Question: I have a miniature horse mare and I got her in 2006. She was nice and fit and now she is fat and overweight. She is not pregnant but has been fat for a while now. I am in junior high and I am stuck with school and homework, but I try to get out there and work with her whenever I can. I have cut off grain and made her hay only half a flake now. She seems to MAYBE be losing SOME weight but she is still fat. Is there a way I can get her to lose it? I am thinking of entering her in 4-H and I will be using her in parades and showing, but I need to get her slimmer….
Answer from April Reeves: Because Mini’s are small horses, they fall under the same guidelines for feeding and care that a horse does. They just eat smaller amounts and have less square footage to brush.
Unfortunately, they are not in need of less when it comes to exercise. Because they are small, humans think that Minis are capable of handling very little physical activity. The opposite is true.
They need the same amount of work for the same amounts of time that a horse would. Without it, they will become overweight and suffer from laminitis (#2 killer in horses), Leaky Gut, fatty liver disease, Metabolic syndrome, Cushing’s disease and other diseases associated from equine obesity that a horse can.
They also need to be fed in small amounts at least 4 times per day. I am glad you have taken her off grain, but she still needs some form of vitamin supplement to ensure her dietary needs are met. Being so much smaller, her supplement amounts could be put in a thimble or two. A good choice would be Triple Crown if you can find it in your area, and always have a salt block and mineral block available.
Make sure the place you have her at is capable of feeding her in very small quantities at least 4 times per day. She needs to eat frequently like horses do, so giving her one flake per day once a day is not going to work as well as breaking that flake up into 4 meals. When a horse or Mini goes for over 2 hours without food in the stomach, they build up hydrochloric acid which over time can cause ulcers and other problems (such as behavior problems and cribbing). Feeding once a day also puts the blood sugars into a roller coaster ride, and can lead to colic (#1 killer in horses).
Feed your supplement ration on an empty stomach and then hay ½ hour after.
If your Mini is in a pasture, and that pasture has any form of grass in it what so ever, you will never be able to thin her out. Nothing fattens a Mini faster than fresh grass (fructans, cow food). If you have to put her in a pasture with grass, try to put her out in the nights. Sugars run highest in the daytimes, cold frosty mornings and hot dry days.
The other thing you can buy a mini is a “Best Friend” grazing muzzle. It allows the Mini to access small amounts of grass at a time.
Horses are susceptible to sugars and starches, and minis, being smaller, are more so. High sugar diets result in insulin resistance from an overtaxed hormone system. Half an apple a day to a mini is the same as around 20 apples to a 1000 pound horse. Keep her away from all and any sugar and starch treats.
If your mini appears to drink lots of water, and has a voracious appetite, she may be in the realm of insulin resistance already. The IR horse is unable to feel full no matter how much they eat. Taking her off of all sugars and starches (as found in grains) will help, plus being careful with your hay choices. Stay away from alfalfa (dangerously low in fibre, dangerously high in protein), and find a hay that has a good nutrient content, lots of fibre and not too high in sugar. You can either have it tested or take a flake and soak it in water for one hour. The amount of brown in the water is sugar (the dirt will drop to the bottom). The color of hay is deceiving, for many factors are at play when looking at a hay and guessing the sugar and starch content, such as the time of day the hay was cut, the amount of nutrients in the soil and how long the hay was allowed to grow.
The sad thing about a mini becoming overweight (or a horse or a human) is that you can shrink the fat cell, but once the cell is there, it’s there forever. Maintaining her fitness levels and weight levels is now a bigger job than it was before.
There is no easy answer to your dilemma. You will need to make sure her hay requirements are split into morning, lunch, dinner and late evening feed times. She should get a tiny amount of supplement, and you will have to work her daily or at least 3 times a week. Since she is heavy, you will have to start very slow, and be careful not to overstress her or wind her.
Try that and see how it goes. It would be a lot of fun to take her to 4H this year.