easy keepers


Taking care of the easy keeper horse


  • Air ferns are those whimsical little plants that you don’t need to feed or water – they just grow with air. In the horse world, this is the equivalent of the “easy keeper”.


But how do you know if your horse is technically an easy keeper, and what are some of the root causes of this?


  • Easy keepers are often the overweight or obese horse. They are a challenge because they collect weight like it’s going out of style, and quite often it’s really hard to meet their daily nutritional requirements (like vitamins and minerals) without causing their weight to increase.


horse with good weight and ribs slightly showing grazing in a field

This lovely creature has visible ribs – not usually a sign of an “easy keeper”.


Easy keeper horses often have the following:


  • Ribs that are hard to find and even harder to see.
  • A neck that’s cresty and often lumpy with fat deposits.
  • Withers covered in a layer of fat.
  • A tail head area that has fat pads. You may also find fat pads on flanks and shoulders. I have seen some the size of lily pads, and they are super squishy and fatty.
  • Between the hind legs as the butt cheeks are so big they extend lower than normal.


Your veterinarian can easily do a body conditioning score on your horse at the next visit.


  • A score between 7 and 10 indicates some weight issues towards the obese end of things.



  • Easy blood tests can give your veterinarian the complete picture and check for metabolic disorders. It’s also much more affordable than a bill for laminitis, which is a huge risk for the easy keeper.


vet taking blood from the jugular vein of a horse

Simple blood tests can reveal metabolic disorders


The trouble with easy keepers:


  • They are at risk of overheating from the extra layers of fat insulation.
  • Their stamina is decreased.
  • They are more likely to develop laminitis. For more on the early signs of laminitis, read this article.
  • Their joints are stressed more than normal. There’s more weight to carry around!
  • They can develop fatty lipomas that can strangle the gut, requiring surgery to repair.



fat pony grazing in a field

I do not know this stock photo horse, but I can tell you two things – He is overweight (YOWSERS) and he looks pretty comfortable for a bareback ride!


Your veterinarian and equine nutritionist can help you come up with the best diet



  • Again, your vet can help you with what choices are available in your area.


  • Most easy keeper horses benefit from reduced pasture or no pasture at all.


  • Most easy keeper horses will need supplements to provide the correct vitamins and minerals.


profile view of paint horse in greenguard grazing muzzle

This is the Greenguard Grazing muzzle and it’s awesome.


  • Grazing muzzles are a good choice for some horses. And it’s absolutely not cruel at all to fit your horse for a grazing muzzle. He will be able to spend more time doing his horse thing if he wears a muzzle.


  • You also need to regularly exercise your horse. Doing so in a methodical and gradual manner is best. Avoid being a weekend warrior. Your vet can help you determine a safe and fair exercise plan.



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Safety break-away halter for grazing muzzles.



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Weight Tape




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