What to feed an overweight horse?

Looking for what other people have done that’s worked well!
I have a big bodied warmblood in full work that has always been a super easy keeper. She’s out in pasture during the day and gets low quality hay that’s not high in fat or sugar. I give her some masterfeeds podium twice a day but still way less than I’d usually give to my horses and no high fat stuff. She works really hard and I just feel terrible restricting her so much she feels like she’s starving. Anything I can add that’ll fill her up without making her gain weight? I still want to make sure she’s getting all the micronutrients she needs.


How is the hay determined to be “low quality”?

Hay by default is low fat, but without testing you don’t know how high its sugar and start content is.

I don’t know that feed - how many pounds a day? Can you link to it?

What are you restricting? How much hay do you feed? What’s the quality of the pasture and how many hours is she in it?

Around here our low quality hay is freakishly high in sugar, and our grass is still growing, but stressed grass in cooler weather can also be very high sugar.

Is there enough grass to actually feed your horse? Or is the horse just foraging for bits but living off hay?

I have never found “low quality hay” to do any horse any good. Especially easy keepers. If you are going to ration hay a bit it better be good quality hay.

Anyhow we need to know: how much hay by weight? How much feed by weight? What’s in the pasture? And ideally a hay test.


Is this it? https://www.masterfeeds.com/nutrition/podium-cool-energy-pellets-0/

@Scribbler, the low quality hay isn’t on purpose unfortunately. We just got a bad batch and are in the process of switching it out for better hay. We have all our hay tested and by low quality I mean really low in everything, mostly weeds more than anything and not high is sugar, fat, starch, or protein. I don’t have the test on hand for numbers though. She’s out in the pasture that had lots of grass until recently and now is kind of sparse. We’ll be feeding hay during turnout from now on. She gets 30lbs of hay and 2 lbs of grain which until recently was half podium and half finishing touch ( high fat) and now is just getting podium and is fed with a slow feeder.
Also I haven’t started to cut down on the hay yet but we’ve cut the grain. She’s turned out around 8 hours this time of year. The other horses have been losing weight if anything with the crappy hay.

TBH I would drop both of those and use the VTM 20. How much should she weigh? I’d feed no more than 2% of her ideal weight, if possible. 30lb is that much for a 1500lb horse.

Yea, I’ll definitely drop the new hay, since it was so crappy before we were hesitant to drop it more. She acts like she’s starving lol. She’s a 17h big bodied holsteiner so probably weighs around 1500lbs?

Good idea, I might switch to the VTM20 and add some surmount. The grain she gets now is pretty high fat.

How does she act that she’s starving? Horses are designed to eat pretty much nonstop. They are almost always readu for more. That said, if they aren’t getting the nutrition, they may want more food.

She needs a measured amount of quality hay and either a ration balancer or a vitamin mineral supplement in a small beet pulp mash. She doesn’t need any amount of a calorie dense high fat feed or a performance feed, since performance also means high calorie.

If she is getting fat on lower quality hay, drop the amount of hay. Obesity is a real health risk, can lead to laminitis and founder. You might also want to see if she has any metabolic issues brewing.


What is “VTM 20”? Following this because I have an easy keeper too - works hard and rationed hay and small amount of Nutrina Sr 2x/day

Follow the link to the Masterfeeds above and look under supplements

Ration balancer - such as Nutrena Empower Balance - would be more nutritious than what you’re feeding now. Triple Crown Balancer would be even better.

That’s my question too. And of course they act like they are starving when you are scooping grain, even the fat ones. That’s because they like it, not because they are hungry.

1 Like

Was kind of just kidding with the starving part. She’s just really food motivated and is a bit of a pig. Eats really quick even with the sloe feeder and then has nothing for hours and can get a bit antsy. She’s worked quite hard and has great muscle but just started noticing fat deposits near her tail and she looks a bit overweight. Kinda typical for the hunters here but I agree that’s not healthy for any animal. I really believe in free choice hay but obviously she can’t self-regulate.

She may be leptin-resistant, which usually goes along with insulin resistance, but for sure, “nothing for hours” isn’t helping

Sounds like insulin resistant. I would get her tested, or just assume she is. This means tested low-NSC hay, or soaking it :face_vomiting: You’d be surprised how much hay they might be able to safely eat if it’s low enough ESC + starch.

1 Like

our fatty gets a hand full of grain and an apple while the others get their limited grain

1 Like

I’d switch her to VTM 20 or Purina Equilizer or any other ration balancer, and you could add molasses free beet pulp to bulk up her meals.

I definitely would not feed an overweight horse Finishing Touch, and not Podium or Surmount either.

I’d feed her free choice hay with a slow feeder net, if possible, or failing that, you could also use a grazing muzzle for part of the day.

1 Like

Has anyone ever double slow feed netted their hay? I have one that I think I am going to try this with but curious if anyone else has. My fatty has no trouble hoovering up the hay in a tiny hole slow feed net.

1 Like

@iJump How small have you gone? I found my easy keepers had a hard time with a double netted slow feeder (1.5" Nibble Net with a 2" hay net inside), but now have 1" HayChix nets and they actually prefer them - they’ll choose the net over even free choice hay.

That being said, I feed grass hay and depending on where it came from in the field it’s too soft for the 1" net and they have trouble pulling it out. I segregate the ‘stemmier’ or ‘harder’ hay for the HayChix nets and feed the soft stuff outside or in their Nibble Nets.

Yes. I have two 1” nets. A small hole rope hay net that fits inside my nibble net. Mine can still strip his hay out of it but it does take him all day.

I’ve tried the 1.5" and the 1". Going to try combining them.

This horse is a professional fatty. I like to have hay in front of them at all times but it’s not working for this one. He’s clever.

I also have a professional fatty. I just switched from doubling up on the SmartPak small hole hay nets to the Hay Chix 1 inch nets – or at least am in the process. I am still giving her two nets at once – one Hay Chix and the doubled SP one.

I can’t quite tell which slows her down more. She prefers the Hay Chix net, so maybe that one is faster, but it’s hard to tell.

I tried putting a single SP net inside one of the NibbleNet style bags and she just gave up, it was so hard.

I recently decided that I would try Juliet Getty’s feeding recommendation for overweight horses, which is basically giving them free-choice hay to reset their leptin-resistance. Over time, they self-regulate their hay consumption and lose weight. It has taken some time – about 6 weeks or so – but she started self-regulating about 2 weeks ago. She’s eating right around 2% of her body weight. She might be getting a bit more – she is turned out with another horse so I don’t know exactly how much she eats in turnout versus her companion.

I will also say that she seems much happier with her food situation in general. She will even occasionally not finish her 2 alfalfa cubes (yes, literally 2) that she gets as a base for her v/m supplement. That would have been unheard of 3 months ago, when she hoovered every scrap of food you put in front of her and demanded more.

So I am waiting to see if we see any actual weight loss, but I have my fingers crossed. So something to consider since your goal is to “fill her up without making her gain weight.”