Fat minis and contradictory farrier advice

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Wow, thanks for all the input so far, everyone!

Here's a picture of my fat boy, Caspian. Pardon the filth, the light was fading, so pictures came before grooming!


First off, I'm not looking to fire my farrier, I just wanted opinions on what he said since it seemed so completely opposite to everything I'd learned. I very much appreciate that he's worried about my horses and would point out his concerns to me. I realize that since I'm still learning, I'll hear a lot of criticisms and things I don't necessarily want to hear, but I know how to keep an open mind and take advice. (I just want to make sure it's good advice! ;) ) He was recommended to me by a different farrier-- one I'd originally had lined up to trim my horses, but who was unable to in the end because of an accident. My current farrier is actually a horse trainer full time, and does farrier work on the side. He has almost 30 horses, including 3 minis, so I would hope that he'd be plenty horse savvy AND know about minis specifically. But maybe not. So far I've been happy with his work, but I don't have anything to compare it to.

When my vet was out to do vaccinations a few months ago, I asked how he thought my gelding's weight was and he said he was a little fat because I feed him basically free-choice. But it's been about 3 months since then.

Whether my farrier's advice makes sense or not, I still have a fat horse that most of you agree is being fed correctly. What am I doing wrong?

I have two places where I hang the hay nets. They're on opposite sides of the pen, but there is a water bucket close to each one. I can try moving the hay nets so they're farther away from the water buckets. I don't know how big their pen is...maybe 100 ft by 50 ft? I don't have a good picture of it, but here's a photo taken from the far corner looking across diagonally. Sorry there's not really anything in the picture for scale...


The only thing the horses have besides the grass hay and the Enrich Plus is a white salt block and one of those red Himalayan salt blocks, but as far as I can tell they don't touch either one.
I would be suspicious of Cushing's disease myself.

The area and food looks good to me. And his weight looks good... Just cresty neck and fatty pockets on his hips. That's y I am thinking Cushing's. But only a vet will know for sure.

Also his pedigree may have a ton reasons of how he looks.

Ya just never know.
If you feed remission or quiescence (I prefer quiescence because it is a pelleted formulation) you will get rid of the cresty neck and fat pads. I think you need nothing else. Other than that I really don't think he looks HUGE, just looks like he needs a minor tweek of your feeding to deal with the neck and fat pads. You can feed the enrich and add quiescence and I think in a couple of months you will be pleased with the results.

He looks like he is getting winter hair.

Is he an older boy? If so, you might test for cushings because that can cause founder all by itself.

If not, I would just try one of the supplements I mentioned. I think it will help him a lot.

thanks for posting the photo. I do think he has some sugar issues or could be risk of cushings if he is older boy because of the placement of those fat pads and the neck is starting to get thick. the quiescence really helps my one boy.
I do not think he looks fat. I think he's made a certain way and that's his body. What does appear to me is that he doesn't seem to have a lot of muscle tone. I'm thinking he needs more protein, such as a little alfalfa (I don't know what Enrich Plus is; maybe it is his source of protein). And exercise will help build up his muscle. Any chance you can get him into harness??

He has such a nice face! Look at his kind eyes.
Although I agree in principle w/ the notion of 'free feeding' hay, in reality I cannot; my geldings would be GROSSLY overweight. I have had to compromise by using slow-feeding bags, feeding 3 times daily, the last one after dark, feeding a combo of grass hays. I fed too generously last winter and haven't been driving; the result is two geldings who are too heavy...and one does have 'some' fat-padding. Next time in town I will buy some Remission for him; have SLOWLY cut back on their hays and concentrate, and will continue until I see more definite results. We have grass for the first time in years, so after acclimating them, I do allow them to graze for an hour to hour and a half most days...cutting back on their hay by a commensurate amount, of course. If it were me, I'd probably cut back slowly on the 'free fed' hay, and try either Remission or Quinessence.
Thank you for the picture! Yes, I think you should have your vet check him out .... mostly for for the crest in his neck

and the fat pockets on his hip. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't consider him overweight. Also, check his legs, just

above his hoof to feel if he is unusually warm there. That would be another reason for a vet visit.
I wouldn't recommend firing the farrier, just use him for what he is trained to do. You've done very well asking for opinions, and caring about your boy so much.

He doesn't really look overweight to me, and I think your feeding is "right on". I do think he would benefit from having to walk from water to hay, so if you can do that, I think he would benefit from it.

Horses come in all styles and shapes, but I think you're "right on" for asking for help. I would simply keep watching him for any additional signs of gaining weight, although as we start to move toward winter, his extra pounds should be of benefit to him over the long haul of what appears will be another horrid winter season.

You might want to "tape him" around the girth to have a starting point for watching his weight and any changes. But leave several weeks in between re-measuring him, so you don't jump too soon -- but can monitor his weight and/or changes in his weight over time.

And, as I said before, I think some long slow walks with a "friend" will benefit both of you. He's a pretty boy!!

No I do not think he looks over weight either, and honestly with winter coming up I wouldn't cut back. I agree he does look like he may lack some muscle tone, and perhaps giving him some extra protein like alfalfa especially in the winter wouldn't hurt. I would seriously consider looking into a mineral tub. My horse love the pro-vita-min tub. If they need it they will lick it which they do because they are on a grass diet, no grain so this mineral tub gives them what they need. If they are on grain you can't get them to lick it.
I didn't mean to suggest you should fire your farrier; I was just saying that sometimes people gang up and say that farriers suck. For example, If I ever related the story of how our farrier first handled our mare, I would be drummed off this board (at least that's my interpretation.) I treasure him; I save up one or two of my most important questions for each of his visits.
Marsha- I wish! That's a long-term goal for us. He's not trained to drive, I don't know how to drive, and I'm too inexperienced to try to train him...but one day, I'd love for both of us to learn to drive! I'm using the Enrich Plus as his protein source-- it's a vitamin/mineral supplement for horses that are on pasture or grass hay only. The last two weeks, he actually has been getting some alfalfa, but I'm trying to keep that to a minimum because of his weight. I bought a couple bales of grass/alfalfa hay that was supposed to be less than 10% (but more like 2%, the lady at the feed store told me) alfalfa....turns out it's way more alfalfa than I'd care for, so I'm trying to get rid of it by mixing a handful or two in with the orchard grass with each feeding until it's gone. Not going that route again....but it was a little cheaper than the straight orchard grass (which is $29.50 a bale here--ouch!) so I gave it a try.

Shorthorsemom- I will definitely look into the Quisessence and Remission. He's not an old horse-- only about 3 years old.

Castle Rock- Thanks for the advice, I hadn't even thought to measure him and keep track of his girth, but that's a great idea. (Although he turns into a wolly mammoth in the winter, and it's quickly approaching!) I'm in California, where we don't get "real" winters, but he insists on growing all that hair each year anyway! :p

JMS- I don't know that my horses would use a mineral tub. They don't use either of their salt blocks, and when I used to feed them a loose mineral salt, all they did with it was find creative ways to dump it out. I always assumed the reason they didn't use any of it was because I'd spent good money on it, but maybe (hopefully!) it's because they're getting all the minerals they need from the Enrich Plus.

Thank you everyone for your advice so far! I really appreciate all the suggestions. On my next day off, I'll try to get a couple more pictures of Caspian during the middle of the day without all those awkward end-of-day shadows so you can see him more clearly. It sounds like my game plan for now will be to move the hay bags so they're spaced further apart, slightly decrease the amount being fed, continue exercising as often as I can, start feeding either Remission or Quisessence, and to keep a close eye on him. He can be a pain sometimes, but he really is a great little horse
If he is only 3 years old your vet might not suggest cushings testing yet. My vet said to delay my horses test because he is only 7, but that I should really watch the sugars. They said he could possibly eventually develop cushings in the future. I use New Bolton center for my vet services. I have heard folks that like triple crown lite more than enrich plus for a supplement because they don't think the enrich keeps the topline over the back nice enough. I am going to try a bag of triple crown lite on my next feed bag to see, I have one horse losing over his topline right now. My other boy has issues with sugar as evident by his chubbiness, but I have been very pleased on how he looks on the quessience or remission supplementation. It takes those fat pads right off in about 3 weeks. Quessience is pricier but better eaten. My guys were leaving the remission dust in the bottom of their feeder, so they weren't getting all what I was feeding.

I always measure the heart girth, it helps especially in the winter when they get their woolies to keep track of their weight and also for estimating weights for worming.

My fat boy can be a pain too, but I love him to pieces.

If your boy isn't big on loose minerals or the mineral block, then I would try the quiescence first. It feeds easier and must taste good, my boy cleans it up. I mix it with the enrich.

My vet says for minis not in heavy work that fine grass hay and a supplement like enrich or triple crown lite is just perfect for what they need.
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JMS- I don't know that my horses would use a mineral tub. They don't use either of their salt blocks, and when I used to feed them a loose mineral salt, all they did with it was find creative ways to dump it out. I always assumed the reason they didn't use any of it was because I'd spent good money on it, but maybe (hopefully!) it's because they're getting all the minerals they need from the Enrich Plus.
I can tell you not all of mine lick salt blocks either but they love this, and this doesn't contain molasses so they must like it.
Also, just because grass hay is "better" doesn't mean it isn't "bad" for your horse.

Our weather here in NC has caused a sugar spike in the hay and hay fields have now gone dormant (my hay suppliers have told me they probably won't get a 3rd cut this year and the cuts we've gotten thus far - the yields were terrible due to hay not growing at first due to being too cold too long AND then too much rain at the wrong times). The ponies here are gaining weight like crazy right now - on hay alone - on this last (2nd cut for 1 supplier and 1st for the other) cut. BUT mine needed it as hay was so terrible after all hay fields being flooded and hay quality being off last year. Ours were underweight this spring and some thru the summer while being fed tremendous (for them and for our financial status) amounts of concentrated feed and alfalfa pellets.

Is that a current pic? Wow, that's a lot of hair for this time of year for a mini isn't it? That caught me by surprise... Though ours are starting to hair up - even my guys that will get almost 4" of hair aren't any where near that level of growth yet! I do have several that keep a shorter, tighter hair coat all winter long. Friday and yesterday it was 100* here at the hottest part of the day.

How do you use just the heart girth measurement for judging worming doses? I'm coming up on worming time again - I always used a formula of HGxHGxLength - shoulder to hip divided by 330 for a mature horse. It was 301 for yearlings and I think 280 for foals/weanlings (been awhile since I've measured them and I don't have the formula to hand at the moment). Those were the numbers given for doing big horses, don't know if it's supposed to be different for the little ones.
The mini breeder I got my horse from gave me a weight tape conversion chart for minis to aprox weight by heart girth measurement in inches.

for instance.. 47 inches in measure roughly equals 293.39 according to the chart and 50 inches equals 332.93 lbs. My vet has used this conversion for weight approximation without going to the weighing station and she thinks it is a pretty good rough measure. I weight tape my horses about once a month.
The mini breeder I got my horse from gave me a weight tape conversion chart for minis to aprox weight by heart girth measurement in inches.

for instance.. 47 inches in measure roughly equals 293.39 according to the chart and 50 inches equals 332.93 lbs. My vet has used this conversion for weight approximation without going to the weighing station and she thinks it is a pretty good rough measure. I weight tape my horses about once a month.
Can you give more of the conversions? Most of mine are taller (our two yearling stud colts are currently 31" tall - but they are growing) and then smallest mini after that is 36" in height. I will have to measure the heart girths ... Is there a way to figure out the conversion so that I can get the approximate #s on my larger heart girthed ponies?
Hi, for ponies you can use the weight tape they sell in feed stores. This conversion is for miniature horses. That said, I did have one very large B sized mini that I also used this tape measure for and it worked just fine. Be sure you pull the tape snug.

Here are a few.

40 inches 201.13

41 inches 214.31

42 inches 227.49

43 inches 240.67

44 inches 253.85

45 inches 267.03

46 inches 280.21

47 inches 293.39

48 inches 306.57

49 inches 319.75

50 inches 332.93

I have between 30 inches and 69 inches on my chart, let me know if you need anything else. Pull snug. It is the only way I can keep track of their weight in winter when they get their winter woolies. My one boy sports about 2-3 inches of hair. His heart girth mostly stays between 1/2 inch above and below 47. he is chubby and short.
try to measure the same place every time. Heads up in relaxed position, you will get a different measure, (larger) if their heads are down eating grass and the head down measure can differ by 1/2 to 1 inch. I measure just behind the elbow (arm pit) like I was measuring for a girth. I keep the tape straight up and use cloth. don't angle the tape.
If I free fed our minis, the younger one would be a piglet for sure. Even the stallion would be heavy. Luke the 2 year old gets fat on air. Just sayin'. Different story with our TWH.

My farrier is very good at assessment of the entire horse, and I put a lot of 'weight' on her opinion.
My vet tends to be of the same opinion, if not more strict, on weight. Heavier is not happier, and there is a direct effect on hoof health.
Ok, I've made a few changes to our routine. To start, I am feeding them a little less. I don't think they're thrilled about it. (I'm thinking about buying a couple more of the Busy Horse hay nets with the smaller holes so their hay lasts them longer. I only had one mini hay bag, and initially bought two full-sized ones with the regular holes because I thought they were having difficulty with the small holes. Now they're cleaning up every scrap of hay, so I know the small holes weren't a problem.) I'm also dividing their hay between three of the hay nets (as opposed to two before) and hanging them as far apart as I can so they have to move all around their pen. I ordered some Quiessence, which arrived yesterday, and I started my gelding on it today. I'm also trying to make our walks "count" more by making sure to go up the somewhat large, somewhat steep hill in the back yard every time we go out, and speed-walking instead of our usual leisurely strolls. If there's no improvement by my farrier's next visit, I'll see about having my vet out to evaluate them.

Paintponylvr- I wondered if the hay quality might be something to do with it. I don't always get my hay from the same place though, and I'm only able to store about 4 or 5 bales at a time, so I'm potentially getting different batches of hay every time. My two minis are starting to get just a little furry (mostly in the neck/chest area) but I don't know that you can really see it in the picture I posted. I didn't really start noticing it until just this week, after the photo was taken. If you're talking about the beard he's got going on, he always has that. I don't clip and I don't bother trimming those long hairs under his chin, although I've been tempted.

Today was the one-year anniversary of his arrival here with me. It seems like it's been much longer! Kind of disheartening though, since I thought I was taking care of him the best way possible all this time, only to find out that he was probably in better health back at the rescue he came from

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