Preventing Obesity in Idle Horses

Idle Horse

A horse who does little, if any work, and is overfed can be compared to a person with a desk job eating like a professional athlete in training. The result will be fat storage and increased risk of metabolic diseases. For the horse, the metabolic disease could lead to laminitis.

    • When horses are allowed to eat too much, they enter into an anabolic state of metabolism and store fat.
    • When horses burn more calories than they are fed, they are in a catabolic state and utilize fat stores.

Most idle horses should be provided with pasture or free choice grass hay. Most of them do not need any grain in their daily ration. Weight gain should be monitored by sight, body condition scoring, equine scales, or a weight tape place around the horse’s girth. If the horse is gaining weight with a hay diet, providing a “less leafy” and “more stemmy” hay will reduce calorie consumption.

Remember, if hay has been cured improperly or stored for a long period of time, it may be missing essential nutrients needed for normal metabolism and tissue growth. You may feed a low calorie hay and pasture balancer to provide essential daily nutrients.

A good rule of thumb: Horses should be fed according to their work requirements and desired body condition. 

J. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS 
Founder of Life Data Labs, Inc. 
Developer of Farrier’s Formula®