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Why are we so scared of skinny horses?

Scottie out in the field looking the skinniest he ever has.

If you follow us on Instagram, you might have already seen this. I was rambling a little bit on Instagram this morning but as the day went on, it really felt like a perfect blog post too!

Scottie has always been a chunky horse. He is probably the best doing, fattest thoroughbred I have ever known. I always look at him and think he is good, but could probably do with losing a little weight. He always looks round and well covered. Especially during the summer, it’s not unusual for him to develop fat pockets, especially behind his shoulders.

I wouldn’t say Scottie is usually so fat that he needs to go on a diet, because I don’t believe he is. He has a huge rib cage so as soon as we is nicely covered, he looks a bit barrel shaped, even though he is only just covering his ribs. But I am mindful about what I feed him. For years, Scottie has been fed Baileys Low Calorie Balancer with HoneyChop with Herbs. So he has a fairly low calorie diet anyway. Although he does have constant access to forage.

This winter I think I have rugged slightly less and Scottie is the skinniest he has ever been. Part of the reason behind this is that he does get bad skin when we gets too warm or is rugged too much. So I have been trying to give his skin a bit of a break and I do think his skin has been a bit better for it.

I also think some of this “weight loss” is also muscle loss. Scottie has been out of full work for a few years now. Yes he gets picked up every now and then, but we have had a lot of set backs. So he has lost quite a bit of muscle, especially over his back. I also noticed he lost quite a bit of muscle over his hindend just before we picked up his arthritis. All of these things probably make him look a bit worse.

Yesterday evening I got Scottie in from the field and instantly felt bad about how ribby he was looking. I felt guilty for putting him out naked. I felt guilty for maybe not putting enough hay out in the field. I felt that I was somehow letting him down. It played on my mind all evening.

This morning I planned on keeping a rug on today, to try and keep him warm, despite the warm weather forcast today. But I stopped and actually felt him. He was very toasty in the no fill he wore overnight. He is a hot horse! I know he doesn’t usually get cold. I know he gets all itchy and lumpy when he gets too hot. I also know how difficult he can be when he is cold or hungry. He hasn’t been displaying any of this behaviour!

So I gave myself a talking to. I know it is normal and healthy for a horse to drop some weight over the winter. I know it is better for a horse to be a little bit skinny than a little bit fat. I know that a lot of rib coverage, especially towards the top of the back is linked to muscle. I also know that thoroughbreds often have a big ribcage, making them prone to looking a bit ribby. I’ve already mentioned that Scottie has a huge rib cage.

I took his rug off and looking at him in the field, it’s hard to see what I was so concerned about. Yes you can feel and see a few ribs. Yes I would like him to be better covered over his ribs. But he just looks like a horse who needs a bit more muscle and is ready for the spring grass! For multiple reasons, he has actually lost some condition over the winter this year, something we don’t usually manage.

Obviously if he kept dropping weight, I should be concerned. But he is still probably the fastest thoroughbred I know. His tummy hasn’t seemed to have got any smaller…

Scottie in the field.
Yes this is what I was worrying about…

Last Updated on 18/03/2022

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