Join Date: May 2009
Location: Mid Northern TN
Inevitable? Not at all! Caused by feed? Only slightly.
In a horse that doesn't keep themselves in shape (most older horses and many not so older ones) a diet with a lot of mature fiber that requires hindgut fermentation TOGETHER with a lack to topline AND belly muscles can lead to a 'hay belly' appearance.
Now, to get rid of it (assuming medical issues like worms, cancer, kidney probs, etc are not a factor) you need regular exercise that requires the horse to hold itself properly. Trotting about hollowed out with terrible mechanics doesn't cut it. Strengthen the top and the bottom muscles through proper work and feed a decent feed (doesn't need to be rocket fuel, just decent) and the hay belly will disappear. My gelding came to me as a 6 year old with a little hay belly and a little underweight. He gets all the hay he can eat, but that belly still went away within a couple of months of regular work. Older horses may take longer to get into condition, but they can get there too. Now, there's really nothing "wrong" with a hay belly- we may not like the look of it, but it doesn't hurt the horse.