Carrying weight differently?
Wildey is a 15yo Arab gelding. Ive owned him since he was 5. He has always been a good doer but has never been obese as he has been ridden regularly or on lower quality pasture. He has always held topline well even when not in work.
Last year I lent him to an RDA centre - he came back obese and at big risk of founder. He was put in a muzzle 24/7 and wegot him back to a nice weight, but still not thin. However we could feel his ribs for the first time. However after having the muzzle on for a month or so he dropped a lot of topline through his back. Once the muzzle came off for winter he stayed a good weight until this spring when he started getting fat again. I put his muzzle on yesterday. However he hasn't gotten fat all over like he used to, rather a big pot belly that distends out to the sides and down - you can still easily feel his ribs just below where the saddle would sit. He isn't very cresty and has minimal fat around his tail head - so on the Heineke scale he is hardly fat!
He has been in light work, mostly trails and not much correct flatwork until recently.
He has been wormed regularly and just switched onto a paddock that had only run sheep for a few months.
Is his shape changing because he is getting older? Is he as fat as I think or could it be something else? Something to be worried about?
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I have photos to post as soon as photobucket comes to the party!
And this one shows how little topline he has:
And at a good weight last Autumn:
That's too bad he came back in poor shape like that. It's probably got a lot to do with his age. It'll take a long time to get him back into the shape he was in.
I was always under the impression (from several Purina workshops) that you can't judge the weight of the horse by the belly. A large belly is usually from eating a lot of forage that may not be the highest quality so they have to eat more of it to get enough calories. So they get a large gut from all the forage they are digesting (hay belly). But they don't carry fat in their belly the way we can.
Weight-wise I think he looks great. Very handsome!
The top-line issue may be from his age. I have a 17 yr old mare that is a bit poor over her topline but looks to be at a great weight otherwise. When I asked my vet about it he said it was from her age and having so many foals (she has had a bunch of foals). So I think it is normal for them to loose some topline as they age, even though we try to prevent it. :-(
I have heard others say that working them in collection can help improve the back muscles, but I have never tried that myself with the idea of improving their back. So I can't say if it works. But if you do ride him a bit, then doing some little stretches of collection might be something to try. It's good for his fitness anyway.
He is so adorable!!
He doesn't look to bad if you were going into winter, but since you are in spring- Australia- I would be a little worried about it.
Keep the grazing muzzle on, and could you bring him into a dry-lot? Preferably not a stall, as in a dry-lot they can move around, but a stall they are cooped up.
Is he fed any grain? If so, take him off it and get him on a vitamin and mineral supplement for nutrient needs.
For the last year or so he has been ridden by my cousin, Who would be an intermediate rider. When I was riding him, we did a lot of showing, so a fair bit of collected work. She has struggled to coordinate her legs/hands working together so it has taken her until the last month or so to be able to get him working in a nice frame. I daresay the lack of good flatwork has contributed somewhat to his lack of topline.
We have nowhere to drylot, and no yards/stalls - Just big, grassy paddocks! We had our four locked in a smaller paddock and had it pretty well eaten down, but when he gets hungry he starts pushing on fences and escaping, so we just let them back out as where they are now they are next to a road that has a lot of truck traffic. Better he be fat than flat!
He isn't on any hard feed and hasn't been consistently ever as he has always been a good doer. I was using lucerne cubes but we lost our supplier, so I am currently searching for something low fat that he likes enough to eat his vits/mins in.
I wonder Trailhorserider if your right about the low quality forage thing - I wonder if keeping him muzzled but giving him a decent sized feed with some good quality fat/protein in it will help? so limit the poor quality pasture... He still gets quite enough grass to live comfortably through his muzzle.
Horse's hind guts are built for fermenting fibre from low grade roughage. Yes, this tends to cause a 'hay belly' but I don't think you should reduce pasture intake to try to reduce his belly - especially not by replacing with high energy feed if you're not wanting to put more weight on him(I think he looks fine BTW). Instead I'd look at his workload/exercise to increase topline & tighten his belly.
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