Body Talk

Rio felt off at my lesson last Sunday, so after throwing  him on the lunge real quick and realizing he wasn’t quite right I brought him home, gave him 3 days of banamine, and the rest of the week off. I sent his amazing vet, Dr. Mitchell, videos from the Sunday lunge, and she came to see him on Saturday. She gave him a thorough looking over, then we discussed where we were at and where we wanted to be. (P.S. Dr. Mitchell was featured on the Questions for the Vet episode for Amateur Hour podcast last year. Give it a listen here or search Amateur Hour for “vet” wherever you listen to podcasts.)

Starting weight. I admit it, the hunter princess in me likes fat horses. I actually think he looks great, but understand that losing weight is in his best interest.

Good news- he was considerably sounder then he was on the previous Sunday. It’s been raining a ton here so it’s possible he slipped and tweaked something and is thankfully already feeling much better. But, he’s not 100% in performance shape yet. Some of the issues he has  currently are due to lack of muscling, so that will come with more time back under saddle. The hard part about horses is one thing can be the primary issue, and then treating that one thing can cause secondary issues to spring up. In this case, Rio has had a ton of time off in order to rest his suspensory, but now he needs to build up his hind end muscles again in order to support his stifles and SI area adequately.

The other compounding issue, and probably the biggest one, is his weight. He is such a BIG horse, it’s a ton of weight to carry. Dr. M talked me through it, and we are going to tackle his weight head on. She really feels that getting a lot of weight off him will help with all the other small things, and hopefully even make them go away completely. I also need to continue to get him fit, but in a way that is going to be nice to suspensory as we build-up the other muscles. We’ve been given a strict protocol of walk/trot only on hard ground through the rest of the summer. Between the strength training, and the new diet (also prescribed by the amazing Dr. M), Rio should be a new horse by September! To keep myself accountable, I’ll be posting monthly pics and weight tape updates. Here is where he is starting!


He’s too big for the weight tape, but I estimate he’s currently at 1425 ish. He has definitely lost some weight since this past fall, but still has a lot to go. I’m going to try and measure at the exact same place (referencing the prior pics) every month to try to get a good idea of how his diet is going.

Needing to be cognizant of not stressing his suspensory- we will be taking a break from battling the bridge crossing. Unfortunately, the rearing and spinning in order to avoid the bridge is possibly what made him ouchy in the first place. It’s just too much unnecessary stress, when I should be slowly building him up and avoiding stress like that. If I’m not trail riding with other horses (where he goes over easily), I’ll be hopping off and leading him over for the foreseeable future.

In further good news, Rio and I hit the trails Sunday with my friend Liana on Pal. Rio felt MUCH better, almost 100% back to his normal self. The weather was perfect, and the rain has made everything SO GREEN. We also spotted a bobcat, chilling like it was a domestic cat. It wasn’t even scared of us, although it did casually trot away as we rode up to it.

Oh and also, I think Rio is already protesting his diet. My mom sent me these videos last night. Someone call the ASPCA, because my hiraffe thinks he’s STARVING.

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  1. I’m happy to hear his prognosis is still good! As our horses get older, just like us, it gets so much harder to keep them fit.
    As a foxhunter who shows hunters, the fat hunters have always baffled me (I’ve done both disciplines for about the same length of time). People try to explain to me how the fatness makes the horse not have “edges” in their frame, but it makes no sense to me. A fit horse isn’t fat and hunters really should be fit! Combined with the number of show hunters who go permanently lame due to issues caused by being fat (I’m looking at you laminitis) it seems like a generally bad idea. I’m definitely on team skinnier hunters. (but don’t go look at Coco right now…… )

    1. I definitely don’t disagree! I never really thought about it to be honest. I feel like I’ve just been conditioned to think that a shiny coat and a little extra meat on the ribs is the ideal look, but that has slowly escalated into a lot of extra meat on the bones without me realizing. What I don’t want is my hunter to look like a 5* eventer, but I have definitely fallen off the deep end with way too fat, and now it’s effecting his health. That’s totally on me.

      1. Well, a horse in rehab is a different thing from overfeeding so he looks “good” in the show ring! Jaguar had a season in his life when it was pretty difficult to keep him from getting fat. I’ve never ridden a horse trotting so much in my life. LOL! I think in all things there is a happy medium. Plus different horses have different body types and their fitness (or lack of) can be misleading. A couple seasons ago I was worried Coco was getting fat, then took her to a show and my trainer (this was before I rode at BY) thought she was too skinny! Coco has a short frame and very sprung ribs so it can be hard for me to determine if she’s fat, fit or thin. Rio is so tall and long I can see it being hard to tell on him, too. Plus they tend to gain weight slowly so it’s like you wake up one day and realize they are fat. Really it’s just a reason to go on more long trail rides. 🙂

  2. The battle of the bulge is a real thing over here at my farm too… Eros and Shiny get fat on air. I feel like I keep a good handle on it here at my place, but as soon as they move in to the boarding barn for the winter they get fat again. They both eat 1 flake of hay per feeding. 1. That’s it. I feed about a bale of day for the two of them. That’s like… nothing. But still? Chubby.
    Anyway, hope Rio does well on his diet and rehab plan. Glad he’s still moving forward with his comeback!

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