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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 25, 2005
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    Default Coming out of the winter skinny. Hu?

    I saw a craiglist ad today that has me scratching my head. The photo shows a thin horse - not dangerously emaciated but probably a BCS of 3.5.

    The ad says that the horse is skinny due to the winter but he always gains his weight back when the grass greens up.

    So, I can't help but scratch my head. I feed enough hay and other feed through the winter that my horses come out of the winter looking exactly the same as they went into it back in the fall.

    I've noticed a few of the horses I trim getting skinny through the winter and the owners commenting that they'll fatten back up over the summer.

    So what is everybody else's opinion on this? It seems weird to me that people let horses get skinny over the winter because they know the grass will fatten them up again.

    Obviously this is the natural cycle of feral or wild horses (and really all grazing animals). Get plump when forage is available - trim down when it's not. But should we be emulating that? My opinion is no, but I'm curious to hear the opinions of everyone else.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep. 30, 2005
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    Windy WY
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    Default

    I agree with you. It's a very common thing for pastured horses here in my area. Is it laziness? Somehow a lot of people think it's acceptable.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 3, 2007
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    Central,PA
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    Well I think this winter was exceptionally rough on horses ( depending on where you were located). My horse who is 10 came out looking a little rough and it was also really hard on our older guys.

    It took him 2 weeks on grass and he looks great now, Hes not a hard keeper but a typical TB. Eats alot no matter what season you are in.

    They have free choice hay, if they eat it they get more. Granted some of our hay this year wasnt great but better than alot eat so spoiled or not if they are hungry they will eat it.

    No its not normal practice and I was not happy with the way he was looking, it was really the first year that I could really see he was declining, but he bounced back in a relative short amount of time with no worse for wear.
    Ride it like you stole it....ohhh sh*t



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar. 28, 2002
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    East of Dog River
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    Default

    This winter was hard on stock here - it wasn't exceptionally cold, nothing really brutal, but several degrees below normal and it was relentless, there were no breaks, and the humidity was up. When you have cold like that, livestock comes out a little light, regardless of what kind of livestock and what is fed as they just use up everything to keep warm. Was so bad I spent a lot of time huddled here or on the couch and whinging that I was never gonna be warm again, and covered myself with another sweater or a blanket.
    My horses are starting to look better now too although both are kind of rangy looking at the best of times, particularly Wall Kicker who is a big rawboned, slabsided horse.
    Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 30, 2007
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    Illinois, USA
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sk_pacer View Post
    This winter was hard on stock here - it wasn't exceptionally cold, nothing really brutal, but several degrees below normal and it was relentless, there were no breaks, and the humidity was up. When you have cold like that, livestock comes out a little light, regardless of what kind of livestock and what is fed as they just use up everything to keep warm. Was so bad I spent a lot of time huddled here or on the couch and whinging that I was never gonna be warm again, and covered myself with another sweater or a blanket.
    My horses are starting to look better now too although both are kind of rangy looking at the best of times, particularly Wall Kicker who is a big rawboned, slabsided horse.
    To me, that's what stalls, blankets, and more feed (or a different feed) is for. I don't really think weather should be an excuse to let your horse get thin. We've had some pretty brutal winters, where it was -45F to -50F with windchills, and my mare lives outside 24/7. She was double blanketed and given a good amount of timothy/alfalfa mix hay, and had a shelter to get into. She didn't drop weight. It can be done!
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec. 19, 2007
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    Camden, DE
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    Default

    The only logic I see behind a horse losing condition over the winter is if you don't work the horse over the winter and it loses muscle/fitness. That could be due to poor/unsafe footing (ice or snow) and not having an arena. I know that happens to a few folks around here but their horses don't get skinny or less fat per say, just lose some fitness.
    Last edited by ThoroughbredFancy; May. 5, 2010 at 12:49 PM.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul. 3, 2007
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    Central,PA
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    Default

    I guess I should clarify.. Where we are located we got almost 2 feet of snow in a week. Our manure pile is a good 1/4 mile from the house, this walk is dreaded with a full barrow every day !!

    We had to limit stall time because we had no where to go with the manure, at the end when we were finally able toget the manure out it was piled up on every wall possible.It was a mess to say the least. There were over 20 loads of manure that needed hauled out.

    So they did go from having a stall to being out almost 24/7 for almost 3 weeks. They were not happy and they stood around looking miserable ( after the thrill of the snow wore off ) and it wore off fast for us humans too!! But you do what you can do.
    Ride it like you stole it....ohhh sh*t



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr. 17, 2002
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    between the barn and the pond
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    There are schools of thought wherein horses gain and lose over the course of a year as a part of their regular cycle of life.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar. 28, 2002
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    East of Dog River
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    Quote Originally Posted by sublimequine View Post
    To me, that's what stalls, blankets, and more feed (or a different feed) is for. I don't really think weather should be an excuse to let your horse get thin. We've had some pretty brutal winters, where it was -45F to -50F with windchills, and my mare lives outside 24/7. She was double blanketed and given a good amount of timothy/alfalfa mix hay, and had a shelter to get into. She didn't drop weight. It can be done!
    My own stock was inside all winter, with all they could eat. You forgot to pay attention to what I wrote - I wasn't referencing my horses in particular, but livestock in general from coiws to sheep and everything inbetween. I just never saw the people down the road with 150+ sheep put them inside, and they look kind of poor, not horrible but somewhat, same applies to cattle. Not sure how one would go about blanketing and stalling a couple of hundred cows............

    That said, the one horse here always comes out of winter a bit thin, not horrible thin but ribby - he just is that way and has been for the 12 years I have had him. His partner in crime loses weight when the grass comes up because he refuses to eat hay when there is green grass.
    Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sk_pacer View Post
    My own stock was inside all winter, with all they could eat. You forgot to pay attention to what I wrote - I wasn't referencing my horses in particular, but livestock in general from coiws to sheep and everything inbetween. I just never saw the people down the road with 150+ sheep put them inside, and they look kind of poor, not horrible but somewhat, same applies to cattle. Not sure how one would go about blanketing and stalling a couple of hundred cows............

    That said, the one horse here always comes out of winter a bit thin, not horrible thin but ribby - he just is that way and has been for the 12 years I have had him. His partner in crime loses weight when the grass comes up because he refuses to eat hay when there is green grass.
    This is a horse message board. We're not talking about cows and sheep.
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb. 19, 2004
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    New Hampshire
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    I don't think that should be a valid excuse. If you put enough food in front of them they shouldn't lose weight. Maybe if they are a senior I'd buy that excuse. Heck one of my horses got ginormous this winter because she had a round bale in front of her. She had to go on a diet in January.
    Missouri Fox Trotters-To ride one is to own one

    Standardbreds, so much more then a harness racing horse.



  12. #12
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    Aug. 30, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cashela View Post
    I don't think that should be a valid excuse. If you put enough food in front of them they shouldn't lose weight. Maybe if they are a senior I'd buy that excuse. Heck one of my horses got ginormous this winter because she had a round bale in front of her. She had to go on a diet in January.
    Agreed, my mare was her fattest in January this year.. porker barely fit into her "fat girth"!
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!



  13. #13
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    Mar. 31, 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cashela View Post
    I don't think that should be a valid excuse. If you put enough food in front of them they shouldn't lose weight. Maybe if they are a senior I'd buy that excuse. Heck one of my horses got ginormous this winter because she had a round bale in front of her. She had to go on a diet in January.
    Quote Originally Posted by sublimequine View Post
    Agreed, my mare was her fattest in January this year.. porker barely fit into her "fat girth"!
    While there are known, sometimes serious, health consequences for a horse being overweight, I'm not sure the same could be said for a horse losing a little weight over the winter and then regaining it in the spring. Emphasis on the little there, I'm not talking about malnutrition, starvation, etc. If I had to guess, I'd say a cycle of weight gain followed by dieting is probably more harmful then changes in weight that coincide with the seasons.



  14. #14
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    Aug. 30, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrightandClear View Post
    While there are known, sometimes serious, health consequences for a horse being overweight, I'm not sure the same could be said for a horse losing a little weight over the winter and then regaining it in the spring. Emphasis on the little there, I'm not talking about malnutrition, starvation, etc. If I had to guess, I'd say a cycle of weight gain followed by dieting is probably more harmful then changes in weight that coincide with the seasons.
    I agree that there are consequences to a horse being overweight. My mare's overweight is probably being a 6 on the BCS, so I'm not talking a morbidly obese horse. Also, she was fat because she wasn't worked save for once a week for a month, because I was out of town on winter break from college for that month.

    And from the horses I see, it's not a "little weight" being dropped in winter. The ones I see are coming into winter tick-fat from the grass and no exercise, drop a substantial amount of weight through winter to go from quite fat to quite thin, and then back to fat in the spring. I hardly consider that healthy!
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!



  15. #15
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    Jul. 30, 2008
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    Sioux Falls, SD
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    Well ... you know ,that's just "common" around here. We get harsh winters. We stress going into fall if they haven't "bulked up" for winter. We expect, even with round bales, etc., for our horses to be thinner coming out of winter. It happens in the wild too. It's not feasible if you have 100+ horses on a ranch, for example, to blanket them, stall them, etc. Very few horses in South Dakota are "pets" or "show horses" - most are working partners. It's a different culture.

    I am at a boarding barn, and they feed well, but when you have -20 to -30 degree temps for over a month, with 5+ feet of snowfall ... it's just HARD to keep weight on. And winter coats can hide a lot of the weight loss.

    That said - most of our horses wintered very well this year at the boarding barn. But there are a few "skinnies" who require extra. My new horse was a "pasture pet" - she's coming 5, and lived on a pasture with round bales as far as I know. She came in pretty thin for our stables ... but pretty normal for around here. She's still ribby, but my vet cautioned me from pushing extra calories - wants maybe 35 more pounds he said - because the grass is coming up and he has a feeling she's going to have a tendency to pudge up on grass. Grass is just richer than hay.
    If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
    ~ Maya Angelou



  16. #16
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    Mar. 31, 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by sublimequine View Post
    The ones I see are coming into winter tick-fat from the grass and no exercise, drop a substantial amount of weight through winter to go from quite fat to quite thin, and then back to fat in the spring. I hardly consider that healthy!
    Animals who hibernate are designed to work like this, so the principle isn't universally damaging. Obviously we're talking about horses, and not bears... But still, I'd be interested to see any medical literature or hear from someone with relevant credentials about what kind of damage this does to a horse's body. I'm NOT saying it's an ideal way for horses to live, but that possibly it's not as unhealthy as some might perceive it to be.



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrightandClear View Post
    Animals who hibernate are designed to work like this, so the principle isn't universally damaging. Obviously we're talking about horses, and not bears... But still, I'd be interested to see any medical literature or hear from someone with relevant credentials about what kind of damage this does to a horse's body. I'm NOT saying it's an ideal way for horses to live, but that possibly it's not as unhealthy as some might perceive it to be.
    I agree that it doesn't do substantial damage to the system or anything, but to me, it's just bad management/horsemanship.
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!



  18. #18
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    Nov. 19, 2005
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    I have a 21 year old mare - a big girl--that is getting 16 quarts --is in a stall at night/bad weather---and she is still lighter than I want after the winter . Sometimes it is difficult safely getting anymore calories in them. (And she will not eat rice bran--or oils in feed --or alfafa cubes--picky girl-but she will eat the 10 percent fat feed.)

    Maybe next fall we can have a suggestions on how to keep your old horses fat through the winter without killing them thread!



  19. #19
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    Sep. 18, 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auventera Two View Post

    So, I can't help but scratch my head. I feed enough hay and other feed through the winter that my horses come out of the winter looking exactly the same as they went into it back in the fall.

    I've noticed a few of the horses I trim getting skinny through the winter and the owners commenting that they'll fatten back up over the summer.
    I don't stint on feed or hay either, yet our broodmare (in her 20s) would drop weight during the winter. Her teeth were fine, I blanketed her when it got cold, gave her digestive supplements, tried different combos of feed. But not much changed. I finally quit obsessing about it because she always picked up what she lost as the new grass came in. For her, there was no substitute for spring, I guess.

    I'd imagine there are a lot of horses like her.
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  20. #20
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    Feb. 19, 2004
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    I took away the round bales after Kit porked out. (because I don't want a fat horse)

    I guess when I read the post I was thinking scrawny, not just a little thinner.
    Missouri Fox Trotters-To ride one is to own one

    Standardbreds, so much more then a harness racing horse.



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