How many calories does your laminitic or foundered horse burn exercising?

November 6, 2011

Editor’s note on June 15, 2015:

I wrote this post before reading Juliet Getty’s post on treating the insulin resistant horse. I no longer think counting calories is a good way to treat a laminitic horse. However, the included material related to calories is correct.


The National Resource Council’s equine nutrition report, released in 2007, provides information on how much energy horses expend during exercise in addition to giving dietary requirements.

The NRC says that an 1,100 pound horse burns 5,000 calories if it trots for two hours. And the horse burns 2,000 calories if it walks for two hours.

Breaking that down a little bit, a horse trotting for one hour burns 2,500 calories. Trotting for 10 minutes works out to 417 calories. That’s pretty good for 10 minutes of work.

A horse walking for one hour burns 1,000 calories, and a horse walking for 10 minutes burns 167 calories.

By contrast, the average male running for an hour burns about 940 calories or 157 calories in 10 minutes, according to NutriStrategy.

Ten minutes is important in looking at laminitic horses, because some research suggests that 10 minutes of exercise a day is enough to lower a horse’s insulin level.

In 1992, researchers at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University reported that 10 minutes of exercise significantly reduced insulin resistance and helped ponies lose weight in as little as six weeks. The ponies were put on a treadmill and required to walk for one minute, trot for one minute and canter for eight minutes (hard to imagine making a pony canter on a treadmill). This was their only exercise. The rest of the time, they were stalled. The ponies lost a significant amount of weight during this time, changing body shape, losing girth size and seeing more muscle definition. Researchers noted that improved insulin sensitivity was maintained in the six weeks after exercise was stopped.

If your horse burned 417 calories in that 10 minutes, and everything else were kept equal, the horse would burn 2,919 calories a week.

To lose a pound of body fat, a horse must create a deficit of 3,500 calories, either from eating less or exercising more. If the horse burned an additional 2,919 calories a week trotting for 10 minutes every day, the horse would be pretty close to losing that pound.

If your horse needs to lose 200 pounds, 1 pound a week may not sound very helpful, but every diet has to start somewhere.


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