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.