feeding and care of horses
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Horse too fat, losing weight

You exercise your horse seriously and regularly, your horse does not get too much hard feed and still, he is a good-doer. To instigate a tight diet seems to be the only option, but it is definitely not the best approach to let your horse loose weight. So, what is the best way?

Do’s and Don’ts


  • Continue to give sufficient roughage
  • Let your horse move around as much as possible
  • Be creative: think of ways to let your horse spend as much time as possible on his feed
  • Mix hard feed with a bit of roughage, so it takes the horse longer to finish eating
  • Use hay with rough stems
  • Give a lot of small roughage portions during the day
  • Limit the grazing in a field with new grass during the summer or introduce strip grazing
  • Use vitamin and mineral biscuits instead of hard feed
  • Feed low energy hard feed, like Nature’s Best
  • Make a plan and stick to it!


  • Give unlimited access to fresh grass
  • Reduce the amount of roughage!

The key is to give your horse sufficient roughage and a lot movement
The digestive tract of the horse works at it’s best when it is completely filled with fibre rich materials. Gas bubbles caused by fermentation are transported down the tract by the fibrous filling of the guts. A gas bubble in almost empty guts can cause serious gas colic.

Stabled horses who only eat a small amount of roughage get bored and develop stable vices like cribbing, wind sucking or weaving. In the wild, horses live in herds and graze and move around 16 hours a day. A stable vice can suddenly appear when you limit your horse in it’s natural behaviour.

As opposed to human beings, horses don’t produce saliva when they don’t chew. Saliva neutralises the stomach acids, so no chewing means no saliva, which then gives the stomach acids the opportunity to produce ulcers in the lining of the stomach. Those ulcers are painful and to compensate, the horse starts wind sucking or cribbing to produce saliva.

Movement uses energy. The only way to have your horse use more energy is to do a lot of work with him. A grass belly disappears quickly when you exercise your horse intensively for 20 minutes every day.

Be careful with hyperlipemia

Hyperlipemia or ‘diet disease’ especially occurs within the native breeds. It could happen when your horse looses weight too quickly. When a horse does not get sufficient nutrients, it starts using it’s own fat reserves. This could disturb the fat metabolism and as a result too many fatty substances appear in the bloodstream. If that is the case, your horse or pony will stop eating and drinking and that is, of course, very dangerous.
Click here to read more about Hyperlipemia in horses and ponies

Be creative

How can you ensure that your horse can eat a lot of roughage, spread over the whole day, does a lot of chewing and still keeps the correct weight, because he does not obtain more energy than he needs?

Use hay with rough stems

If you are in a position to choose, take the rough stems instead of fine hay. Hay with rough stems has a lower feeding value.
Also, hay from the 2nd or 3rd cut has a lower feeding value than that from the 1st cut.
Pre-dried haylage or hay is preferred. To give your horse a section of straw can’t hurt at all. It’s good against boredom!!

Many small portions of roughage per day

Avoid periods longer than 8 hours between meals. That does imply another hay or haylage net later in the evening. If you are not able to do that yourself, try to find somebody else for the evening shift.
You could also spread the hay or haylage over 2 or more nets, so that it takes the horse longer to finish eating. Another idea is to put 2 haynets inside each other, so that the holes become smaller and slow the horse down.

In summer: limited grazing

Unlimited grass could be the major reason for a horse becoming fat.
Don’t turn your horse out on new fresh grass, but on grass with long stems.
Strip grazing: Don’t give your horse access to a whole field, but add a small area of grass to the existing smaller paddock every day.
Another option is to turn your horse out every day for a few hours and give another portion of roughage in the evening.

Limit hard feed

Use low energy hard feed, like Pavo Nature’s Best (without oats, low protein content and low in sugar).
Always mix the hard feed with a little fibre, Lucerne, chaff or carrots, to slow your horse’s eating down.
In the event you stop the hard feed completely, don’t forget to feed additional vitamins and minerals. One Pavo SummerFit biscuit a day is sufficient.

A lazy and fat horse; what to do?

An overweight horse is sometimes also lazy. Often more hard feed is given to these horses with the aim to give the horse more energy. That however doesn’t work.
The best way forward is to exercise more and to limit the hard feed.
Another possibility is to replace the hard feed with oats and vitamin & mineral biscuits. Oats do give a boost, but be careful not to increase the overall energy intake.

Make a plan!

Prepare a plan for the feeding regime and the fitness programme, and stick to it.
Key is a lot of exercise, but also regular exercise.
Take a picture of your horse before your programme starts and keep a log of what you have done with your horse.
Be consequent and patient. Loosing weight is a process that takes several months, not weeks. It is a fact that a fat horse will increase it’s fitness quickly with one hour of work each day.