Fat Horse on Diet?

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How Do I Put My Horse On A Diet?

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

Dear Cherry,

My gelding is just plain fat. I just brought him home from a boarding stable. There he was being fed a diet of sweet feed, alfalfa hay and pasture. When I got him home I slowly decreased his intake of sweet feed and fed him a mixed grass hay. I also limited his pasture time. I have switched him to oats and only give him a small amount and continue to feed him a mixed grass hay and also continue to limit his time on the pasture. He appears to be losing a little weight but I would like to know the best way to take weight off of this gelding. I ride but not on a daily basis.

Thank you Linda


Dear Linda,

First of all I must congratulate you on your sound approach to getting your new gelding fit.

There just isn't a more fattening regimen than pasture + alfalfa hay + sweet feed. Add inactivity to this formula and a horse's chance for unsoundness increases and his useful lifespan decreases even more. So bravo to you that you've started him on the right path. It will be worth the effort.

When I managed over 100 horses in the teaching herd at Colorado State University, the easy keepers on the top of the pecking order often would get more than their share of feed in the group pens. A sage and salty veterinarian from the CSU Vet Hospital that tended the herd used to give this prescription for those overweight horses: "Move him to an individual pen and put him on a diet of air and water." There is more to that quip than just a bit of humor.

Here are some tips for taking weight off a fat horse (some of which you already have been doing).

1. Feed grass hay, not alfalfa or grass-alfalfa mix. You want to give the horse the satisfaction of chewing roughage without the calories. Grass hay is the most natural horse hay and the lowest in calories.

2. Eliminate grain altogether. An adult gelding doesn't require grain unless he is thin to start with or is working very hard.

3. Eliminate or greatly limit pasture turnout. It would be best if the horse could be turned out in an area without vegetation (perhaps an arena or round pen) for his free exercise. If you must turn out on pasture, do so very sparingly or use a grazing muzzle to decrease the amount of feed your horse ingests while on pasture.

4. Increase REGULAR exercise through whatever exercise alternatives you have available to you. This can include riding, in-hand work, longeing, long lining, ponying, treadmill, hot walker, swimming. The key is REGULAR exercise. 30 minutes every day is much better than 2 hours once a week. The more you can increase your horse's metabolic rate with regular exercise, the more calories he will burn when he is just standing still.

5. Be sure that your horse has access to free choice fresh water and a salt/mineral block. As you increase his exercise, his requirements for these will increase and will help his digestive tract function properly.

To get more detail on some of these points, read the other articles on the Horsekeeping Roundup related to feeding and care. Best of luck. Cherry Hill

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

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