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Tips to manage overweight horses?

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  • Tips to manage overweight horses?

    So I am trying to plan ahead for the summer, last year my mare got way too round when she was turned out on grass during the day and in a stall at night with one flake of hay. I wanted to put a grazing muzzle on her but I could never find one I felt comfortable turning her out in, I was too scared she would get stuck and the only muzzles I could find around here were all nylon. Are there any type of breakaway grazing muzzles out there? Surely I can't be the only person ever concerned about this? Lol

    Also, how about these small mesh hay nets? I don't particularly want my horses eating with their heads up all day but it seems horses with shoes can't have them put down low, anyone come up with any solutions to this problem? Is there a slow feeder out there that is on the ground that shod horses can use?

    Any other secrets to managing the chubbies? Horse was only getting a ration balancer, hay is 50/50 grass alfalfa which is all I can find around my area that isn't poor quality. Would get ridden 5-6 days a week, jumping 2-3 times a week (small amount of jumps over a couple days) up to 4'. Has never been at what I would consider an ideal fitness level for a horse working at that level.

  • #2
    I've never seen a muzzle that wasn't breakaway in some way, whether due to a leather crown piece, velcro crown piece attachment, or velcro tab somewhere.

    Slow feeds can be bought/made of wooden boxes or something similar, with a metal grate that moves down as hay is eaten, that allow lower head position grazing

    Fat horses don't get ration balancers Use a v/m supplement, add some lysine if necessary, add a cup or 2 of shredded beet pulp (biggest volume:weight/calories carrier I know of) and call it a day
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


    • #3
      My horse is quite chubby from a few months of no riding. I have him on pasture all day, cut his hay in half, and took him off grain (he has a salt block). I do give him a little handful of grain at feeding time so he has something while the other horse eats. He has lost a bit of weight but I won't see much difference I'm sure, till we start riding again, and he tones up.
      JB is the horse feed guru. I will definitely look for a slow feeder, although I'm sure he will find a way to work around it. I have his hay in a 1.5 " nibble net, but he inhales it anyway.


      • #4
        My chubby guy gets tc low starch and not much. It's more for me lol. He doesn't even get a pound a day. But he gets beet pulp mixed in. More so just to fill his belly a little and he is happy when everyone else is getting fed. He gets supplements to help because he is in work and does not get it from the low amount of feed. he gets to stay on grass with this food and actually dropped a little weight and is in a good steady weight now. My fat pony I did the muzzles on before but it never helped lol. He also would chew the hole out larger in everyone I put on him over a month or so. Then he could eat like normal. Smart little thing. He is retired so I manage him on the same feed as the horse above and just let him be. He's happy.
        Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


        • #5
          We use muzzles on all our easy keepers, and they all have leather crown pieces (we are a rescue with drafts, donkeys, horses, and minis all in grazing muzzles). The only horse we don't have in a breakaway grazing muzzle is an especially sensitive mustang, who gets rubs from them. The only muzzle we've found to work for him has a nylon strap, so we just replaced the metal buckle with a piece of leather strip, knotted. It doesn't look nice, but it will absolutely break if anything happens. We only use HorseGuard 2" tape fencing on wooden posts, and have never had a problem with a horse getting hung up (knock on wood!). Some of them do learn to chew the holes bigger, but we just get a new one.

          All of ours are on regular, 1st cutting grass hay. Some of our overweight horses are on a ration balancer, some just get a scoop of Vitamin E/Selenium on a handful of oats. We have a nutritionist review all their diets regularly, and take their weights and Body Condition Score every six weeks. Have you looked at a nutritionist? Quite often if you contact a good feed store, they can put you in touch with a representative of a feed brand (ie: Purina, Nutrena, etc.) who can help you go over your horse's diet, or even hand you off to the company nutritionist (with lots of free feed coupons as a result!). Good luck!


          • Original Poster

            Ok another question, how effective are grazing muzzles at keeping the weight down? I have heard mixed reviews, maybe depends on the horse and how determined they are to beat the system lol


            • #7
              Can you turn her out in a grass-free paddock? Dirt, sand, or otherwise? Seems much easier. Let her have half a day on pasture and the rest on sand with just hay.

              What about a friend who will distract her from food? Someone who will keep her moving instead of head-glued-to-the-grass?

              I don't like grazing muzzles, but if that's your only realistic option (and if you're boarding, it probably is), then worth a try. It will probably only slow her down slightly, depending on how determined she is, but luckily they aren't very expensive.

              I'd also suggest working her more. Take her for gallops, long trail rides, etc. Canter more in the ring. Challenge her to do some lateral work and transitions within gaits. It will all help her fitness, which you seem to want to improve apart from the weight gain, and she will lose weight on top of it all.

              The slow feeders will only help with what she consumes in her stall, and how much can you really slow down one flake overnight? The grass is your problem.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Fancy_Free View Post
                Ok another question, how effective are grazing muzzles at keeping the weight down? I have heard mixed reviews, maybe depends on the horse and how determined they are to beat the system lol
                It really does depend. It depends on how thick the grass is, how many hours a day out there, and how tall the grass is. No doubt how much sugar is in the grass is a factor too.

                I can tell you that muzzles keep my 2 boys fat instead of obese, if that helps LOL That's when they aren't in work - 1 never is. when the other is in work, that, plus the muzzle, keeps him in good weight instead of fat.
                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                • #9
                  We put the pony on a diet by putting him out in sparse winter grass, five acres of it, shared with three unbroken adolescent horses, and about twice a week the BO drove out into the field and tossed a bale of hay out. We also started to ride him 3 x a week for about half an hour, not trying to break a sweat but keeping him moving. We were told by his previous owners that they had put out a round bale and fenced it off, and let him in half a day to eat.

                  Now on days when I rode him I'd give him about 2 cups of the old guy's Sr feed as a treat.

                  I would hate to see what he would look like if he got on lush green pasture 24/7. Like a Thelwell pony most likely.
                  Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                  Incredible Invisible


                  • #10
                    Long time weight watcher here.

                    We have a recovering formerly fat horse and two chubby minis.

                    Last year, I really had problems with the big horse. I did not see, how bad he got until our farrier pointed it out to me.

                    This is what we are are doing:

                    First, you might want to get into a habit to tape your horse every week and write it down.

                    Spring, Summer, Fall-
                    Everyone is in the Best Friend muzzle with breakaway halter from the minute they step on the pasture until they go home in the late afternoon (they are in paddock overnight and they get 5-6 pounds of hay between them at 10 pm).

                    They get Min-A-Vit Lite from Blue Seal, which is just minerals and vitamins.

                    Then, they have a salt and a mineral blocks free choice.

                    Muzzles go off, but we closely monitor the weight (tape weekly and write it down). If there is any gain, muzzles go back up, unless we are covered in snow.

                    Our hay is primarily orchard, timothy, or mixed grass.

                    We only feed alfalfa during the coldest winter month and just a little tiny bit in the late afternoon. We would probably kill them by feeding more or during grass season.

                    We cannot follow basic feed formulas for forage. That would be too much for our horses. We feed about 2/3 of what we are supposed to theoretically (app. 1.5 % of horse's body weight per day).

                    We add for the coldest days and then we more or less follow formula of 40 F - number of degrees and this gives me percentage, by which we have to increase the forage (eg. it is 5 F outside; it is 40-5, so I have to feed 35% more).

                    As for muzzles, you might have to change them quite often, because many horses eventually manage to enlarge the hole and the muzzle becomes useless.

                    In season, we have to buy a new mini muzzle every two months and a horse muzzle every three months.

                    I would strongly encourage you to use winter season to get your horse to shed some pounds.

                    We do not blanket and we underfeed a little later in the winter to mimic what would happen to them in the wild. It works, sort of, and it definitely helps, when they are going into spring.

                    Our horses are still in their prime and healthy, so I feel I can play a little like that.

                    It is paramount to provide a plenty of exercise starting with long turnouts and a workout at least five times a week.

                    There has to be a lot of cardio- long trots/runs/gallops, of course, tailored to the current fitness and gradually increasing. Hill work on a long rein helps a lot, too (in walk). Minis can go for a run on a line next to human.

                    I would encourage you to start keeping journal and write down feed, weight, and what kind of exercise you really do.

                    I did it, logged in honestly, and, when re-reading, found out that what I say or believe I do with horses, was not what was actually happening.

                    I corrected that, but I would have never known, if I did not start a journal.

                    I still keep it to keep myself honest.

                    All in all, maintaining good weight on a horse that is an easy keeper is a lot of work.

                    With all this action, I have just described, all our horses are still round (but not fat).

                    Go figure.

                    As a matter of fact, I am the only skinny one around here, because I am so darn exhausted by trying to keep everyone fit.

                    Now, if you are already doing everything I just described and your horse is still fat, then, you might consider to call the vet, because that would be abnormal.

                    This could point to a metabolic issue or a thyroid malfunction (slow working).

                    Good Luck with your efforts and know, you are not alone.


                    • #11
                      Weaver makes a grazing muzzle with a leather crownpiece....I used to order them from American Livestock Supply but I think TSC sometimes has limited sizes. This muzzle worked very well for me for many years with my air-fern PercheronX on good TN grass. He was in regular work during the summers, and lived our 24/7 with the muzzle on 12-14 hours at night. If he needed further weight management I would bring him in for the day (hated for him to be out in the heat in the muzzle, and I feel like they need a break from it, not wear it all the time) and take his muzzle off, but he usually maintained well on the 24/7 turnout/half time muzzle schedule. I fed a ration balancer to meet his nutritional needs, and he had access to a high quality loose mineral and salt.

                      I felt bad muzzling him at first, but as my friend said, muzzle 'em or dig a hole for 'em. I always put a treat or bit of carrot in his muzzle so he happily came up and stuck his head in it.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Fancy_Free View Post
                        Ok another question, how effective are grazing muzzles at keeping the weight down? I have heard mixed reviews, maybe depends on the horse and how determined they are to beat the system lol
                        I used a breathe easy muzzle on my gelding this summer (love that one above and beyond over any other brand). With the muzzle attached to a breakaway halter, not the muzzle/halter combo.

                        He's very curvy naturally. I didn't want to keep him up because I wanted him out as much as possible for the exercise (because I don't get to ride as much as I need to). So he was on 24/7 turnout of 6+ acres of very nice grass pasture with 2 other horses... I did not feed hay in the summer. He wore the grazing muzzle 24/7 in the summer, until the grass went dormant this fall. Friday and Saturday nights I'd let him 'go naked' but he wore it unless he was up on the sacrifice lot. I could visibly see the difference, he looked good!

                        Now that the pasture is dormant I don't make him wear it and have been feeding alfalfa/grass hay and noticed this morning how curvy he's gotten again... Which it's hard since he's the only easy keeper in the herd and I'm still getting the farm situated so horses are grained separately but hayed in a group turnout.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SouthernYankee View Post
                          I used a breathe easy muzzle on my gelding this summer (love that one above and beyond over any other brand).
                          I reallyreallyREALLY wish they'd make that one with a bigger muzzle piece It doesn't come CLOSE to fitting 2 of my boys
                          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                          • #14
                            Can you section off a paddock with electric fencing? Maybe you could mow that and keep it super short and she will turn it into a dry lot for you? You could use that in rotation with your grazing muzzle some days so she gets a break from the muzzle and you don't worry about her wearing it so much?


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by JB View Post
                              I reallyreallyREALLY wish they'd make that one with a bigger muzzle piece It doesn't come CLOSE to fitting 2 of my boys
                              What a bummer!!! I have looked at about every brand and love that brand 100% more than any other I've seen. They aren't too heavy and since summers are so hot down here I don't worry about his quality of air intake, something I would worry about with other muzzles.

                              Not to get off subject but does anyone know where I can find one with just the muzzle not the muzzle/halter combo? I looked on Chick's Saddlery and it looks like all they stock is the muzzle/halter combo...

                              I can't remember where I ordered mine this summer and can't find the receipt... and mine has a tear in the rubber that is getting larger with use so I feel like I need a replacement.


                              • #16
                                Muzzle!! It is the only thing that made a difference with my horse. He is muzzled 24/7 spring and Fall and usually 12 hours a day in summer when the grass has died a bit from the grass. He went from being overweight all the time to a perfect weight all year this year. I sometimes have to put it back on part of the day in winter because he will stuff himself with hay. You can buy a sheepskin attachment on ebay to reduce rubs on their nose. I did have to buy a bunch of them this season but have figured out what works moving forward. He needs a cob size because the horse size is too large and he pulls it off and usually breaks it. I also have to cut the hole a bit bigger or else he'll chew through the nylon on the bottom. I keep a backup and switch them out to wash them so they don't get gross on the inside.


                                • #17
                                  Yes, Tough 1 Breathe Easy is a nice muzzle.

                                  I wanted to get it for our horses, too, but found out that the hole was too big for them.

                                  We need a really tiny hole to keep everyone in shape, hence the Best Friend, which is unfortunately heavier.

                                  PS: It looks like they stopped making the muzzle only option. There is a link on Chick Saddlery to it and, once you get there, it says "not available now."


                                  • #18
                                    I inquired with chick saddler and they only have the halter/muzzle combo.

                                    But I did find just the muzzle at horseloverz

                                    The hole is bigger in the easy breathe than the best friends. What about getting one of the replaceable rubber bottoms and fashioning it to the bottom of the easy breathe? Anyone try to do that?


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by emilia View Post
                                      We need a really tiny hole to keep everyone in shape, hence the Best Friend, which is unfortunately heavier
                                      Have you tried Weavers and Jacks? Both have holes very similar to the BF. There's another brand I have used as well whose name is escaping me. ALL of those are lighter than the BF, not to mention cheaper . I just won't use the BF anymore because of how heavy it is And, IME, it doesn't last any longer than the others.
                                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by JB View Post
                                        Have you tried Weavers and Jacks? Both have holes very similar to the BF. There's another brand I have used as well whose name is escaping me. ALL of those are lighter than the BF, not to mention cheaper . I just won't use the BF anymore because of how heavy it is And, IME, it doesn't last any longer than the others.
                                        Thank you for the tip.

                                        Yes, I have already been planning on getting Weaver from TSC for our big horse for spring. They don't seem to be making mini version, however, or TSC does not carry it.

                                        I have to check Jacks and see, whether they have a mini size.

                                        Our muzzles do not last. It does not take them long to enlarge the holes, especially mini monsters got the process down to a science.

                                        OP, if you decide to go with a muzzle, I would like to second Flypony74's thought on putting a couple of treats through the hole, when putting on the muzzle. It really helps them to warm up to the idea.

                                        It takes time for them to figure out, how to eat with it, so they sulk first. It is a little bit like a battle of nerves. You have to remain strong.

                                        Whatever you do, do not apologize!