Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Dichotomy of health; my little chunky monkey

Science Daily article on Horse Obesity
"He is Fat and Happy"
I think we have all heard that phrase right? We equate food with our horses well being (and I am sure they would not correct us). When talking equine welfare we often discuss neglect by under feeding, starvation etc. There is nothing that pulls ones heart strings more than to see a neglected horse all ribs, and hips and sharp edges. I think however that having an overweight horse is just as abusive!
I think it is funny how to have a fat horse is socially acceptable if not socially desired in the horse world. Picture a cute pony in your minds eye----I don't know about you but my mind pony is as rotund as they come! As a culture we are often obsessed with personal fitness, body image, and dieting but when it comes to our equine (and canine) companions it seems the bigger the better.

The reality is that obesity is just as large(no pun intended) an issue for horses as it is in humans and it is caused by many of the same things.
  • Rich food
  • Inactivity
  • Genetics (like the draft ponies)
I feel like in someways domesticated animals are mirrors for society and it is not a pretty reflection when you see a rise in obesity related diseases like laminitis, heart disease, and insulin resistance.
I am not immune. I am always fighting the urge to add a supplement or switch to better quality grain or hay. Here is a few more links that I found educational.
Take a second in the next few days and take a critical look at your horse. Talk to your vet about what he/she thinks about your horses weight. The best thing of all is exercise so go for a ride! It will make you both feel better!


  1. You're absolutely correct about this problem. We have a few chunky monkeys occasionally but for the most part they are fit. We do exercise them by riding and or longeing. The retirees also get lots of exercise by being turned out all day. I've found that it helps to put their hay in small-holed hay nets and hang them in their stalls it takes them a lot longer to eat and leaves less of a mess. When some of them occasionally sneak over the line towards 'chunky' they do get grazing muzzles. We're trying but it's an ongoing battle with horses who love to eat.

  2. thanks for addressing this-- only wish I could send it to one family in particular at the farm...

  3. When I did drug testing at a hunter/jumper show recently I was surprised that every single horse was fat! These horses could canter and jump 3' effortlessly, but somehow they were still pudgy! My guess is that they are stalled 24 hours a day, ridden an hour or two daily, and fed free choice high quality hay. If these horses lived a bit more naturally they wouldn't be so chub-a-lub.
    Exercise is the key to health apart from good grass!

  4. You wonder though about these fat athletes and what it will do to their long term health. My massively overweight TB from childhood had heart disease and died with many kidney and liver tumors at the age of 23. He was overfed low quality sweet feed his entire life until he came to me.

  5. I have horses at either extreme. Or suffice to say, I had. Flair was the more typical Thoroughbred type who needed weight put on, especially in his declining years. Now I have Mr. Golden-Fatty-McFatAss, and he needs to lose weight. I can never win. *pout*

    Mitch got his spring shots last week, and the vet says Chubbsy Ubbsy needs to lose at least 75 lbs. Which was very surprising for me because he was only getting the 4 flakes of grass hay a day in a slow hay feeder, no grain and I was riding practically every day. I did have the vet pull blood to check insulin and glucose since Mitch has a bit of a cresty neck and I suspect he's possible pre-IR as some Haffies are likely to be, but the results came back normal. I'm probably gonna have another blood test done in 6 months when he gets his fall shots because I've heard the blood tests can be iffy at times. We're cutting down on the hay a little per the vet, and I'm trying to increase his exercise workload to twice daily.