The Lowdown on Big Bellies

hay belly 1


(this article had 5 illustrations with it originally so the link to it is included here.)

When we look at our horses standing out in the field, often the first thing we notice is their bellies. As horse owners, we tend to think that a big belly means our horse is too fat and thus we cut back on their feed. Very often this is not the case, however. A big belly can be a red flag indicator for many different things.

A big belly can be a big red flag to the presence of worms in your horse’s system. It used to be protocol to worm horses on a schedule but this is no longer the case. Doing it this way has led to “super worms” who are resistant to the wormers that are out on the market. If your horse has a big belly, is ribby, has a rough coat, rubs its tail and is acting a bit lethargic, it would be a good idea to have a Fecal Egg Count done on it. This is a simple test for your veterinarian or lab to perform, and is pretty inexpensive. The test involves collecting a fresh “ball” of manure and putting it into a ziploc baggie. Take it to your vet or send it to the lab while it is still fresh and they will do the test and inform you of the results. In this way you will ensure that you do not contribute to the wormer resistance problem One additional piece of information, it is a good idea to rotate types of wormers. This does not mean rotate brands (many brands use a different name but the same medicine). Follow your vet’s guidance on how to do this effectively.

A big belly can be an indicator of a lack of much needed minerals. Minerals are an essential part of a horse’s diet, and are often overlooked by an owner as a necessity. Without minerals, horses cannot metabolize fats. proteins, or carbohydrates; their muscles and nerves do not function normally, and their bones become weak and are prone to injury. Minerals help the blood transport oxygen through the body, maintain the body’s acid/base and fluid balances, and are necessary components of virtually every enzyme the horse needs for basic metabolism. In the case of minerals, a little bit makes a significant impact.To people’s surprise, when a horse is given access to free choice minerals, they began to make much better use of their feed ration and their coat appearance and abdomen change for the better. (A GOOD LOOSE MINERAL IS BEST BUT IF THOSE ARE UNAVAILABLE ONE CAN ALSO DO A RED MINERAL BLOCK and A WHITE SALT BLOCK TOGETHER-though this isn’t nearly as good)

A naturally occurring wide rib cage will make a horse carry a big belly but does not mean the horse is fat.  This build type of horse is very hard to keep looking fit.  They always seem to look bloppy unless they are doing a good amount of work each day that keeps them fit.  If you try to cut the wide rib cage type horse’s feed he will quickly look ribby.

Lastly, if your horse is a mare, consider whether there is a possibility of a true or false pregnancy. Perhaps your neighbor’s stallion has made a jailbreak or your horse came bred from auction. Mares can also get a hormonal imbalance where their bodies get tricked into thinking they are pregnant. They will often grow an udder with this problem and gain weight each week.

A truly fat horse who needs to have their rations cut down, will have several fat indicators besides the belly. They will have a cresty neck, their ribs will be very hard to feel under their skin, they will have a fat deposit at their tail head, perhaps a ditch down the middle of their back and a way too round rump.
If your horse does not have any symptom besides a belly, you can be pretty sure that something else is going on besides obesity. It is important to get the issue resolved.

This blog post helps Heart of Phoenix To grow a community of knowledgeable potential adopters, HORSE People and rational advocates, who are have available all the tools they need to make great homes for horses in transition looking for their new soft spot to land.  As partners of the #RIGHTHORSE, we want to spread the word about partnership, good horse care and equine adoption. Good Equine Care and education are essential to being a good partner and keeping your horse a good co-adventurer! As Right Horse partners, we want to do all we can to keep you educated, so you and your RIGHT horse thrive together!

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