Overweight Horses? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 08:05 PM Thread Starter
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Overweight Horses?

Do you think that we, as horse people, are generally more "used" to seeing overweight horses? Not in a "I have a developed eye" kind of way, but more of "that's "normal"" kind of way? I kind of have this feeling that sometimes people mistake "fat" as "muscle" or "big-boned" or whatever, when, in reality, it's just fat. Sometimes I feel like it has gotten to the point where actually "healthy" horses are considered "too thin." Like, I know that being underweight is not good (obviously), but it seems like people freak out if they see even a hint of a shadow of a rib.

Many people keep telling me that my "short" (barely 15 hands), narrow TWH is "too thin", despite being over 1,000 lbs. (454 kg) and MANY vets (due to constantly moving barns) say that she is healthy. hmmm
Another: There was this very concerned person because her horse was getting "too thin." Turns out, he was a healthy weight (maybe a tad chonky) and she was just so used to seeing him overweight/obese. oof.

I'm kind of curious about your opinions. Obviously, you want a horse to have good weight and good, even muscle. But which is the lesser of two evils: slightly underweight or slightly overweight? For a majority horses, the consensus is a 5-6 ish body score. So, would you rather have a 4.5 ish or a 6.5 ish body score?

There are major health problem in overweight horses. Again, while you want a horse to be a good weight and muscle, what's wrong with a thinner horse?
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post #2 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 08:27 PM
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A thinner horse is a healthier one. For me the younger ones should be thinner and the older ones with more weight. Right now though my 13yo is overweight and my 27yo is Jsut under what I’d like to see him.
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post #3 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 08:44 PM
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I answered in your post as direct answers in red.
Most people would make claims of a racing fit Thoroughbred being to thin...no, they are race fit and trim.
It is far healthier for a horse to not lug around extra weight on legs often pencil thin bearing the weight of their massive body.
Regardless of age a horse carrying proper weight is far healthier a animal to fending off aging issues of stiffness and organ failures.

I would far rather my old horse being a bit under who has a good appetite I can feed more to in winter and blanket them as is needed to keep them toasty comfortable for them.


If you actually take the time to look at several "how do you score a horses weight" websites you will also see a difference in photos accompanying descriptive blurbs.
Some sites claim 4.5 - 5 is what you want to have your horse at and then other sites actually say a 6 is a minimum where you want your horse at.
Few horses can really carry the extra 100 pounds safely that tips them to a 6 on the scoring charts I was taught to use.
You tip a bit to far you will find yourself with a ill horse or well on the way to having one...
Forget the added strain to legs, heart, lungs and all connective tissue...

For the same reasons...
What is healthier and less inclined to health issues in humans...the person thin or the person "fluffy or padded" aka fat?
Much though does have to do with being slightly overweight and physically fit or being fat and out of condition and that also goes for the one thinner but fit or thinner and sickly...takes many pieces of the puzzle to make a determination honestly.
...

Quote:
Originally Posted by GoGo5 View Post
Do you think that we, as horse people, are generally more "used" to seeing overweight horses? Absolutely.

I'm kind of curious about your opinions. Obviously, you want a horse to have good weight and good, even muscle. But which is the lesser of two evils: slightly underweight or slightly overweight?
If I had to choose, my horse would be slightly under not over weight

For a majority horses, the consensus is a 5-6 ish body score. So, would you rather have a 4.5 ish or a 6.5 ish body score?
Unless this was a breeding horse and actively covering mares or a mare pregnant carrying I prefer 4.5.
Otherwise, actively breeding or pregnant then yes a 6.5, but as a riding horse...no.

There are major health problem in overweight horses. Again, while you want a horse to be a good weight and muscle, what's wrong with a thinner horse?
There is nothing wrong with a horse whose ribs can and are seen when it moves, when it breathes and moves.
There is though a difference in fit and a horse in good flesh and one who needs weight.
As long as the "markers" used in scoring a horse are met then fine.
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post #4 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 09:09 PM
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I work with be sport horses and other working horses. They are fit during their season of play, or the busy times of the year. You can see ribs. Good definition of muscle.

Even during their off season or slow times on the ranches we are careful not to let them get very heavy. That isn't good for a horse.
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post #5 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 09:30 PM
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I'd rather see a muscular horse showing a bit of rib than a fat horse.

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post #6 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 09:30 PM
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I am guilty of not liking to see ribs. Both of mine have the ribs hidden but, there is no depression along side their spines. My filly is too easy of a keeper but , again a horse that is not mature I prefer she had extra bulk to help supply her with extra energy while she matures and develops. My gelding is Ideal weight to me and he is 17yo.
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post #7 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 09:48 PM
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Absolutely! A 'pet hate' of mine. Unfortunately, specialising in rehab and chronic overweight, over fed, oversugared... being so prevalent and a leading cause of IR & laminitis, I am sadly very familiar with this 'phenomenon'. And fat internally, around the organs happens before it starts to be accumulated under the skin, noticable from the outside.

Unfortunately many 'horse professionals' such as show judges actively encourage it. Eg. years ago, a neighbour where I used to live had VERY podgy horses and one day she mentioned they were losing weight & I said 'Great!, they sure need it!' and she replied 'oh no, they're not quite up to show standard weight as it is!'. I assumed she was... mistaken & mentioned it here, only to hear that yes, this was a common sort of 'standard' advised by 'professionals' at shows. And Dog forbid you attempt to show a fit, healthy endurance horse or some such, who will be deemed to be 'skin & bone' because there is not much excess fat obvious.

And then there are they who are 'none so blind as' - people who have overweight horses in Autumn, believing they have to 'fatten them up' or else they'll 'waste away' over winter(& mild winters we have in most of this country anyway), so they feed the horses high calorie feed all through autumn & winter and the horse ends up going into Spring being already obese, IR and at high risk of laminitis! Know someone like this, who's horse invariably and 'inexplicably' develops laminitis every Spring(& at other odd times) and she just can't understand it, because her horses just 'waste away' if she isn't feeding them up. They are unworked horses, 2 on 15 acres, plenty grass, fed rye grass hay ad lib, in case grass disappears(never has, tho she has claimed it & the fact that they gobble the hay proves that they need it - oh & hay is not netted, because that totally ruins horse's teeth), and they've never been even a 'good weight', let alone light-on, always bordering between 'fat as mud' and 'downright obese'. But she just will not see any of this, despite it being pointed out by many aside from me. Or that she is 'killing them with kindness'!!

So... I think most people appreciate that obesity is not healthy, but a)they often just don't have a clue when a horse is obese and b) they don't appreciate that overweight at all, if it's chronic - even chronic 'good condition' is problematic and that 'obese' is just the degree of this.

Like people, it is generally healthier to be on the light side, rather than being too heavy. But like people, horses can put on excess weight & remain healthy, but *chronic* 'good-paddock...ness' is the leading cause of IR & further ensuing health issues. Because we are built for surviving 'hard seasons', IR is the body's natural mechanism(NOT a 'disease') for 'putting it away for a rainy day'. Conserving fat to be used & get us through the 'lean times'. Problem is, many people and domestic animals have never experienced a 'lean time' in their lives and so just continue to 'pack it on', chronically IR, never use up those fat stores.
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post #8 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 10:14 PM
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Better to have a lean horse then one that's fat. I try to keep my horses at a body score of 4 to 4.5. right now it's riding season easy to keep them lean.

I adjust there feed according to how they look weight wise. If looking like they are getting to pudgy I cut back on feed. Not so quick to feed more if they are looking like they are losing weight.

I don't feed them up come fall time of year either. Extra fat isn't going to keep them warm.

Yes I think a lot of people who think fat is normal. I have a friend who likes her horses fat. Tells me my horses are to thin I need to feed more feed.

Without fail twice a year,spring and fall her horses are sore footed. Can't tell her anything she doesn't want to hear it.
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post #9 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 10:34 PM Thread Starter
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I think that many people also get caught up in the "high quality" food thing. But their "high quality" food is TOO "high quality." People put their horses on grass greener than an untouched colt and twice as short and wonder why their horses are fat and/or have health problem. Horses are not cattle, people. You know, they'll survive the "normal" grass, maybe even thrive. Horses aren't really meant to live on very lush, rich green grass and alfalfa all year round. Yet, that is what some people try and do. Some people fertilize their "normal" grass to get it richer, even though their horses clearly do not need it.

I am all for "high quality" as in "clean" (not moldy, gross, or otherwise "unclean"/"bad."), but I do not think that all horses need super-mega rich food all the time. Sure, in some cases, maybe they need that, but many horses seem to do well with "lower-quality" food.
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Last edited by GoGo5; 07-30-2020 at 10:41 PM.
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post #10 of 19 Old 07-30-2020, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rambo99 View Post
Without fail twice a year,spring and fall her horses are sore footed. Can't tell her anything she doesn't want to hear it.
It might not sink in if she doesn't want to actually think about it objectively, but while I generally don't like to give my opinions on people who obviously don't want them, if she were so 'free & easy' with giving you unwanted 'advice' about your 'too thin' horses, then I think I'd have to respond each time with 'better a little thin than making them fat & laminitic, like SOME people's horses'...
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