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Rescuing an Overweight Horse
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Rescuing an Overweight Horse

When we think about getting a rescue horse, or rehabbing a horse, we usually think skinny or injured. Fat and in need of weight loss is not usually our first thought. Being overweight can be more deadly to a horse than being thin. This is Leo’s story.

I am known in my area to take in rescues, so anytime there is one in need, everyone tags me in pictures and posts and even texts me pictures. I am constantly rehabbing very skinny horses.  Never have I encountered an obese, on the brink of founder horse, until Leo. I kept seeing Leo’s picture pop up on Facebook over a period of about two weeks. His story was that the people had owned him for 5-7 years, that he was 20+ years old, very overweight and having a hard time walking in the summer. I tried sharing his post over and over, hoping someone would get him so that I could focus on another in need. Just when I thought it worked, one of my friends saw him and decided to go get him, which quickly fell through as she was told he was very pushy and needed a refresher before a child could ride. He was said to have been a lesson pony years ago but had pretty much sat unused for the past 5-7 years. I decided to comment on his post asking if they could transport him, not expecting for them to agree, but they did.

Two days later a very overweight, tender footed Haflinger /Paso cross got off the trailer, and by the looks of his teeth was more like 10 than 20 years old.  It was then I also realized I needed to do some research because this boy was HUGE!  He had huge fat deposits all over his chest, rump and neck. I knew for sure that if we did not do something soon, he would founder and I would likely lose him. I had to come up with a plan and quick.

I decided to put him in a dry lot (round pen) and limit his hay and grain intake until I could determine the best course of action. I then went to Facebook and asked for advice!  I knew that light exercise and diet were my biggest weapons but was unsure if there may be some underlying issue. He did not have the appearance of a Cushing’s horse as his coat was sleek and shiny.  His previous owners only said that he was worse in the summer time when he had unlimited green grass and was better weight and sound wise in the winter.  So my first thought was, no more green grass, and that’s what I did. I was also told and found in my research that these obese horses are likely to have a magnesium deficiency.  I decided that I would also add that into his diet.

Now mind you it was killing me not to ride this guy, and I knew exercise was well needed, but I had no saddle wide enough to even fit him.  But since he was showing no signs of being lame I decided to hop on and give him a whirl.  What I got was a tear jerker. I got on bareback, with a halter and lead rope.  Asked him to walk off, and he did everything I asked of him. No spook, no limp, no nothing, just ears pricked forward eager to please! It was then I decided that a brisk walk for the first week daily would do him a world of good. By the third day we were trotting for 5 minutes at a time. He has a Haflinger body with a Paso gait if you can picture that. Sounds funny but it is cute as a button and mighty comfortable if I don’t say so myself. 

For the first week I did not see much change in weight, but as the weeks have gone on there has been noticeable weight loss in pictures. I myself have a hard time seeing change in my rescues because I see them daily, but in pictures I can see it. I believe we are at about -50 pounds in 3 weeks.  

His daily regiment includes the following:

-2 cups whole oats/1 cup of Total Equine and 2 scoops of Mag-Restore 2x’s daily (ten day load dose on Mag restore, then down to 1 scoop a day.)  Only reason he gets grain at all is to get his Mag-Restore.

-1 flake of coastal 2x’s a daily

-Brisk walk and trot for 10-15 minutes a day, sometimes twice if I have time.

In three weeks’ time, with little effort and a lot of will power not to feed him or let him graze, Leo has shed approximately 50 pounds.  This means we are about a quarter of the way there as I am guessing he is 200 pounds overweight. That is a lot for a barely 13 hand pony!  He moves more freely, still stiff or tender at times, but much better all in all.

I have to say it is very hard not to give into his nickers and pit pocketing when he is hungry, but in my heart I know this is what is best for him. His progress reflects that. I plan to do updated blogs as Leo progresses. I am happy to say I have helped another beautiful animal and in turn gained a wonderful friend. 

 

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Leave a Comment

  1. jamiemullis84
    Heather, you have done amazing things in our community that not many people would do! You put horses that you don't even know before your welfare! You take care of of them day and night, help others when they don't know what to do. Every horse that you rescue has its own story and you give your all to each and every one of them while keeping your Facebook friends up to date on their progress! I know that if any of your blogs are voted to Top Posts, that the $15 will not go to something for your needs. Every dime will go to the ones who need it most, your horses! Good job on the blog and I will share it!
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  2. jst4horses
    I agree, this is a good article. Most of us do not see the overweight horse..........unless it has a health problem. We are very lucky, the vet stops by every day at the sanctuary where we board........and the horses are given blood tests when needed to make sure. I have friends with Halfingers and Pasos, no mixes......they ALL are on special feed due to a tendency to build fat clumps on chest, butt, and top of the neck.........Most are on bermuda and a supplement complex prescribed by the vet. It keeps them under control. If I fed my horses the exact same feed, they would all be too thin. I wonder if it has to do with ancient history and where they come from?
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  3. jst4horses
    I agree, this is a good article. Most of us do not see the overweight horse..........unless it has a health problem. We are very lucky, the vet stops by every day at the sanctuary where we board........and the horses are given blood tests when needed to make sure. I have friends with Halfingers and Pasos, no mixes......they ALL are on special feed due to a tendency to build fat clumps on chest, butt, and top of the neck.........Most are on bermuda and a supplement complex prescribed by the vet. It keeps them under control. If I fed my horses the exact same feed, they would all be too thin. I wonder if it has to do with ancient history and where they come from?
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  4. Eve Sherrill York
    Eve Sherrill York
    This is a great story. Look forward for new installments. Voted.
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  5. arabobsession
    arabobsession
    I have what is commonly called an easy feed mare. I correct everyone and tell them she is a founder mare, looking after her has made me look outside the square. I feed a herbal diet, which is suited to controlling founder, I am careful on what is in her hay, oaten is best, then I watch for all the founder signs. My girl gets fat at the drop of a hat, and having seen a horse founder, I don't want that for her. I wish you luck, and I suggest you surf the web, there are some excellent sites out there. Thank you for all you do for the horses who need someone.
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    1. Lucy Eastman
      Lucy Eastman
      I always thought it was great to have and easy Keeper. But I was wrong. I found out by www.thehorse.com . That there are lot issue comes with an easy keeper. Founder and getting Cushing.
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  6. Lucy Eastman
    Lucy Eastman
    To get that weight off his neck and other places you need to call Foxden.com and ask for Quiessence you can get through Smart Pak. Quiessence is a Magnesium and Chromium supplement that may help reduce the risk of laminitis in horses that are overweight and cresty-necked. Additionally, because Magnesium is important to nerve and muscle function, Quiessence may help horses that are tense, spooky and inattentive to attain a more balanced mental state. Quiessence may also help those horses with signs of tight, sore muscles to be more comfortable and relaxed. I was dumbfounded about horses weight. And I kept an eye on my horse watching what he was doing and wonder why is he over their? Red Flag came up and he wasn't walking right or standing. I caught it in time but he might been developing for along time. Founder and new to me Cushing you can find signs on him about cushing diseased notice his face swelling around his eyes and white patches near his eye is a sign his body is telling something is wrong. Have your vet come and check him out and ex-ray his feet.
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