Is your pony ‘nice and fluffy’ — or carrying too much weight? How warm winters are making for heavy horses

The arrival of an overweight pony on The Archers highlights a growing problem with heavy horses, says equine charity World Horse Welfare

Anyone listening to The Archers earlier this month will have heard about Champion, the Shetland pony who, like many of us in January, was thought to be nice and fluffy but, when groomed, was discovered to be carrying a few extra pounds. It’s good that this common issue is gaining some attention, says charity World Horse Welfare, particularly in the current climate, when thick winter coats, rugs and mud can make it harder to see a horse’s body.

‘It is natural for horses and ponies to lose a little weight over winter, before putting it back on again with the flush of spring grass,’ explains Sam Chubbock, head of UK support at World Horse Welfare.

A weigh tape, combined with ‘fat scoring’, is a great way to keep an eye on your horse or pony’s condition.

However, ‘this winter has been very mild — and wet — and in many places grass is still growing and providing calories. Maintaining a horse at a healthy weight can be very difficult and one of the most common health issues owners struggle with is their horses being overweight. With this winter’s weather it is looking like the spring could prove an extra challenge’, he adds. 

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Many owners are aware that their horse shouldn’t be carrying excess weight, but the difficulty is often in recognising what a healthy condition looks like, the charity notes. 

Nothing beats a good bit of exercise when it comes to losing weight.

Overweight horses are at a higher risk for conditions such as laminitis and may also suffer increased joint strain, respiratory stress, heat issues, inflammation and even reduced fertility. The charity has a useful guide to maintaining horses’ weight, with webinars, videos and a downloadable leaflet.

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