Any Science/Research on Overweight versus Underweight Horses?

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Any Science/Research on Overweight versus Underweight Horses?

This is a discussion on Any Science/Research on Overweight versus Underweight Horses? within the Horse Nutrition forums, part of the Horse Health category
  • What types of problems can develop in underweight horses?
  • Can an underweight horse founder

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  • 1 Post By Beling

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    06-05-2012, 01:14 PM
Any Science/Research on Overweight versus Underweight Horses?

I lost a mare who had gotten overweight and then spent the last 6 months of her life on a miserable, low cal diet. I hated that I did that to her in the end (even though I didn't know she was going to pass). She didn't get the fatal condition from being overweight, but she did founder. I had her at a barn and regularly checked by a vet. No one ever said anything about her being overweight until I switched to an old country vet, who explained the issues of the excess weight.

So now, I keep mine on the lean side. Just slightly under weight. I did have one get sick and the vet who saw him scolded me for letting him get so "skinny." After he recovered he put the weight back on in no time. He never looked emaciated, but he definitely didn't have the weight to lose. I felt really bad, but given a choice, I will continue to keep them on the lean side, regardless of the criticism I get.

Is anyone on this forum familiar with any science on slightly over versus slightly under weight? I'd love to read what research actually says. When I was growing up in Texas, my "slightly underweight" horse would have been considered at the ideal weight. I wonder if it's attitudes or science that has changed.

Please post links if you know of any research on the topic.

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    06-05-2012, 04:41 PM
Green Broke
You might want to look up "Body condition scores".

It gives a guideline on how a horse should look and feel, then give it a number score. 1 being malnourished, 5 being the medium, or ideal, and 10 being overly obese.

Personally I like to feel ribs, but not see them. Obesity shortens lives whether it be humans, dogs or horses.

Food does not equal love.
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    06-05-2012, 05:29 PM
I know what you mean, onemorganlover!

I got a scolding from my vet for overweight. What he told me: nature has safeguards for the underweight horse, like using less energy, lower metabolism. When times improve, the horse can regain weight, and there are no ill effects. There's been no harm.

A fat horse can founder, as you know. Also, there can be stresses to bony development, and other parts of the body, that, when the the horse loses weight, will still be there. You can definitely harm your horse with overfeeding!

Fortunately, there's quite a range between too-thin and too-fat; so moderation is the key. You don't have to keep your horse "thin." Now if I could just put myself on a diet so easily. . .
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    06-06-2012, 01:07 AM
Great question! I agree that what many people think of as 'slightly under weight' is more ideal & healthier than overweight generally. Unfortunately I'm unaware if there's any research been done on it in horses, but surely you'll find some such on humans that likely applies.

I don't know about the stress to joints, fat around organs & such, how bad or otherwise that can be, but IMO the major problem with horses kept overweight is insulin resistance - similar to type 2 diabetes in people - which can cause laminitis/founder and lead to other problems, such as Cushings. As with us, it's not that we can't afford to have a 'good season', but it's being constantly overweight that is the big factor in developing IR - lack of 'bad seasons' to use up that fat store before the body starts ignorring the insulin.

growing up in Texas, my "slightly underweight" horse would have been considered at the ideal weight. I wonder if it's attitudes or science that has changed.
Yes, it'd be good to have proof, but I reckon attitude. People are just so used to seeing overfed, underworked horses these days & show judges tend to reinforce the fatties. Of course, the amounts we're encouraged to feed our horses by manufacturers that want us to buy more of their product come into it too...

Now if I could just put myself on a diet so easily. . .
If only! It's so much easier keeping the will power for others we're responsible for I find...

healthy weight, overweight, underweight

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