Is your mare looking a bit rotund lately? Does her gait have a waddling roll to it? Has her spine disappeared in a dimpled groove along her back? Has she outgrown her girth, her winter blanket, and the stall door? If she’s not due to foal, then she’s definitely suffering from an expanding waistline.


Now, we all like to see our horses in good flesh, but it’s possible to provide too much of a good thing. Excess dietary energy, in the form of calories, combined with too little exercise, does for horses exactly what it does for humans–creates chubby waists, thunder thighs, and broadening rumps. For some equines, it seems extraordinarily easy to become overweight. Ponies, in particular, have a problem because they usually evolved in very harsh conditions and thus were designed to get the maximum nutritive value out of very sparse, coarse forage. As a result, their metabolisms are unusually efficient. Certain horse breeds have a predisposition towards being “easy keepers” (Quarter Horses and Morgans come immediately to mind, although they’re certainly not alone!).


Several factors can combine to create an overweight horse. Inadequate exercise is a common one, as is deliberate overfeeding for show or sale (this is less common than it once was, but there still are many owners and trainers who believe that a little extra fat can hide a multitude of conformational sins.). Sometimes, chubbiness is the result of misplaced owner affection. Many of us get considerable satisfaction from making our horses happy, and one of the things that makes them happiest is food. Many owners also mistakenly believe that broodmares need extra nutritional support throughout their pregnancies; in fact, it’s only in the last two to three months of pregnancy, and during lactation, that a broodmare’s feed intake should increase.


Finally, in a group feeding situation, there always will be horses which are dominant, and those w