We’ve probably all been there: owned that “easy keeper”. Although hay can get spendy, golly! owning a horse is spendy, you may find that it can be a little too easy to feed your horse a little bit too much. When spring rolls around and a round belly protrudes and thick withers abide, you may regret having given that little bit of extra hay each feeding.
Let’s take a look at these 3 areas that are affected when your horse is overweight. After reading about and experiencing these problem areas, you may end up reconsidering that extra leaf of hay.
The Dangers of an Overweight Horse
Health is Affected
You love your horse to death, right? Well, let’s reconsider that thought. It is quite possible that you can truly love your horse to death, feeding it too much. Obesity in any human or animal is unhealthy and has serious consequences. Here are some health-related obesity issues in horses:
- Laminitis: The inflammation of a network of blood vessels, known as the laminae, within the hoof—a very painful and often fatal condition. Basically, the inflammation reduces your horse’s hoof’s ability to hold the hoof wall and coffin bone together. Ouch! And one of the causes of this inflammation? You got it! Obesity. When the laminitis is relatively minor and more chronic, it is known as founder.
- Insulin Resistance: Say what? Doesn’t that only happen in people with diabetes? Nope. Horses, based on the feed they are given, can develop insulin issues, just like us. So, if unneeded, that sweet, yummy molasses-filled grain you feed your horse, maybe hurting instead of helping.
- Reproduction: your voluminous mare’s estrous cycle may be affected and she may have a lower reproduction efficiency.
- Lipomas: Fatty tumors. Ones that can wrap around the intestines and cause colic. Oh, dear!
- Heat tolerance: A fat horse=more body volume. A fat horse’s skin surface area does not increase. A horse sweats to lose their body heat, but there is less area to do so, and the horse is more likely to overheat.
You have a responsibility to yourself to take care of your body and give it the nutrients it needs, in the correct proportions, and to exercise, but we also have a responsibility to our animals to feed them appropriately in the correct amounts as well. They are counting on us to take care of them.
I found this article to be helpful in the information it shared about health issues in overweight horses.
Equipment Fit Affected
That blessed first day with spring in the air creates a stir of anticipation and hope and eagerness to go to the barn. You catch your horse and pull out the saddle and realize that you need to loosen that cinch a few notches. After tightening the cinch one more time, you step on and realize that the saddle just rolled a bit, right off those thick withers. You readjust and step out.
After your spring-is-in-the-air-ride, you realize that your profusely wet horse, has some dry spots on its back: your saddle isn’t fitting as it should. And you notice the dripping, white lather between the legs of your still heavy breathing friend. As you bend over to brush off the loose hair and sweat from your horse’s belly, you also realize that the cinch had rubbed a place raw in the ample and sensitive area right behind the elbow. You may have enjoyed your ride, but your mode of transportation was dreaming of his easier days in the corral he enjoyed all winter long.
“Oh, that pinched!” My ears pinned back a bit as my rider stepped up and onto my back. I felt her give a little nudge, expecting me to move forward. “She expects me to move forward with this saddle feeling like it is right now? Alrighty then!” I gave a little kick, but just a small one. “Hey! That was kinda fun!” With all the snow and ice this winter I hadn’t had a chance to kick up my heels all winter long. I kicked up again, a crow hop I heard her say. “Oof! She means business. Ok, let’s go.”
I trotted off, realizing how sensitive my mouth is as she turned this way and that. I pulled the reins out of her hands several times as I tossed my head and pulled my nose down abruptly. After a few laps, I couldn’t help it: “My lungs! Their BURRR-ning! On fire!” Cough. Cough. “Oh, how embarrassing, I farted. I hope nobody is looking between my legs. I hate that. Where does that white stuff come from anyway?? Oh! And my eyelids are getting sticky and I can feel that sweat trickling down my chest! Woah, is me!”
I lurched to a stop. I just couldn’t do it. Well…I also just really didn’t want to do it. I could already feel my unused muscles quivering from the sudden expectation of work. I would be sore tomorrow! “And just so you know, young lady, I WILL NOT back up. What is the point of that anyway??”
I’ll be honest, I don’t like to run and I imagine myself 10, 20, 30 pounds heavier and oofda! it would be impossible! Your horse is no different. Horses can test the boundaries, to begin with, then add a couple of hundred pounds, and a sour attitude and a fun ride can turn downhill quickly. I can give several stories of people who climbed on their horse after a long winter, expected the horse to be just fine, and ended up with a broken tailbone or fractured hip.
The bottom line is this: having an overweight horse just isn’t worth it. Period. It’s dangerous to the horse and to you. You love your horse, but don’t love it to death. Be wise in the amount of hay and grain you are feeding, And giving your horse the exercise it needs is important as well. If you have an overweight horse, take the action needed to correct it. Research the correct weight in the hay you should be feeding your horse, only feed that amount per day, and get on out there and ride! You both will enjoy the ride much more when you aren’t loaded down with that extra weight!
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