Massive weight loss for super-fat pony Dave

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Dave in April 2017, after he was caught by World Horse Welfare field officer Chris Shaw. 
Dave in April 2017, after he was caught by World Horse Welfare field officer Chris Shaw. © World Horse Welfare

A pony rescued after being abandoned and left to gorge himself on open grass land in Britain has undergone an amazing transformation after losing nearly 14 stone — 89kg — in weight.

When World Horse Welfare Field Officer, Chris Shaw, discovered the five-year-old Fell pony Dave (stable name Thunder), in Buckinghamshire in April last year he was grossly overweight and suffering from laminitis. Dave was brought into the care of World Horse Welfare’s Glenda Spooner Farm in Somerset where he was immediately assessed by the vet who described him as ‘the most overweight pony she had ever seen‘

A concerned local had called World Horse Welfare’s welfare line as they were worried about the pony. Shaw said when he first saw Dave he was severely overweight and having difficulty walking, and “clearly in a lot of pain.”

Dave when he was found in April 2017. © World Horse Welfare
Dave when he was found in April 2017. He was suffering from laminitis and was grossly overweight. © World Horse Welfare

Dave had been abandoned by his owner in one paddock, but over time the fences had broken down, turning one smaller paddock into a very large paddock with a lot of grass. “Left to fend for himself, Dave had just been gorging on this almost never-ending supply of food,” Shaw said.

Dave was removed as quickly as possible and taken into care by World Horse Welfare, in conjunction with the RSPCA, as no owner could be found. “After the vet had administered some pain relief Dave was loaded up with a very thick straw bed to ensure he was as comfortable as possible for the journey to Glenda Spooner Farm,” Shaw said.

Dave's generous crest.
Dave’s generous crest.

Veterinarian Anna Langford said the crest on the top of Dave’s neck was around a hand’s width bigger than normal.  “It was so extreme that we could hardly put a head collar on him because the headpiece had nowhere to sit behind his ears due to the excess fat being stored there.

“One of biggest problems we have in this country is the two extremes – some horses who come into World Horse Welfare’s care are emaciated whilst at the other end of the scale you have horses like Dave who are extremely overweight. The overweight ones can be much harder to manage and it’s taken a year of very hard work to bring Dave back to a more healthy weight,” Langford said.

Thanks to a carefully managed diet and weight loss programme to help him safely shift the huge amount of excess weight he was carrying, Dave is now transformed after losing almost 90 kilograms, more than 14 stone. Exercise and physiotherapy are playing a vital role in his rehabilitation both as part of building his fitness and to help him develop his strength. He now looks like a different pony and whilst his laminitis is under control, his weight will always need to be very carefully managed.

It took Dave a year to lose 14 stone in weight - some 89kg. © World Horse Welfare
It took Dave a year to lose 14 stone in weight – some 89kg. © World Horse Welfare
Dave did a lot of exercise to help in his weight loss programme.
Dave did a lot of exercise to help in his weight loss programme. © World Horse Welfare

Shaw noted that being overweight had several health risks for horses. “It puts a lot of extra pressure on their joints and muscles and can lead to them developing the extremely painful and debilitating condition, laminitis.

“Dave’s situation and the pain he went through was completely avoidable and should never have happened. There is plenty of help and advice out there to support owners in managing their horse’s weight.

“Thankfully we were able to help Dave, stop him suffering and give him the care he needed. Seeing success stories like Dave is the absolute best part of my job,” he said.

Once he has completed his rehabilitation, Dave will be ready to find a new home through World Horse Welfare’s Rehoming Scheme.

Advice on overweight horses is available at World Horse Welfare’s advice line on 01953 497238, or by visiting www.worldhorsewelfare.org/right-weight.

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