more expensive for me personally now I am set up. I did move to a place that has better (i.e. poorer) grazing which is quite high up which helps a lot and I do feed more hay than most in the summer-but much less in the winter so it evens out. I spent £54 on 4 huge rounds of oat straw this winter and apart from some agrobs cobs that is my feed bill (and it does bedding for all my animals too) and I'll probably only use 2/3 of them. My summer grazing is very cheap but no mod cons-it costs me more to keep them at home on limited space with hay and bedding taken into account.

Its taken me a few years to let go of the rug trap, but even the horses I've had have been good doers and not demanded much in the way of feed. Not all would want to keep them like I do though even though it is cheap, their barn is on a cattle yard with all that entails, its windy and exposed and there is noone around and for the time being I am having to haul water up there but I do have direct access to 1000 acres of (very exposed lol) off road hacking :D
 

Goldenstar

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Unfortunately managing a good doer is much harder and more expensive than managing a poor one. With the work loads most leisure horses get they cant just be chucked out 24/7 in a field all summer and given ad lib meadow hay all winter. And upping the work isnt always easy. The only time Leo needed feed was when he was in during the day with ad lib hay and out overnight on very poor grazing. He was also working 5 or 6 times a week and doing 10 to 15k mainly at a trot pulling a carriage with 2 or 3 people in, or he was doing an hours fast work, lots of canter, sharp turns and circles again pulling a carriage with 2 people in.

Even then he only needed a handful of rice bran pellets and linseed. How many people can manage that level of work? And it still was only medium work, not hard work.

So the other option is to restrict them. I've done it. It cost me an arm and a leg and I lost track of the comments from people saying why didnt I just turn him out on the grass, he wasnt fat, etc, etc.

Track livery is the way to go, but its not your usually £10 a week grass livery costs and the majority of land owners dont want to trash their grazing, and owners dont want to pay for hay all year round, so its not really happening.

I'm very, very lucky to have found a happy medium now. Bobbie is out on 8 acres of really hilly not great grazing. Dont get me wrong, theres lots of grass but its not fertilised or messed about with, and now shes broken to drive she will start working relatively hard. I was very aware that if I didnt do something before spring I would have a very fat pony on my hands having worked really hard to get her down to a good weight.

It makes me a bit sad. My default setting is feeder and rugger. I would love to shovel food down her neck, and fill her with fancy supplements, all whilst tucking her up in 400gms of rugs and bandages. However that would be a death sentence to her, so I have a 400gm rug liner, and sometimes I stroke it longingly, but it doesnt even go to the yard never mind on the horse. I still look at all the shiny food bags in the feed merchants, and then remember I am broke from having her broken, and shes outgrown the carriage and I need to fix my trailer, and force myself to walk away. I knew poverty would have some advantages :p
Me too I love feeding rugging and generally doing stuff to my horses and I found it really tough as Fatty went into what is his first winter as a non ridden retired horse not to rug him and bring him in at night especially As Fatty loves the stable .
He’s still too fat although he has lost some recently we have a round bale in the field which I can shut them off , it’s a bit of a balancing act as of course the one who is hunting and living out needs more forage than Fatty does .Tatts needs more and he’s out all day until dark as he has a minor injury and is not hunting and H need some every day because it keeps his tummy right .
So it’s a huge balancing act .
I although I love Fatty I will never buy another obese horse and would also say don’t buy an ID unless you have a wieght control strategy they are often skinny young horses but when they get mature and top out they are fiendishly good doers H has been hunting three days a fortnight on a restricted mixture of hay and haylege and a small snack of bran and a sprinkle of oats to get his balancer done him and he’s still on the porky side
 

SEL

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M drops weight over winter - coat change in early March can hit him hard and the first 2 winters I had him he was too ribby. But he's a typical native who happily piles it back in on spring. Rarely rugged (& for downpours not cold) he's straightforward to look after.

The Appy is hard, hard work. The first winter she came to me she was out naked (i didn't know about the PSSM) and gained weight when the rest of the over-wintering herd struggled. You can imagine how well she does in summer! Currently out of work on soaked hay and I can see the blubber returning. Seriously need some cold weather to stop the grass growing.Good meat breed genes there - she'd have made a tonne of sausages....
 

Pearlsasinger

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I think that people have no idea what a healthy weight looks like anymore. If they actually come across one, they think it’s too thin. .

Absolutely right!
There is a thread on here somewhere about the working horses in Central Park looking 'too thin'. They certainly didn't 6 months ago, when I was there but they were not overweight either:)
 

Pearlsasinger

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But lots of horses can’t eat add lib forage and maintain a healthy weight and that’s something that needs addressing .
That’s where lots of leisure riders go wrong and end up with a an obese horse .
I don’t own a horse who if getting no work I can allow to go at forage 24/7 and I have six Tb warmblood ISH and of course ID’s the master Fatties

It *is* possible to feed ad-lib forage but some of it has to be straw. I got an obese Draft horse down to a sensible weight by giving her ad-lib forage - a measured ration of hay/lage and the rest made up of plain oat straw chaff. I suspected ulcers, so certainly wasn't going to leave her with nothing to eat.
 

maisie06

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Over rugging, over feeding, under excercising, and don't even get me started on the show ring, Same as dogs.....I got told my Working Cocker was "too thin" last week - by the owner of a morbidly obese collie cross that could barely waddle......
 

SO1

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I have a native pony and weight control is a big challenge. He doesn't like straw chaff so I can't use that to help fill him up. Thankfully the yard I am on has a diet paddock and will soak hay in the summer months (I am on part livery) and he has a grazing muzzle for when the grass is more plentiful.

I do wonder if paranoia over ulcers has caused more people to try and feed ad lib forage and this has helped fuel the problem. I was quite surprised to see the in horse and hound article it says that fasting overnight was ok.

https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/features/horse-weight-loss-tips-675644

I also think people's lifestyles have changed more people are working longer hours, travelling for business and trying to balance a job with family life and a horse and they may not be able to ride every day for long periods of time. The roads are busier and off road riding is becoming harder to find with councils not having the money to maintain bridleways or land being lost for development. I often feel tired after a long day at work and have to travel for business but try and ride 3 times a week after work and at weekends but I can't always manage this.
 

windand rain

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The fact that a horse doesnt like straw chaff indicates to me its not hungry. When on box rest my old pony had 1.5% of weight in feed and hay and a large corner manger full of straw chaff she only nibbled the chaff but it was there if she needed it. I am sure if she had been starving or her tummy needed it she would have eaten more of it. It was a hay/ straw mix chaff (ossichaff cool hoof) too which is often more palatable. I find mine lose most weight between Feb and April too and leave them to deal with it
 
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I also think people's lifestyles have changed more people are working longer hours, travelling for business and trying to balance a job with family life and a horse and they may not be able to ride every day for long periods of time. The roads are busier and off road riding is becoming harder to find with councils not having the money to maintain bridleways or land being lost for development. I often feel tired after a long day at work and have to travel for business but try and ride 3 times a week after work and at weekends but I can't always manage this.
I think that why over the years I've evolved (along with being naturally anti social and not being ar5ed about competing etc) to how I keep them now. I can't ride all the time due to work/commute/weather/elderly in laws/family commitments so if the only alternative was to keep them on livery with restricted turnout for half the year, I'd just not keep them tbh these days. If people hunt and compete and can work the horse hard enough to somewhat replace turnout then thats fine but I do not. So low maintenance, easy for someone else to check and sort out (i.e. husband or freelancer) and no pressure to ride. The downside to that is losing motivation to ride (which I do) but that doesn't affect the ponies, its my problem. I agree that ponies who are not eating straw just aren't hungry -mine won't bother if they aren't.
 
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I was meaning the current trend to feed fancy food, "because so and so said to."
Horses need forage.
Hi. I have a "good doer" 12hh pony. According to Spillers Weigh Bridge he should be 250kgs instead of 280kgs. He is always hungry but I have worked out it's all in his mind & not physical hunger. He just feels hungry especially in the cold weather. It's a constant battle to prevent him gaining more weight whilst making sure he has enough nourishment to be healthy & enough energy for regular exercise. Having recently learnt about appetite hormones ghrelin & leptin I am convinced he has too much ghrelin which increases appetite & not enough leptin which decreases appetite. :eek:
 

Pearlsasinger

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Hi. I have a "good doer" 12hh pony. According to Spillers Weigh Bridge he should be 250kgs instead of 280kgs. He is always hungry but I have worked out it's all in his mind & not physical hunger. He just feels hungry especially in the cold weather. It's a constant battle to prevent him gaining more weight whilst making sure he has enough nourishment to be healthy & enough energy for regular exercise. Having recently learnt about appetite hormones ghrelin & leptin I am convinced he has too much ghrelin which increases appetite & not enough leptin which decreases appetite. :eek:

But horses, especially native ponies, are evolved to eat poor quality forage as trickle feed, not to have a smaller amount of better quality feed. This is where *plain* oat straw chaff comes into play.
 
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Interesting comments so far. I think a scary amount of horses are obese and it is truly becoming the ‘norm’. The body scoring systems can be useful but people need to take into account the type of horse they have.
C4425CBA-7099-48E3-B4C1-EBEB3915ED76.jpeg
According to standard charts such a this (stolen as the first image on google), my mare is moderately thin. As I can see her ribs, particularly when working, and her rump slopes either side. In reality she is a TBxWarmblood that looks pure TB and has the characteristic greyhound body shape. For her to fit the ‘moderate’ category she would have to put on a considerable amount of weight to a point it would be unhealthy.

Also the description for ‘moderately fleshy’ would be well on its way to being overweight IMO. With a build up fat pads and creases. This is when owners need to take action and cut down hard feed/increase exercise (where appropriate) immediately. My geriatric, small native pony lives out on many acres on a very steep hill. This seems to keep him moving enough to manage his weight. Goes into winter carrying a bit more and comes out with ribs easily felt (under a foot of fur!). Not rugging and not feeding means his body is left to do what is does best. I have had him 14 years and he has never had lami so something is working!

According to the NHS, 1 in 4 adults in the UK is obese. Not just fat, obese. It is the norm to see this and if people won’t reduce their own weight to help their own health, of course they are not going to bother with their horses weight. A whole different can of worms but the media needs to also stop promoting that ‘all sizes are healthy’... yes beauty is subjective and overweight or underweight people may be beautiful to some but health is not subjective. And malnutrition at either ends of the scale must not be promoted.
 
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But horses, especially native ponies, are evolved to eat poor quality forage as trickle feed, not to have a smaller amount of better quality feed. This is where *plain* oat straw chaff comes into play.
Thanks for your reply. My pony & his shetland companion are field kept on approx 1/4 acre of grass which is pretty poor at the moment & has been grazed almost to the roots. I give them 6-7kgs hay a day (analysis shows it is low in sugar & WSC). When I have a lot of rain water I soak their haynets. I have to carry tap water to the field so this is only used for drinking. Together they weigh 440kgs so the hay is approx 1.5% of their total weights. I understand this is the percentage recommended for weight reduction. My overweight pony also has 20g sugar beet (dry weight), 50g hi-fibre bagged feed & a couple of carrots (a succulent) a day. I hope this bucket feed might increase his intake of some vitamins & minerals. He is exercised 3 times a week by 2 riders who are instructed to canter him wherever they can which is not easy when most of the routes are on the roads. I don't have access to a menage & can't lunge him as the field is very slippery. I did eliminate the bucket feeds for a couple of weeks a while ago but both his riders said he lacked energy. I am reluctant to reduce his hay (forage) ration as this seems to go against all advice.
 
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hmm I'd love to know how you worked out it's all in his mind
Hi. Good question. Picture this. I give him a haynet. He eats that superquick then waits around for another one. He would eat anything/everything I give him. If i allowed him access to a haybale he would eat till it was all gone. Then want more. Compare this to my shetland. My shetland will slowly nibble hay from a net. He doesn't always finish it. When he has had what he wants he will wander away to nibble the very short grass in the field or just stand and doze. If my 12hh pony was genuinely hungry (because i don't feed him enough) he would lose weight. So the only conclusion I can reach is that he is addicted to food!
 

HashRouge

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I have two fairly good doers who are both retired and I'm generally very happy with their weights. In the spring/ summer I restrict their grazing and then strip graze to help keep them as trim as possible. I'm sure some people would feel my grass is too short, but my ponies look good on it and seem happy. My field is long and thin, with the water trough at one end, which is actually really good because I can keep them on a restricted area that will feel larger than it is and keeps them moving. This winter they were having a token feed and grass until last weekend, when I upped their chaff a little bit (1/2 scoop per day with some speedibeet) and started giving them hay (2 small bale sections each per day). The Welsh is unrugged and the Arab (who is 26) is either in a no fill or a lightweight (not sure how thick it is, but not very) depending on how she seems. She was cold yesterday so is in her warmer rug, but had it off during the day today as it was nice and sunny. They got a bit rounder than I'd like (especially the Welsh) when they first went onto their winter field in November, but they dropped off again and are both a really good weight at the moment.

This is my Arab at the end of summer (grey) and the Welsh at the same time (he has a twig in his tail, which is why it looks odd!). Considering they are both out of work, I'm not sure I could get them any leaner than this!:
 

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Pearlsasinger

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Thanks for your reply. My pony & his shetland companion are field kept on approx 1/4 acre of grass which is pretty poor at the moment & has been grazed almost to the roots. I give them 6-7kgs hay a day (analysis shows it is low in sugar & WSC). When I have a lot of rain water I soak their haynets. I have to carry tap water to the field so this is only used for drinking. Together they weigh 440kgs so the hay is approx 1.5% of their total weights. I understand this is the percentage recommended for weight reduction. My overweight pony also has 20g sugar beet (dry weight), 50g hi-fibre bagged feed & a couple of carrots (a succulent) a day. I hope this bucket feed might increase his intake of some vitamins & minerals. He is exercised 3 times a week by 2 riders who are instructed to canter him wherever they can which is not easy when most of the routes are on the roads. I don't have access to a menage & can't lunge him as the field is very slippery. I did eliminate the bucket feeds for a couple of weeks a while ago but both his riders said he lacked energy. I am reluctant to reduce his hay (forage) ration as this seems to go against all advice.

Energy is energy, whether it comes from hay or sugarbeet and carrots. If the pony doesn't feel energetic, it is most likely because he is overweight. I rather think the teenagers felt sorry for him not having his bucket feed and 'felt' that he was not as energetic without it. Why does he need vits and mins if you are giving him decent hay?
 
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