Ideal Weight

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time you'll know that I have been working hard to get some weight off of Zorro and Sky. They were both considered obese when I took them to the vet last summer. I had a blood panel run on them both, to give us a baseline to work from, only to find out they BOTH had elevated liver enzymes which is a result of them being obese. I was heart broken. Here is why: I have always tried to feed my ponies as naturally as possible. Allowing them to have low sugar low starch hay 24/7 in slow feed nets. I exercise them weekly. We do tons of driving and do some distance driving. And yet, they were obese. I didn't want to believe it, but now when I look back at the photos I can totally SEE it.


Also in the past I have said I would rather have my ponies a little chunky/fluffy than too skinny. But after losing Bonnie I have completely changed my tune on that. AND sometimes it takes an outside person looking at your ponies for you to start to understand just how fat they are. It's funny that I can look at other people's ponies (in person! and sometimes in photos) and determine they are fat. But when I look at my own I just see pretty ponies. lol. Not helpful!!!


Today I took both Sky and Zorro to a new vet. Just to catch you up... Zorro had a reaction to his vaccines last week and ended up at the equine surgeon. My regular vet and the surgeon thought he had an impaction because it took nearly 48 hours for him to start having issues after the vaccination. But after some blood tests came back the surgeon said his inflammation numbers were raised. They should be about 20 and Zorro's were 400. This means a vaccine reaction. I asked if this is something he sees often and he said yes. So sad. Zorro had a Tetnus shot and a Flu/Rhino shot. After this I had many people say their horses always react to the Rhino shot. I won't be giving vaccines any more. I don't give many anyway, but this sealed the deal. After losing Bonnie I just can't do it anymore!


Anyway, back to the issue at hand. When I took Zorro to the clinic they weighed him because they have a horse sized scale!!! Whoot! So I found out that Zorro weighed 340 pounds. That was last week on Thursday. The vet said he would like to see him lose about another 30 pounds. (My regular vet said the ponies looked great, but they were comparing them to the obese ponies they saw last year. So they did look much better!) To show you what we were dealing with here are a few photos of before and after:

Zorro before. This was mid summer, at his fattest. In the spring he wasn't quite this fat, but he was still overweight, based on what I learned today!

This was Sky late spring last year. She has been fat for a little while. Poor girl.


Today I was able to weigh both of the ponies. Zorro weighed 328 pounds and Sky weighed 322 pounds. So Zorro lost 12 pounds in a week! I don't have another weight on Sky so we will start from here. Zorro is 40" tall and Sky is 37" tall. I'm sure her ideal weight is actually closer to 260. I will do my best to help her get down to that!


These photos are the ponies taken two weeks ago:

So, I asked the vet how they decide what the ideal weight should be. Is there a formula they use? He said it's a bit of a guessing game. I told him about a formula a friend shared with me that said Zorro should be 278 pounds. He actually agreed! He said Zorro would be healthier under 300 pounds. Then he had me go around do a little feeling on horses.


First we started on Zorro. I ran my hand from the top of his shoulder, down along his rib cage and ended at the flank swirl. Then he had me do the same on Sky. There was a noted difference, in that I could feel Zorro's ribs without having to push too hard, but had to apply a bit more pressure to feel Sky's. Meaning she has a fair amount of fat covering her ribs. Then we moved to a young warm blood that was sedated in the stocks, getting ready for tooth surgery. I put my hand up on her shoulder and then ran my hand long her side. I had to slightly push to feel the front ribs but could easily feel (and see!) her back ribs. She was at her ideal weight.


Then he told me this:

  • There is a small amount of fat just behind the shoulder blade. That's normal.

  • As you run your hand past that, you should be able to start to feel ribs, with a small amount of pressure.

  • As you get to the back ribs you should easily feel them.

So, it's more about the feel than the weight. Because as I get Zorro even more trimmed down, he will also build some muscle. So if I can feel and see his ribs, he is shiny and full of energy but maybe weighs 300-310 then he will be considered in great shape, race horse shape! So, that's the goal. To trim him down even more.


To do this I have to feed him according to his IDEAL weight. The vet said let's use 300 pounds. That means he can have a total of 4.5 pounds of feed a day. I usually give 2 pounds in the morning in a slow feed net and then 2 pounds in the evening in a slow feed net. Over the course of the day they get some pellets with SBM for protein and I give them each some feed before I work them. Sometimes on our walks and drives they get to have a grazing break to have some green grass. If they get to graze very long then I have to adjust how much hay they will get. I try to keep the entire amount of feed they get a day to 4.5 pounds. I am feeding Sky the same amount of hay because it's hard to give her less since they switch around on the hay nets. I can manage her pellet intake though!


This is a hard journey. Last year I felt so badly for them every day. They seemed so hungry. Then I started to weigh and measure my own food. I cut out ALL flour and sugar and upped my veggie and fruit in take. I have lost 30 pounds and have to lose 70 more. I am feeling so much better. I have more energy, my knees don't hurt all the time. My clothes are getting baggy. I am starting to really understand how IMPORTANT it is for my ponies to be at a healthier weight. If this means they have to have a certain amount of food a day then that is what I will do. It's unfair of me to expect them to be able to go for these long drives, walks and hikes, and be obese. It's unfair of me to expect an obese Zorro to drag around an obese me.


Things are changing around here! The things I once thought I believed are changing. I now would rather have a pony that is healthy and in shape than one that is obese/fluffy.


I'll circle back around to my favorite saying:

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Angelou


126 views1 comment
  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Pinterest Icon
  • White Instagram Icon

© 2023 by The Essential Horse. Mindy Schroder.