The health dangers to an overweight horse!
- Do your horse a favor and make sure he’s not packing on any extra “personality”. The health risks of an overweight horse are plenty – and may impact his day-to-day health as well as putting him at risk for bigger issues.
- Your veterinarian can help you determine your horse’s body score conditioning, which goes a long way to understanding his risk levels.
I can practically feel the lumpy fat deposits on this horse!
Some problems that the overweight horse has:
- Joint strain and pain. When there’s more weight to carry, muscles and joints take the burden. It’s already amazing how much weight a horse carries on his tiny little hoof, why add more to the mix?
- Soft tissue damage – This is sort of hand in hand with joint strain and pain. Lots of stress on joints also means lots of stress on tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues.
- Sub-par performance. Sure, the overweight horse can get around a bit. But is he being held back by his weight? YES.
- Cardio issues. This one goes together with underperformance. Your overweight horse’s heart and lungs have to work harder due to his excess weight. He might not be able to perform as well, or for as long, and recovery likely takes longer.
- Heat intolerance. Your horse is going to get HOT and not in a good way. He won’t be able to cool off effectively, as that extra weight is literally insulation.
Round ponies are cute, and also walking laminitis machines.
- Metabolic issues. A surefire way to put your horse at risk of a metabolic disorder like Insulin Resistance is to let him be overweight. This is then a sure-fire way to develop laminitis if left unmanaged. Another metabolic disorder, Cushing’s disease, can lead to muscle wasting which might look like weight loss.
- Then you get into fancy things like oxidative stress. Adipose (fat) tissue makes these proteins called cytokines, which promote inflammation in your horse’s body. These little cytokines can damage tissue, affect metabolism, and in humans can even result in heart disease and diabetes. There’s more to learn about oxidative stress in horses, and it’s not off to a good start.
- Lipomas. These are fatty tumors, and also super gross. In your horse’s gut, there’s some tissue around his intestines called the mesentery, which basically holds the digestive tract in place. Lipomas like to develop here, and unfortunately can wrap around the digestive tract and create colic, blockages, and even strangulation of the intestines.
- How do you know if your horse is overweight? Don’t trust yourself. And probably don’t trust your friends either. We are so enamored of our horses, they can do no wrong, they are perfect just as they are. BUT really – find someone neutral and unbiased like your vet, to give it to you straight. You can also learn how to estimate your horse’s weight in this spiffy article.
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One more thing about the overweight horse – you can’t simply cut his feed. This can actually tell your horse’s brain to panic and start hoarding calories and get even rounder! This is a gradual plan that needs to happen over time with a better diet and increased exercise, too. The use of a grazing muzzle will also him to move around while limiting possible laminitis triggers.
And know that it’s absolutely OK to see a healthy horse’s ribs. I’d rather see ribs than NOT see ribs.
For more valuable information on laminitis:
Signs of laminitis
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