Losing weight or muscle? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 34 Old 02-15-2017, 12:49 PM Thread Starter
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Losing weight or muscle?

Hi everyone,

This is my lease Moro, He's gotten thinner over the past month or two, and I was just wondering if its something to be worried about.

He gets alfalfa 4 times a day and grain twice (I think, not my horse and I'm not always there). They lowered his grain dose because he was very hot, and we had to gallop him a bunch or lunge him before riding to tire him out every ride. He's a good boy now (most of the time), still not lazy or anything, just not spooking and bolting at everything.

He's 18 years old, and the past 2 months were the mid of summer here, so temps up in the 30's most days. I wonder if maybe the temps have something to do with it? He does always finish his food (so food oriented this guy). He's also just been in light-ish work (due to temps), w/t/c about 30 to 40 mins a day. Most of that is walking though, say 25mins walk, 10 trot and 5 canter (just a lap or 2 on each side). I'm thinking he might just have lost muscle and look thinner because of that. Since before the holidays he was ridden wtc every day (with more trot and canter per session) and jumped 2-3 times a week.

Would asking to give him extra alfalfa help? Not sure about supplements here, as far as I know no horse at the barn gets anything but alfalfa and grain. Should I ask to have his teeth checked? Am I worrying too much? Does it just come with age? Picture attached to show him in december (tied to red wall) and today.
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post #2 of 34 Old 02-15-2017, 01:25 PM
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Simple answer is YES, you have reason to be concerned.
He is thin...
It is weight, as in fat he has lost off his frame.
The horse was never heavy to start with but now he is thin!
Muscle tone, he is lacking in both pictures everywhere.

You need to feed a horse adequately to make muscle.
The secret is to feed cool calories {fats} not heavy or hot calories.

Alfalfa is a fine hay to feed, full of high protein but I would love to see the horse have a grass style hay to just eat and enjoy, to fill his belly and gut with.
As for "grain", well...depending upon what you call grain and what that grain truly is could also be a contributing factor in his attitude of "excessive" energy.
Sadly, his energy level may not diminish as you ride and condition him but increase more as he works and builds stamina...you may need to rethink the lunging or galloping. Your building strength and stamina not actually tiring him out.

He is not a "old" horse and there is "0" reason for him to look as he does. He is a teenager in years, but has many many years yet ahead of him for riding if taken good care of.
If his teeth have been looked at, he has had yearly veterinary care and is in good health....he lacks food, groceries is a reason for his thin looks.
Yes, the vet should be contacted and a exam scheduled to make sure there are no issues happening...
I have a feeling though the increased workload with a cut in his food is the culprit of his look today.
Feed the horse, feed him appropriate foods and I bet he not only regains fantastic looks but is quieter to ride and handle..

Look and compare the bone structure of the horse, picture to picture.
His wither is very prominent, the fat patch behind it is gone.
His shoulder and hip point are very noticeable..
His neck is thin...
His hip girdle or sacroiliac joint is very prominent and sticking out...
His croup is very steep and tail head is starting to protrude...
His butt is pointed not rounded...
I would love to see how sharply his flanks concave {actually don't need to see it}...another fat store used up and gone...
And his entire rib line is visible...
He is thin and underweight, YES!

And lastly, when you look at him I see not one muscle outlined on his body, not one...
sorry...that is what I see.

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....

Last edited by horselovinguy; 02-15-2017 at 01:30 PM.
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post #3 of 34 Old 02-15-2017, 01:42 PM Thread Starter
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@horseloving guy Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it. Part of it is the way he's standing in each picture, his butt was always super pointy, his hipbones as well, and you could always see his ribs a bit, but I agree that he HAS lost weight. I'll try to get a picture in the same spot tomorrow so the light hits him the same way as the older pic. That might help with comparison.

I think you misunderstood, he is actually in less work now than before (now walking mostly, for about 30 minutes a day, before december he was jumping up to 3x a week) His grain is just plain oats. I will talk to my trainer tomorrow and see if we can up his hay! The grain was definitely the factor in the excessive energy, which is why they lowered his ration rather than having to let him 'run it out' every single day. We're no longer lunging and galloping him before 'working' on our rides.

He has regular (once a month/every 2 months) vet care and checkups, along with his shots when needed. I'll make sure to ask the vet to take a look at his condition and see if there is a physical cause (teeth etc.) as well.

I will get things in motion to get him looking better! I was afraid to speak up as he's not my horse (lease) and I'm not as experienced as the people whose care he's in. I asked my trainer about it the other day and he said that they had lowered his grain ration etc. I'll make sure to insist some more!!
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post #4 of 34 Old 02-15-2017, 02:44 PM
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He should have free choice of hay to start with. Everything else is extra and should be given if a horse doesn't keep weight on on hay only, or needs a boost.
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post #5 of 34 Old 02-15-2017, 09:34 PM
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So try to read this article, especially the opening paragraph or so before going to speak to anyone. Your having better knowledge of what he ate and why such a difference has taken place...
Feeding Horses Oats
Bottom line is they took away a source of calories and did not replace them with another source of calories whether that is in extra hay fed or another form of concentrated calories{feed}...

Another picture may tell a different story in looks, but I don't think so.
I read your entire post again and still see a horse with the same issues as I wrote.
In fact, if the first picture {red barn} is when the horse was in heavier work, then I am even more surprised there is no muscle tone seen...
I just don't see it.
I still see points on his shoulder, a wither bone not padded well, hip and a bony pointed butt.
Only easily seen difference is his rib cage {barrel} had more flesh, but he is and was underweight.

I have a horse near same build...his metabolism makes him a harder-keeper and more calories need to be fed.
Appropriate calories though so not a "hot" horse but a steady brain in the head, controllable and enjoyable energy. Just extra calories are needed... I feed a high fat feed along with what seems endless hay to him to keep him looking decent.

And yes, if hot and humid it most certainly can have a bearing on the horse holding weight.
But....he needs to be fed adequate calories to gain a ounce.
He needs to be fed more calories every single day than he consumes just breathing to gain any weight...when you ride and exercise him you burn off the calories stored and can go backward in fat loss quickly. If depleted fat stores are used up the horse will then use their muscle to "feed" their bodies needs...
Yes, you have a problem going on here...
Good luck getting to the bottom of it and reversing what is and has been taking place.
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post #6 of 34 Old 02-15-2017, 10:27 PM
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Definitely too thin. I see grass in your pictures so does this horse also have pasture to eat and room to burn off excessive energy?

R.I.P. JC 5/19/85 - 12/9/14. You made my life better.
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post #7 of 34 Old 02-16-2017, 02:38 AM
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Agree with @Horseluvinguy. The horse is too thin, and at this point I wouldn't be exercising him until he gains weight back.
It's not just picture angle as we can see spinous processes over the withers, the point of sternum, the neck is very thin, the hip points protrude, ribs show all the way back to the flank, no fat at all behind the shoulder, etc. Probably only a 3 or less on the body condition scoring chart.

If the oats were cut back without adding the same amount in pounds of hay, that would be the most likely cause of his weight loss.
It sounds like your horse is willing to eat more, so I'd recommend giving as much hay as he can eat.

I'd also wonder how many pounds of oats he was getting. Just recently I foundered my own thin horse by giving her too many oats. As the percentage of oats increases in contrast to the amount of hay, ending up with an acidotic gut becomes more and more likely. Then the horse can lose weight due to discomfort and lack of ability to digest properly in the large intestine. It can also cause colic and laminitis, so it's really only safe to feed a small amount of oats to horses.

I was very worried that my horse would lose weight when I took her off the oats, but she has compensated by eating more hay. But in order to do that, the horse needs to have hay available to eat.
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post #8 of 34 Old 02-16-2017, 06:12 AM Thread Starter
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@horselovinguy that article was very interesting, i had no idea there was a difference between the different 'treatments' of oats, although it makes a lot of sense.

@JCnGrace , no pasture unfortunately :( we're in the city, in a part of the park so i can go and handgraze him, but they dont get any turnout.

I'll talk to my trainer again today and work out a plan to get his weight up!
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post #9 of 34 Old 02-16-2017, 10:13 AM Thread Starter
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Ok so I talked to my trainer again and after insisting a little bit he agreed that Moro is thin and needs more weight on him. We decided against giving him more oats, because it means we have to work him harder to get the excess energy off, and thats not good for him either. Plus he's already getting 2 scoops a day of that, so any more might be overkill. So we're gonna see what free-choice hay/alfalfa (it used to be alfalfa but what I gave him today looked a lot more like hay, not sure if they rotate or have a difference between summer/winter feed or what) does for him, and if that doesnt help we'll see what else we can add in terms of cold calories.

Thank you all for the input, it was really helpful in being sure I wasn't imagining things! (Especially since I had mentioned it before and his groom just kind of shrugged it off like its normal for a horse his age). I'll be keeping an eye on him.

Here's some better pictures from today, he doesnt look as ribby as in the one I posted before in any of them, so part of it might have been the way he was standing, but he can definitely use some groceries. Fingers crossed the extra hay helps!
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File Type: jpg IMG_20170216_102152005.jpg (164.8 KB, 5 views)
File Type: jpg WhatsApp Image 2017-02-16 at 10.26.10.jpg (71.1 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg WhatsApp Image 2017-02-16 at 10.26.24.jpg (64.9 KB, 4 views)
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post #10 of 34 Old 02-16-2017, 11:19 AM
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A work in progress....
Try taking pictures of him in the same location, same time of day and same or near same stance so you can make comparisons for improvement or loss seen of his weight.
Seeing the horse often our eye does not see things till they are glaringly apparent...we get complacent and use to what we see.

In these pictures, {he is very cute btw}, he looks better, but he has quite a bit of weight to regain.
He still has a hollow behind and beneath his wither that needs a fat layer, his hip is still visible and pointed as is his shoulder.
Better, a work in progress but not there yet.

Keep at it...he did not lose it overnight, he will not gain it back overnight either.
The best though is he is gaining...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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