Does this round bale make me look fat…and really dirty?

When non-horse (aka normal) people think about horses, they picture fox hunters in top hats and scarlet coats (no, they’re not red), paired with impeccably turned-out horses, galloping across the rolling countryside in pursuit of their quarry. Tally ho!

Or else, they imagine a show horse, dappled and groomed to a glistening shine, braided up, hooves polished, and a rider — of course, thin, blonde and beautiful — clearing a brightly-colored, flower drenched jump. The spectators in the VIP tent offers a smattering of applause before returning to their cucumber sandwiches and champagne flutes.

Wake up!

THIS is what horses look like most of the time.

Especially in winter. A thick wooley coat, smattered with mud and muck, and topped with a blanket that’s been worn day-in and day-out for 3 months. Let me tell you, it smells divine.

But this post isn’t about dirt. It’s about fat. My fat horses.

It’s winter, the time of leanness, when most animal species become scrawny and thin. Except of course humans, who combat winter’s grasp by fortifying themselves mounds of mac ‘n cheese. Unlike us — and the marshmallows in my pasture — most wild species are burning any caloric resources they can muster in the hopes that they hang in there til the first glint of spring.

If the horses are so plump, you might ask, why plunk down the giant bale of hay?

Here’s the rub. Horses are grazers and it’s in their best interest, for various health reasons, to nibble all day long. It just seems that some of them a missing that, “whoa, slow down, pace yourself” gene.

Also, you gotta give them some forage or they’ll get bored and seek ways to fill their idle time. Like devouring every tree within their reach or gnawing through the fence like mutant rodents.

And, not all of the horses are fat. Two of my herd actually could stand to pack on a few more pounds. Unfortunately, it’s the fatties who don’t know when to say when. Like Huck, above, who looks like a bloated guinea pig.

One solution is a muzzle. It’s this apparatus that surrounds the horse’s nose and mouth, and only allows him to eat through a hole the size of a quarter. Sort of the equine version of the liquid diet, where a person can eat anything they want through a straw. Now imagine if that straw were duct-taped to your face. Oh, the anger, the humiliation, the chafing… that’s why most muzzled horses quickly find a way to pull, push or rub that thing off. You get home, your horses are happily chowing down, and somewhere in your field is $48 of mangled nylon and rubber.

Guaranteed, my field is muzzle graveyard, scattered with remnants and bits of twine, duct tape and other crap I’ve use to trouble shoot the problem.

You can’t blame the horse entirely for his weight problem. We’ve done a pretty good job setting the stage, improving forage with more bang per bite. Ditto with grain and concentrated feeds. And then in the meantime, we don’t exercise horses as much as we used to.

Hmm… too much rich food and a sedentary lifestyle. Funny, I feel like I’ve heard that before.

Here’s what bugs me: there are these supermodels who become vegetarians or only eat raw food and suddenly drop weight equivalent to a 6-yr-old child. Why the hell doesn’t this work for Huck? He’s a vegan. He eats raw food.

Don’t be a moron, my husband says. That has nothing do with it. Look at hippos. They’re vegans. And how many skinny hippos do you see roaming the earth?

Poor Huck, he used to like this

Now he looks like this