What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Overweight, Fat, or Obese


Obesity is a common problem that affects a high percentage of horses in the United States and elsewhere. As with human obesity, there is a myriad of health problems that are a direct result of equine obesity. These include laminitis, arthritis, and insulin resistance. Many overweight horses and ponies have low-grade laminitis that has gone undetected.

A fat horse is not a healthy horse. Fat horses may be fat because of breed and individual genetic predisposition, insulin resistance, overfeeding, lack of exercise, or most commonly a combination of these factors.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the horse seems stiff, or digital pulse is present.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • To discuss your equine's general health and management.
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your role


What To Do

Your role is to know what constitutes a good weight for a horse. First, understand the Body Condition Scoring System. That will allow you to determine whether your horse is overweight or not. Determine a BCS for your horse. If your horse is BCS 6 or over, you will need to to take some action to reduce weight. If in doubt, take a photo of the horse and send it to your vet. Gather some information first: What you are feeding daily and the exercise the horse gets, as well as the basics of breed, age and prior medical history.

Once you embark on a plan of weight reduction for your horse, use a weight tape and/or sequential photos to document change. Using your vet as a resource, develop a plan of dietary management and exercise that gradually results in the desired weight and maintains it.

What Not To Do

Do not ignore the fact that your horse is overweight until there is a problem. Serious, life-threatening conditions can result from obesity, most notably laminitis.

your vet's role

Your vet assesses general health and body condition in light of what should be normal for that individual horse and for your situation. They will help you formulate a feeding and exercise program to manage weight. If there may be predisposing problems like insulin resistance, they will discuss their diagnosis and treatment. They can also detect other subtle and associated health problems, diagnose them, and address them as part of the treatment plan.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the body condition score BCS of the horse?
  • What is the horse currently being fed?
  • Does the horse have any other problems that you have noticed.
  • Does your horse walk and move freely, or have you noticed any lameness?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • What does the horse do for a living?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP