Taking Weight Off of Easy Keeping Horses

We hear often from people that “My pony is so fat!” It is often followed with, “He doesn’t need to be fed anything – he so much as sees a bag of feed and he gains weight.”

Obesity in horses can lead to laminitis, overheating and numerous other health issues. Ideally, chubby horses should have their nutrition monitored closely. Three good practices to manage these types of easy keepers are:

  1. Limit their forage first and provide a controlled-calorie horse feed to complete the missing nutrients from the forage. This still allows the horse or pony to feel as though it gets fed, too.
  2. If monitored well, grazing muzzles work for overweight horses on pastures, allowing them only small bites of grass but maintaining free access to run with the other horses.
  3. Not surprisingly, most effective is daily exercise. Increasing the amount of calories burned each day reduces the amount that are stored away as fat.

Taking weight off of an easy keeper is no small task, but is well worth it in the long run. Keeping our equine friends fit will help ensure they stay with us for years to come.

12 Replies to “Taking Weight Off of Easy Keeping Horses”

  1. Great advise. I have a Mustang who is an easy keeper – boy what a challenge. He’s the only one in the herd overweight too. It’s funny – yet not at the same time.

    Thanks for the information.

    1. I have a mustang also, and she has to be muzzled late spring and early summer every year. She eats and eats and eats until she founders if I don’t. The vet said that mustangs are bad about becoming overweight because in the wild they eat as much as they can during the good foliage time, which is a much short period than where I’m at, and then use the stored fat during the hot/dry and cold/frozen time of year.

      1. Yep, my Mustang pony is a VERY easy keeper. Compared to my Paint (who happens to be half mustang) is the complete opposite. There was one year where the Paint was underweight and the Mustang was over. It is also true that as wild horses, they are used to next to nothing on the range, so when they are fed twice a day with grain and then put in the pasture, they get fat very fast. In addition, I’ve noticed that my Mustang tends to be a little more bossy about feed. When we used to feed her with this Quarter horse, she wouldn’t let the other horse near her hay. They would have to be separate with a significant amount of room between them.

    2. Hi Teresa I have a mustang 17 years old as,well.like a meatball only 1 small cup of fed am and pm. A MEATBALL HE US ..I am increasing his round penning 3x a,week ..cause over weight its been longer for him to get up. My Qh a skinny whinny..older needs 3x a day grain with hay pellets

  2. my tn walker is overweight and only feeding 1/2 cup of feed once a day can not exercise her too much cause of her condition-bilateral proximal suspensory ligament desmitis on her left front fetlock and her rear tarsus stifle, so what do i do now?

    1. Hi Donna, So sorry to hear of your horse’s injury – that’s no fun at all. We would strongly suggest working with your veterinarian to determine how much exercise you can provide her – even regular handwalking for short periods, if she can do it, will help both her condition and also her mental health and attitude.

      As for her diet, you don’t mention what type of feed you are using, but we would suggest switching to a ration balancer right away (of course with a 5-7 day transition) to make sure she continues to get her needed vitamins & minerals, but without the calories of a traditional feed. Also, you should definitely take a look at the amount of hay/pasture she is getting. If she’s on grass/pasture at all, she may need a grazing muzzle, or you may need to limit her access to hay if she is being kept up in a stall.

      Hope that helps, and please do let us know if you have more questions! Thanks ~ Gina T.

  3. I just bought a very fat horse. The previous owners were feeding him “a gallon” of 12% sweet feed x daily and had him locked in a stall for over a month with no turnout. I was so concerned that I bought him even though I wasn’t sure he was the right horse for us. He is probably 400-500 lbs overweight. I am feeding him a very small handful of a low starch complete feed and he is out on a mountain pasture with a grazing muzzle on at night and inside during the day with one flake of grass hay. He is still not losing much weight. We ride him up and down the mountains about three days a week for 2 hours of so at a walk. He has no muscle mass, just fat.

    1. Hello Erika, Thank you for contacting us. One small dietary change to look at is using a ration balancer product instead of the low starch complete feed, as a ration balancer is specifically designed to be fed at very low amounts (just a pound a day in many cases) and still provide the needed vitamins, minerals, and protein for overall health, and by nature of its formulation is very low in starch. Our product, Empower Balance, would fit the bill. Feeding a tiny amount of a complete feed, which is designed to be fed at a much higher level, essentially does not offer anywhere near the vitamins/minerals the body needs.

      As for the inability to shed weight, we would suggest having him evaluated by a veterinarian and having blood work taken ASAP to make sure there is not an insulin resistance issue or other metabolic problem going on. The presence of a metabolic issue could explain the fatty deposits.

      Thank you ~ Gina T.

  4. I have a 6 year old quarter horse. I barrel race, so I ride him regularly during spring/summer/fall. I try to ride when I can in the winter but its not a lot. This past year was his first full race season. While his athletic ability is there, his weight limits his performance. It seems no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get him in good competitive shape. He gets a pretty vigorous workout for about an hour 4-5 times a week with races/rodeos on the weekends in the warmer months. I’m currently feeding the Safechoice Special care ( I already had another horse on it, so I figured I’d give it a try). At this same time, I was also keeping him in a dry lot during the day and out in the pasture at night. What would you suggest?

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