Whether your horse is a pasture companion or an athlete that regularly trains and competes, their weight plays a key role in their overall health and well-being. No matter if you are dealing with a horse that's underweight or overweight, it's important to know how to maintain a healthy body weight through nutrition and exercise.
How Heavy Is the Average Horse?
While it can depend on their breed, the average weight of a horse can range from 900 to 2,000 pounds. Ponies can weigh anywhere from 200 to 1,400 pounds, as this category includes companions like Shetlands as well as larger breeds such as Halflingers. Light horses, such as thoroughbreds, tend to be much leaner, weighing around 900-1,100 pounds.
Drafts, or heavy horses like Belgians and Clydesdales, will usually weigh the most due to their sturdy build and size. These breeds usually weigh around 1,800 to 2,000 pounds on average.
How to Tell If Your Horse Is Over or Underweight
The most accurate way to determine how much your horse weighs is by using a livestock scale. Unless you are able to trailer your horse to a large animal vet or hospital, though, it can be hard to access one. Using a weight tape is a more accessible method that will give you a fairly accurate estimate of your horse's weight.
You can also examine your horse for telltale signs they are over or underweight. If your horse is a healthy weight, you should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. If your horse is too thin, you'll easily be able to see their spine, tailhead or withers. Meanwhile, a cresty neck, fat pads and spongy croup are signs your horse needs to lose some weight.
How to Help Your Horse Gain Weight
If you need to put some weight on your horse, first make sure their weight loss isn't due to stress, internal parasites or bad teeth. These problems can affect your horse's appetite and ability to chew and absorb nutrients.
If these concerns aren't affecting your horse, the best way to help them gain weight is by making sure they have enough forage. You can start by increasing the amount of pasture or hay they have access to. Try increasing their roughage to around 2.5% to 3% of the weight you want your horse to be. You can also incorporate a fat supplement, such as flax or grain oils, for additional calories.
How to Help Your Horse Lose Weight
If your horse needs to lose weight, keep in mind that you should never restrict or starve them. Instead, you can:
- Allow them to graze in the early morning when the grass has less sugar and starch.
- Use a grazing muzzle when they are turned out.
- Cut down on their feed or fat supplements.
- Minimize cereal grains and treats.
- Increase their workload so they get enough movement each day.
Make Sure You Meet Your Horse's Nutritional Needs
Whether your horse is underweight or overweight, the team at Horse Tack Co is dedicated to helping you meet their health needs. Check out our blog for more nutritional advice and browse our horse care essentials to keep your horse happy and healthy.