Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fat is the best color

“You sometimes hear the old saying, ‘Fat is the best color.’ This means, of course, that fat covers a multitude of conformation faults and therefore looks good~ especially to the less discerning horseman.”
~Eleanor F. Prince and Gaydell M. Collier

I have never heard of this saying before (again it come from my new book: The Gigantic Book of Horse Wisdom) but it sure fits my fat little pony. Not that I agree with it. I hate a fat horse, I really do. On the Henneke Body Score I would like to see horses between a 4 and 5. Some like to see horses up to 6 and really that is probably the best for Corrie, but is a bit fat for my tastes.

When I say Corrie is fat, I mean fat. She is at least a 8 if not a 9 on the the Henneke Body Score. She does not even hold it well, she looks to have swallowed a box; typical of a brood mare. Corrie is an air fern, as some would call her. The worst I have ever seen actually.

I am a bit worried about her. She is on a grass pasture, well eaten down pasture. I also give her 1 cup of sweet feed with vitamin and joint supplements. That is not enough to make her fat. Plus she gets worked everyday. Not hard, but at least 30 to 60 minutes of walking and trotting. That has made no difference in her weight. None of the other horses are as fat as Corrie, even though she is the only one worked every day. We pulled her off of the pasture and put her on dry lot. When she comes here she will be on dry lot and a few hours of pasture with a muzzle.

While looking into this problem I have been doing a lot of reading about thyroid dysfunction. If you subscribe to The Horse (which is free) you can get this article on thyroid dysfunction. Summed up it says that it is really difficult to diagnosis a thyroid problem in horses and that it is really rare anway. It goes on to say that there are a lot of reasons that a horse could be having symptons that look like a thyroid dysfunction and that treating a horse for a thyroid problem when it does not have one could have the opposite effect we are looking for. Great.

This is another great article on feeding the fat horse. Again subscribe to The Horse. This article goes on about fat mares in particlar. It puts everything in persepective. Ponies were designed by nature to untilize feed very effectively. One thing that this article mentions is that just limiting the feed can often back fire. Horses need to graze, they are built to eat, but ponies need to eat really low quality feed. They even suggest feeding some straw. Never even thought of straw as a feed but now that I have Corrie I might add a little to her diet. I also want to get a few small mesh hay nets.

So many horse are overweight, I really take Corries weight seriously. Hopefully we can get this under control soon.


  1. I like those small mesh hay nets. I have several, but have been using them mostly in the trailer. My mare is a very easy keeper. I have to keep her on a dry lot most of the day. I use a grazing muzzle if I want to leave her in the pasture for more than a couple of hours. Good luck with the fight against fat. Oh...and I'd not heard that saying about fat being the best color. Interesting.

  2. My haffie knowledge:)
    Straw can make a horse founder. I am not sure why I am not a vet :) I do know several horses that have foundered from eating straw however. So maybe consult with a vet about that.
    Other than that I would say cut the sweet feed out completely. She does not need it and if she does have insulin issues this won't help.

    I also agree 100% about cutting feed backfiring. That is why starvation diets don't work for people either. There is a baseline amount a horse should get in roughage per day. Is it 3% of body weight? I think so. I would give her grass hay only. No pasture. Poooooor mare.

    Bodhi has really shaped up with ground poles and small gymnastics. I recommend it for your own little air fern.

    Let's brain storm! Fat haffies are so difficult! Have you joined the Yahoo Haflinger Friends group?

  3. We have so many hard keepers over here I am always surprised by horses that exist on air.

    Good that you've got your eye on it, though.

  4. Its so hard when they are not the ideal weight, I had one mare who has always been skinny,really skinny, but this summer she is fat, even obese, yet I am worried to put her on a diet for fear she will get too skinny again, aggh!

  5. My haffies tend to get a bit hefty and right now they are heavier than they have ever been. I hate that they can't graze all of the time, but if they do, they blossom.
    I purchased a NibbleNet for Pippin, as he gobbles all food. He rarely lifts his head and grabs huge mouthfuls of hay or grass. He is an eating machine! The NibbleNet slowed him down with his hay. I think he actually began to enjoy trying to get the hay out of the small openings. The only problem is that he started to chew through the nylon web in one corner. I took the net down, intending to fix it, but haven't gotten around to it. To slow him down with his handful of grain I put 3 slightly larger than fist-sized round rocks in his feed tub.
    Oh, the trials of being an 'easy keeper'! I think I can identify with my guys. It seems if I look at pictures of yummy desserts I gain weight!

  6. Once: Funny think after I found that quote and started looking into weight loss, I saw another reference to it. Apparently ol' time horse traders would fatten up a horse to hide conformational flaws. Who knew?

    Golden: I'll have to check out that group. Sounds really good. I have to admit that I love my haffies now!

    Horses should get between 1.5 and 3 percent of their body weight in roughage. I'm going to aim for 1.5 with Corrie. I'll have to check more in to straw, I had not heard that before. I know that reference I got it form was The Horse which is a very science/ research based magazine. I would not be feeding that much, just a little something to munch on. I'll looking into it more though thanks for the tip.

    I definitely am going to start doing ground poles when I get her back here. She almost fell over then the first time I used them at the barn, they she tried to jump them, which was just funny. So I am going to definitely do more of them when I get her back here.

    Breathe and Crystal: I don't know which is worse, too fat or too skinny! I can not believe how little they can survive on!

  7. "Straw can make a horse founder" Oat straw can make a horse founder. Higher fructan.
    Grass is best ate in the morning hours when the sugar levels are low from being used all night. Read my grass founder assignment
    I would heck her for insulin resistant. Thats quite easy and a lot of haffies can have that. Sugar (sweet feed) is a no no though for thyroid/insulin resistance horses. Even a tablespoon a day can set them off.

  8. You may not need the sweet feed, as it has a lot of calories and also sugars. If you need to feed any grain/pellets at all, you want a low NSC feed (non-structural carbs). There are some good ones out there. Or you might be able to do with just a vitamin/mineral pellet designed for your area - our feed mill makes one for our part of the country. Also I recommend consulting for info on feeding.

    It's pretty easy to test for thyroid function - high or low - ask your vet.

    Good luck!

  9. Being overweight can lead to so many health issues for horses (and humans, too).

    I'm not using my hay nets for Apache because the one time I did, she tried to rip them apart, very upset with the little pieces of hay she had to work so hard to get. She's a slow eater anyway, not like my previous mare, Baby Doll, who could completely devour two flakes of hay in less than 8 minutes...I timed her! eeek!

    Apache gets a lot of exercise from hiking up and down our steep hills in her pastures....and I use the term pasture loosely. It's basically a dry lot with just a low, sparse, dry native grass cover. An air fern wouldn't even survive on what is out there.

    Sweet feed isn't good for any horse, except maybe as a way to catch one out in the pasture, or as a small treat. Even the hard keepers would do better with a formulated high calorie/protein feed, such as for seniors. There is a ton of molasses in sweet feed...and it's just too much sugar.

    Maybe you could give her the supplements in a cup of formulated feed or a cup of alfalfa or grass hay pellets? A handful of bran or beet pulp mixed with water to create a mash would also be a good alternative.

    And if Corrie is still not losing some weight you could also water down her hay to remove more of the calories and sugars.


  10. My Boyz are both fat on grass and free-choice hay. I give them literally a kitchen measuring cup of grain to take their supplements. They have been getting more exercise, but I really like sending them up to Heather's once a year for a month or two. They always come back trimmer.


Thank you so much for your positive comments. I love you hear from you!