Equine Obesity


An obese horse grazing.

An obese horse grazing.

How do I know if my horse is obese?

Horses, like humans, can be over fed and become obese. A horse’s metabolism will often slow down as it ages. There is a scale used to measure horse obesity known as the condition score. Scores go from one through nine. One meaning very skinny and nine meaning obese, ideally, you want your horse to be around a five. A horse that is a five has a flat back, its shoulders and neck fade into the body smoothly, and the horse’s ribs are not easily noticeable.

What causes obesity?

Some major causes of obesity are over feeding, horses will often over eat when given the opportunity. This combined with a lack of proper exercise, poor dental care, etc will cause obesity. People who own rich pastures with horses that graze freely instead of on grain are subject to having their horses become obese because it results in more eating and less exercise.

What are the dangers of obesity?

Hazards of equine obesity include such things as increased stress on the lungs and heart. It puts a horse at greater risk for Laminitis, bone and joint problems, arthritis, easy fatigue, and reduced reproduction efficiency. Another major risk to an unhealthy horse is Insulin Resistance which is very similar to diabetes in humans. These hazards can also make obese horses more vulnerable to diseases in general. Simply put, an obese horse is not a healthy horse.

Solution/weight loss prevention

To prevent your horse from becoming obese is simple, just make sure your horse is getting proper exercise and eating a healthy and balanced diet. Reducing a horse’s weight is not easy and takes time, if a horse loses weight too quickly then your horse will have some major health risk. The process is slow but steady. You should gradually reduce the horse’s food ration by no more than 10% in a 10 day period. You can track your horse’s progress by using a weight tape, these are ideal instruments for keeping track of your horses weight even after your horse is back down to a healthy state to ensure your horse will stay that way. You should make sure your horse drinks lots of water to rid the body of wastes and make your horses digestive system run efficiently. Give your horse a diet that is high in fiber and low in fat/energy, also try measuring the horses feed by weight instead of volume to help you determine appropriate rations.

If you own more than one horse you should have the obese horse feed away from the other horse so it does not have a chance to steal another horse’s meal. Lastly, the horse’s diet should be balanced on age and the amount of activity it does, make sure you continue to meet the vitamin, mineral, and protein requirements. You may consider adding a supplement to the rations to compensate lower quality, less nutrient dense feeds. Once you have your horse at its ideal weight, remember to make sure it continues to receive proper exercise and diet to maintain its weight.  

Natural options for weight loss

If your horse is overweight and needs to be on a weight loss diet.  It can be important to introduce an adaptogen supplement into the diet.  Adaptogens are substances that are safe for long term use with few side effects, do not create physiological changes in physical parameters and increase the animal’s ability to adapt to a variety of stresses.  APF Plus is a herbal supplement made up of a combination of 5 adaptogens.  In addition APF Plus has an anticatabolic effect in that it conserves skeletal muscle even when the subject is on a weight loss nutrition regime. There is little loss of muscle mass and a utilization of lipids.

An OMEGA-3 fatty acid supplement can also be very beneficial to a horse that is dieting.  Equi-Bloom is a highly stable, flavored OMEGA-3 fatty acid supplement for horses.  It improves hair coat and body condition, and includes vitamin A, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc to replace any deficiencies in the diet.