Why do horses carry extra weight?

If you’re on the diet of an average horse, weight gain may be attributed to:

A higher ratio of lean tissue/fasting muscle tissue during an extended or heavy-legged run

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Some of the more common factors include:

Higher blood pressure

Inability to hold your breath

Decreased gallbladder resistance, including sphincter muscularity

Lessened body temperature

When to see a vet

In most cases you can safely assume that your horse is not overweight or obese unless there is specific medical information that is not present in the individual medical records. This is because your horse’s general health, especially its overall body condition and muscle function, is one of the best indicators of weight gain and weight loss.

So, don’t worry if your horse suddenly becomes more or less active, or does something particularly unusual on the way to your house. Most horses are usually able to recover within a matter of days or even several weeks without intervention. If the horse is extremely energetic, he could also be trying to retain extra body fat. The veterinarian must be able to determine whether or not you are using weight and exercise as a method of treating weight gain.

Remember, the weight of the horse is a matter of degree, not one of degree alone. When you are assessing the health of your horse, it can be helpful to know how much he is actually losing, or gaining.

For example, if your horse has a 30% body fat, he is losing about 1 pound of weight per week, but losing 1 pound every day. The extra body fat he has is a loss of about 0.5 pounds per month and 1 pound every 6 weeks.

In contrast, the horse that is just gaining or losing 0.5 pounds per month of fat would have about 0.1 pounds to maintain, so his weight gain would seem to be about 10 pounds, but there is more of a net change because he would only lose 10 percent or even less of his normal weight each month.

If you suspect that your horse may have gained 0.5 pounds per month, please do not panic. If your horse is showing an increase in weight gain, especially when he does not show any other health issues, then it might be worth testing to see whether or not he is gaining weight. The following steps should assist you in determining if your horse is gaining or losing extra weight:

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